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WVU Students Win Big in National Fashion and Design Competition

MORGANTOWN — The path to a career in the fashion industry just became clearer for three West Virginia University students.

Emma Ervin, Katelynn Walker and Mariah White, all fashion, dress and merchandising students, have been named 2019 YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund recipients, an honor that includes a $5,000 scholarship as well as networking and internship opportunities.

“This was the first year WVU was invited to participate in the competition,” said Katie Jones, assistant professor of fashion, dress and merchandising in the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design. “Being invited confirms what we have always known — our students are some of the best and brightest out there. Of the 740 applicants nationwide, only 208 were awarded scholarships. For three of those to come from WVU really speaks to the caliber of our students and the quality of our program.”

The merit scholarships are awarded based on the completion of a case study project, a personal essay, an interview with a scholarship fund ambassador and an applicant’s grade-point average.

For this year’s case study, students who entered the competition were asked to tackle the retail challenge of “globalization” by researching and developing a plan to expand a company into an international market where it lacks a permanent, physical presence. Selected companies must offer products in apparel, accessories, beauty or home goods.

Just like developing personal style, WVU students selected companies that spoke to them and their values.

Walker, a senior who lives in Wasilla, Alaska, focused on a global expansion plan for the ethical retailer Everlane.

“I chose Everlane because I personally believe in their mission as a retailer. Unlike other retailers, Everlane educates its consumers on where materials are sourced and where garments are made,” she said. “They also ensure the ethical and quality treatment of garment workers and are making extensive efforts to become a sustainably-produced brand. Everlane is not only selling clothing, they are selling a lifestyle and I can really see myself working for such an amazing company.”

With their time at WVU coming to an end, the three scholarship recipients are looking forward to connecting with industry professionals and mentors who will help them jump start their careers.

“This award is so much more than a scholarship; it is an exclusive opportunity to speak to recruiters in the fashion industry. I feel so grateful to have been chosen,” Ervin said.

Founded in 1937, the Fashion Scholarship Fund is an international nonprofit organization composed of influential members of the fashion industry. Its goal is to advance the fashion industry by encouraging gifted and enterprising young people to pursue careers in design, merchandising, retailing and business so the industry will continue to attract dedicated, capable and creative individuals.

White, a senior from Wheeling, who aspires to be a fashion buyer, was drawn to FiveStory, a luxury apparel and accessories boutique located in the Upper East Side of New York.

“I wanted to be different and not choose a well-known retailer like Nordstrom or Barney’s,” she said.

Her plan to help the company open a second location in Dubai included selecting products, setting target markets, developing a merchandising and pricing strategy, and a creative marketing campaign.

“I pushed through creative blocks and losing my entire project three days before the submission deadline,” she said. “It’s safe to say the entire process was a challenge, but a good one.”Ervin, a senior from Parkersburg, chose Matt & Nat, a vegan leather goods company headquartered in Montreal, Canada.

“I love the company because of the innovative and often recycled materials they use as well as their dedication to charity,” she said. “I wanted to write a plan that helped globally expand their product offerings from leather goods such as bags and wallets to clothing as well.”

After completing market research, she developed a plan to expand the company into Seoul, South Korea, an area struggling with mental health issues.

“My line has positive messages printed on the products that resonate well with the culture, and it also raises funds for mental health non-profits,” she said.

If you had asked Walker one year ago about her career goals, she would have responded with “working for a fashion magazine such as Harper’s Bazaar or Vogue styliKate Walkerng photoshoots or creating magazine spreads.”

Applying for the Fashion Scholarship Fund and developing her case study project opened her eyes to new possibilities and perspectives in the fashion industry.

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