Students in the Premier Product Development Group were treated this week to an amazing guest speaker, Kassandra Cassily, Merchandising & Design Product Analyst for Roxy and Quiksilver, and FIDM Valedictorian. She gave an inspiring talk about her journey from international business analyst to working in product development for one of the biggest names in the action sports fashion industry.
Kassandra, who goes by KC, came to FIDM with degrees in International Business and Chinese, which she joked was easier than earning a degree from FIDM. "FIDM has the hardest workload ever." She also added that Merchandise Product Development is "definitely the best major." It combines the business side of fashion with the creative side, which makes you incredibly marketable in the fashion industry. "You help designers, but you can speak the business."
KC has lived, interned, and worked in Germany, Luxembourg, China, India, and of course here in the U.S.—a rich background to take into the fashion industry.
In China, she worked for a snowboard shop doing PR and event planning. She was also a runway model, which as it turns out is an excellent background for understanding fit in fashion, a crucial thing to know when working in merchandise product development.
She worked as a business analyst at Morning Star, an investment analyst firm, in the U.S. before transferring to Germany, then Luxembourg where she opened an office for them. She created European Best Practices for Morning Star. She was 24 years old, managing a team of 22 people which she named, "Team Awesome." She even did presentations to her team on how to speak confidently in a foreign language. Promoted to Sales Director, she was named "Global Sales Rookie of the Year."
Morning Star asked her to move to Dubai, but she turned them down. She knew she was headed in a different direction. She decided she wanted to move to California and pursue a career in the action sports fashion industry.
After seeing a job posting to work at Burton as a product developer, she had her "checklist" in hand.
Incredibly well versed in business, there were many things on the Burton job description that she could check off, but she was lacking an education in product development and fashion. That's when she found FIDM.
In her research on fashion colleges, she discovered that FIDM had partnered with Signal Snowboards, and it piqued her interest. FIDM turned out to be the perfect fit.
While she was earning her degree from FIDM in Merchandise Product Development, she started interning at Roxy. In an odd turn of events, Roxy was participating in a mentorship for OTIS, and they asked KC to head it up. A student at FIDM was mentoring students at OTIS.
When her internship ended, there was one (and only one) position available at Roxy, and that was to be an analyst on the merchandising and design team. Her goal was to go into product development, so she hesitated applying for the position. But, it was the only position open and she knew she wanted to work there, so she applied and got it. As it turned out, six months into her position, attrition in her department created the perfect opportunity for her. She's now doing the job she wanted in the first place, and she couldn't be happier.
She said she uses all of the knowledge gained in the classes at FIDM—everything from PLM and Illustrator to fit classes and fabric identification. Added all up, her background in international business, fashion, and snowboarding—she's been a snowboard instructor in Beijing, Germany, Luxembourg and many places in the U.S.—makes her the ideal candidate to work in action sports in California. Roxy is her home, for now.
Spring 2016 in on the road—they're getting feedback about what's selling through. Summer '16 is about to hit the road for sales, as she's currently editing the line guide. And they are starting on Holiday 2016 with initial sketches.
Her overall takeaway for the students? "If you work hard and really go after diverse interests, your career will take you places." She added, "Be true to yourself. Enjoy the journey. Network."
KC is currently looking for interns. At the end of the talk, several Merchandise Product Development students in the Premier PD Group expressed interest in Roxy. With KC as their mentor, the sky's the limit.