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Three UD fashion students recognized by the prestigious fashion merchandising group

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Three UD fashion students recognized by the prestigious fashion merchandising group

Sabrina Lee holds her laptop displaying her presentation.

​​​​​

​“People think so little of the beauty and fashion industry and they just don’t understand that there’s so much more that comes out of it,” said Sabrina Lee, who graduated in May with a degree in fashion merchandising and management. For her submission in the Fashion Scholarship Fund case study competition (seen here), which encouraged students to create an industry collaboration campaign addressing a current cultural, political or social movement, Lee blended together a viral campaign to shut out anti-Asian racism in the wake of pandemic with a new product line with the cosmetics company Fresh.​

​​Three fashion merchandising and management majors in the University of Delaware’s College of Arts and Sciences have been awarded case study scholarships from the prestigious Fashion Scholarship Fund (FSF), the nation’s oldest and foremost fashion-oriented education and workforce development nonprofit.

Each year, hundreds of students across the country compete in the FSF’s annual case study competition, which requires applicants to create a project around an in-depth student challenge focusing on real issues facing the modern fashion industry.

The 2021 case study prompt required students to identify a current political, cultural or social phenomenon and select a product from a pre-existing fashion, beauty or lifestyle brand to integrate the phenomenon into an online and in-store merchandise campaign while maintaining brand identity and authenticity. (Students were given examples that included Nike’s launch of a plus-size line accompanied by plus-sized mannequins and the introduction of Chanel’s genderless fragrance, Les Eaux des Chanel.)

Out of 648 total applicants, 211 were recognized with a scholarship. Of the eight UD students who participated, senior fashion merchandising majors Meera Kripalu, Sabrina Lee and Emma Davis were each awarded a $7,500 scholarship. This year’s win marks the second win in a row for both Lee and Davis. All three students graduated on May 29.

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Meera Kripalu holds her laptop displaying her presentation.

​Meera Kripalu said she encourages other students to get involved with organizations like the Fashion Scholarship Fund. “This experience in particular was great because it was a chance to be creative and brainstorm an entirely new product,” said Kripalu.​

This year’s recognition marks 10 years of students in the UD Department of Fashion and Apparel Studies successfully competing for and winning FSF scholarships.

“We’ve had 57 students compete and win in total,” said Brenda Shaffer, the department’s associate chair and director of undergraduate studies. “Overall, UD students have won approximately $307,500 in scholarship money through the Fashion Scholarship Fund.”​​

Kripalu, a Wilmington native who graduated with honors in both marketing and fashion merchandising and management, focused her case study on reducing both food waste and climate change. To do this, she designed a cream stick makeup product for Glossier. While one end of the stick would produce colors and pigments from the dyes of ugly produce (food left to rot or unable to be sold due to minor blemishing), the other was filled with fair trade cocoa powder.

“Because the product had multiple uses and drew on wasted produce I could ensure it was sustainable,” said Kripalu.

As part of her pitch, Sabrina Lee, who grew up on Long Island, New York, drew on lived experiences of racism during the global coronavirus pandemic. Lee crafted a product launch and marketing campaign that partnered with cosmetics company Fresh to expand on the viral hashtag #WashTheHate, which rose to prominence on social media in response to the rising tide of coronavirus-related discrimination and violence against individuals of Asian descent.

”I faced some discrimination just as the pandemic began while I was studying abroad in Italy, so I thought this was the perfect fit, especially because of everything happening in the world,” said Lee.

Lee’s proposed line included new skincare products and was accompanied by marketing celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month.

“People think so little of the beauty and fashion industry and they just don’t understand that there’s so much more that comes out of it,” said Lee. “I think especially with this prompt that in a time like right now, the fashion industry can be really relevant and useful.”​

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Emma Davis holds her laptop displaying her presentation.

​“Because we had to do the project remotely, it was difficult to stay motivated,” said Emma Davis of her FSF submission, which focused on bringing attention to mental health and suicide prevention. “Sometimes we would all just join a Zoom room and do our research together, and somehow that worked.”​

​​Emma Davis, who is from Ellicott City, Maryland, chose to highlight the importance of mental health and suicide prevention initiatives by crafting a fictional athleisure clothing collection to be sold through Kohl’s in a partnership with Under Armour.

“I picked the activewear industry because your total health isn’t just your physical health, it’s also a combination of your mental health as well,” said Davis.​

With purple and teal as the dominant color patterns in her proposed athleisure line (a nod to the coloring of the suicide prevention ribbon), Davis’ plan also included in-store tie-ins such as workshops, yoga sessions and interactive activities to bring awareness to mental health.​​​​

“Fashion can be used and applied in so many different ways, just as it can bring people together in so many ways,” Davis said.

Shaffer said participating in the competition requires extra time.

“Students really had to balance their classes, online learning and this commitment all at once,” Shaffer said. “For Meera, Sabrina and Emma, the hard work and Zoom calls certainly paid off.”

Each of the students cited Shaffer’s role as a faculty mentor as a key piece of the puzzle when it came to their success. They also highlighted the importance of the practical approach that the Department of Fashion and Apparel Studies champions in the classroom.

“As fashion merchandising majors a lot of our academic work is project-based, but this was literally taking what we’ve learned in the classroom and applying it from start to finish,” said Davis. “We had to ask ourselves: How am I going to make this product, market it, and execute it? Moving forward, I know this experience will make us great candidates as we go into the workforce.”​

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Connections and Contacts

“Not only do the students receive a scholarship, but becoming part of the FSF family really opens up a lot of doors for them,” said Shaffer, who advises UD students interested in competing in the organization’s case study competition.

Lee is one of several UD students who have benefitted from the networking and mentorship opportunities available for student competitors and winners. Through her connections with FSF, Lee secured an internship with Ross Stores in the summer of 2020 and a full-time position as location planning analyst after graduation.

“Each year, the organization has a gala to celebrate the student scholarship winners,” Lee said. “What was really exciting is that last year I actually got to meet the CEO of Ross Stores, Barbara Rentler herself, which is really cool. That’s something I never thought I’d be able to do by just participating in an extracurricular activity.”

Lee also benefited from the organization’s mentorship program, which paired her with a professional buyer in the fashion industry.

“Besides just the networking aspect, programs like this help you create close connections with people that will last a lifetime,” said Lee of her experience.

Said Davis, “It’s not winning the scholarship and that’s just it. You’re really in this community for the long-haul.”​

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Department of Fashion and Apparel Studies

​The UD Department of Fashion and Apparel Studies is recognized for its rigorous undergraduate programs in fashion design and product innovation, fashion merchandising and management, internationally prominent graduate program, professional education programs and award-winning scholars. The department’s strengths in cutting-edge technology, global experiences, industry relations and mentoring are complemented by its significant collaborations across the University of Delaware, with international institutions and in both the fashion and textile manufacturing industries. ​

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Fashion Scholarship Fund

​As the oldest and foremost fashion-oriented education and workforce development nonprofit in the country, the Fashion Scholarship Fund supports the careers of the country’s most promising fashion students from all backgrounds. It awards over $1.2 million in scholarships each year to help students succeed in all sectors of the industry: design, merchandising, analytics, retail, tech and supply chain. UD students interested in participating in the 2021 Fashion Scholarship Fund case study are encouraged to contact Bren​da Shaffer.​​

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Article by Chris Kelley​; Photos courtesy of Sabrina Lee, Emma Davis, Meera Kripalu​

Published July 6, 2021​

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