Although Lehigh does not have an established fashion major program, there are opportunities available for students who are interested in entering the fashion industry post-graduation.
One is the Fashion Scholarship Fund.
This semester, four undergraduate Lehigh students won a $7,500 scholarship award after competing in the Fashion Scholarship Fund Case Study.
According to its website, the Fashion Scholarship Fund awards over $1 million in scholarships to students across its 70 member schools every year.
Marketing professor Nevena Koukova has been Lehigh’s Fashion Scholarship Fund advisor for the past six years.
Koukova said the Fashion Scholarship Fund is a foundation created by leading fashion brands and retailers who want to encourage college students to go into the fashion industry.
“They are looking for the talent on the design side and the business side,” Koukova said.
When Lehigh joined the Fashion Scholarship Fund in 2007, the scholarship was mainly awarded to design students. However, Koukova said they have since expanded to include business students to increase participation in the competition.
One of this year’s winners, Emma Flinchbaugh, ‘24, said she heard about the scholarship opportunity through the marketing department. Despite not being academically involved in fashion, she saw the fund as a way to build her marketing skills.
“When I heard about the scholarship, it sounded like a really cool opportunity to work on a really big project and learn a lot about marketing analytics, as well as what research needed to go into a project at this scale,” Flinchbaugh said.
Participants choose to do their case study in one of the competition’s four categories: marketing analytics, supply chain, merchandising, or design and product development.
Within each of those categories, students are given problems to solve for a fashion-based company of their choice.
Flinchbaugh’s case study was in the marketing analytics category.
“I focused on fashion brand Warby Parker and how they could use AI to build a stronger Gen Z consumer base,” she said. “I picked this brand because I noticed it wasn’t done by previous case study winners, so I wanted to do something different.”
Alyssa Albano, ‘24, another one of this year’s winners, heard about the fund during a marketing club meeting.
Her case study was based in implementing NFTs at Lululemon.
“I thought this was a great idea to increase brand loyalty and customer retention,” Albano said. “NFTs are a new and exciting marketing tactic.”
Koukova said the fund is more than just a scholarship, it is a “lifelong mentoring and support group” that provides many learning, mentoring and hiring opportunities.
According to the Fashion Scholarship Fund’s website, 100% of scholarship recipients were placed in internships or jobs at partnered fashion companies in 2022.
“There is definitely a huge network in the scholarship,” Albano said. “When you win the scholarship, there are a bunch of industry professionals to talk to. I feel comfortable going into the future knowing that I am in this network of amazing people that want to help.”
After winners are announced, a gala is hosted in New York City to honor the recipients.
Koukova said the gala is the Fashion Scholarship Fund’s signature event and its main fundraiser for the next year’s scholarship. She said celebrities are invited, and there is a unique chance offered to scholarship winners to visit fashion companies, take part in a talent acquisition show and talk to job recruiters.
Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour was one of the speakers at this year’s gala. Albano said the winners were able to tour the Vogue office in New York.
“It was an awesome experience,” Albano said. “I feel like I was in shock for the week afterwards. They did so much, there were so many industry professionals there. It was exactly what I wanted to be doing at that moment.”
Marketing major Rehan Naeem, ’23, and business major Kimiko Quayle, ‘25, were the other two Lehigh recipients of the scholarship.
Since Koukova began advising in 2016, there have been 19 Lehigh scholarship recipients.
“I am very pleased with the outcome,” Koukova said. “Our students systematically and increasingly succeed in this competition.”
She said sophomore, junior and senior students can apply for the scholarship, regardless of their major.
The case study prompt for the 2024 competition relates to environment and sustainability. The deadline for submissions is in October 2023.