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What does your job at Abercrombie & Fitch entail?
I manage a team of quality assurance professionals who work behind the scenes establishing the manufacturing base that makes our product–assessing their capabilities, establishing all the processes and procedures that are necessary to produce quality products from a manufacturing standpoint, and working with our international vendor base to ensure that the design aspirations are carried out.
When you think of fashion careers, you think of the
more glamorous professionals, such as stylists and
fashion designers. How did you discover this opportunity?
It happened to be a young African American woman who was building a quality assurance department and relying on the expertise of her network to find young talent. She explained the business to me, what drove it, how to navigate it, and what her expectations were. It is important to continue to do research and connect with people in the business who can help you navigate and guide you in the right direction. That’s very important in terms of maintaining a career in retail.
Many don’t realize that there are a variety of
business-related careers in this industry.
I would encourage young African Americans to do a bit more homework on retail. When I first started in this industry, I had no idea of the types of jobs that existed. A lot of people aren’t aware of what happens behind the scenes to make a garment. When you’re in college, you’re directed to fashion designing, merchandising, and buying. That’s all I was offered, and I believe, so many years later, that the same is true. When my colleagues go out and recruit in the African American community, the students are surprised that there are opportunities beyond design, in finance and logistics, merchandising, and buying, and I’m a true example of that.
How do you find those hidden opportunities?
Focus on events that organizations sponsor in the minority community. If there is a conscious effort for sponsorship in our communities, then there’s a driving force behind those sponsors. Use this opportunity to talk to that sponsor or someone who knows someone in the organization who can connect you directly with your career interest, be it finance, design, merchandising, store planning, or brand protection. There are also organizations like the Black Retail Action Group (www.bragusa.com).
The industry itself is not really promoting what’s going on behind the scenes. You see the glamour side, but there’s so much more, and you can make a lot of money working in some of these other career paths–from logistics to operations to international trade. Any designer will tell you, “I’ve got to get my garment made, and there’s a team of people behind that,” and that’s really what I represent.