Apparel Merchandising and Management tailors to virtual transition

Although Cal Poly Pomona transitioned to virtual instruction due to COVID-19, the Apparel Merchandising and Management Department has not transitioned out of its hands-on learning experience. Virtually, the department continues to tailor student’s knowledge on merchandising, production and textile to succeed in the fashion industry.

Muditha Senanayake, professor and interim department chair, plans to make his internship class as interactive as possible by incorporating breakout rooms, discussion board activities, presentations and debates.

“To incorporate a hands-on experience, the department will be recording videos of machine operations and material handling for quality production and textiles for lab classes,” Senanayake said. “The faculty will be working with risk management and the book store to deliver lab and course materials to students.”

Deborah Young, a lecturer in textile fabrications, provided materials for her students to mimic the in-class experience. “I have provided fabric samples at no charge to students so that there are lots of hands-on opportunities to problem solve, assess, study and evaluate, rather than regurgitate information,” Young said.

The department also plans to host industry panel discussions, student award ceremonies and virtual trade shows. These events will be held through Zoom or Microsoft Teams.

One such trade show that will be held online for the first time via Zoom is Magic Market Week, one of the largest fashion tradeshows held in Las Vegas. The biannual event is one of the most comprehensive sourcing destinations for individuals working in the fashion industry. Under normal circumstances, students attended the event to gain experience as a buyer while building professional connections.

“We normally send students to the show to buy things for their retail stores, but our physical retail store is now only selling online,” said Huntley College of Agriculture Interim Associate Dean Peter Kilduff. “Because of this, the students may not be buying merchandise from the show this year.”

ApparelScapes, the department’s retail store, faced difficulties regarding the risk of students spreading the coronavirus through packaging and shipping, according to Kilduff.

“Risk management wants to make sure that we are not having students go visit places where they could become infected or handle contaminated products, so we came up with a system where we use an external vendor that’s going to provide the physical shipping and packaging services for free,” Kilduff said.

Although the department will allow students to continue running the online retail store, production students will not be able to develop their own products to bring to the market this year because they are required to work with a classmate in person to design their product line, which is currently prohibited to follow safety protocols.

Another event taking place this fall is the executive forum on fashion sustainability called Inside Fashion Business, an event the department hosts once or twice per year.

“We get a panel of executives from the industry together and ask them to talk about particular issues within the fashion industry. The panel we are doing this fall, which will now be done on Zoom, is on issues of sustainability in the fashion industry,” Kilduff said. This event will be held in November.

Despite the many changes the department is undergoing, Young encourages students to stay positive and focus on the “advantages to these new modes and skills for instructors and students.”

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