EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (Aug. 8, 2022) – North Carolina A&T students are lighting up the nation’s top-tier retail and apparel brands this summer as interns at some of the most recognizable brands in the world.
Students in the Fashion Merchandising and Design program, in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, are currently in the middle of summer internships at companies that include Winston-Salem’s major conglomerate Hanesbrands; lifestyle retailer Urban Outfitters and its satellite companies in Pennsylvania; and New York retail giants Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale’s.
“Most fashion students’ dream internship experience is one that places them in areas where they can be inspired by diverse culture and creative viewpoints and immerse themselves among major national and international fashion brands,” said Elizabeth Newcomb Hopfer, Ph.D., an associate professor in the program. “Unfortunately, our N.C. A&T fashion students have historically faced challenges securing their dream internships, in part due to longstanding discrimination in the fashion industry that has reduced opportunities for students from HBCUs.
“The other faculty members and I are exceedingly proud of each student participating in a summer internship,” Newcomb said. “We are equally excited about the connections that these internships will afford the program to make for future students pursuing our degree.”
Amberatta Faulkner, senior, is interning at Hanesbrands Inc., the Winston-Salem based company and owner of brands such as Hanes, Champion, Bali and L’eggs. Working in the licensed sports apparel field for Champion, Faulkner’s task was to help the brand appeal to a younger, female audience in college bookstores.
“Women are the biggest consumers of fashion, period, because they buy for their entire family, so we’re trying to make the merchandise in the (N.C A&T) bookstore more to the female audience,” said Faulkner. “‘What can we bring in?’ ‘What types of new products can we sell?’ We’re working on those sorts of questions.”
Faulkner, who is interning at Hanesbrands with fellow senior Aggie Tatyana Richardson, said that she appreciates Champion’s willingness to expand its demographic in age and culture.
“They are very open to our opinions of how they can better their brand and appeal to the younger crowd,” said Faulkner. “Some brands are stuck on their consumer, but I feel like Champion is willing to break out and go to different colleges. They’re looking into HBCUs and expanding into the HBCU audience. That’s something some brands won’t do because they’re very stuck in their ways of certain things.”
In Pennsylvania, junior Mya Harris is exploring the history of N.C. A&T and working under women’s design structure wear for Urban Outfitters’ Summer Class.
“This class has really been able to be in my zone as far as creating,” Harris said of interning for the Philadelphia-based lifestyle retailer. “Creating at home – it’s different. But since I’ve been able to go out more and explore the world and be involved in different aspects of the fashion industry, I’ve been able to push myself more creatively in what I do come up with and design.”
In what she described as a “triple internship,” Harris is balancing three ongoing tasks: she is working on a retrospective of what she’s learning while working for the company; being available for on-the-spot activities, such as photography; and creating a collection that best represents her college.
“The basis of Summer Class is to tell your school’s story,” said Harris. “For me, it is really important to tell the history of A&T and push the unknown facts. People know ‘largest public HBCU’ and ‘largest producer of Black engineers and agriscience students,’ but people don’t know, for example, the history of the Aggie bulldog or how the name has progressed over the years.”
Samya Gilliam-Frazier, who is interning with Free People’s FP Movement (owned by Urban Outfitters’ parent company URBN) in Pennsylvania, had to overcome injuries from a car accident in May 2021 before she could apply for the internship this year.
“For about two weeks, I was bedridden,” said Gilliam-Frazier, “and then it was another two months before I could start to use my left hand and arm, after physical and functional therapy. Dr. Newcomb really worked with me and prioritized helping me get into an internship.”
Following a successful online interview with Free People – “I was just trying to be as confident and happy as I could be,” she said – Gilliam-Frazier arrived in Pennsylvania as a design intern at FP Movement for to-and-from casualwear. Apart from her day-to-day tasks, such as filing summits, tech packs and other allocation aspects, Gilliam-Frazier embarked on two ongoing projects, one of which, like Harris’, involved A&T designs in the Summer Class.
“For Free People, we have to design our own bodies and our own silhouettes. So, my pants are not sweatpants. I completely made the pants. It’s completely my idea, which I felt was so creative. I’m so happy I had the experience to do that. Of course, they need to have the A&T logo or mascot. I did one bottom, one top, a heavyweight, and a sock.”
In New York City, senior Anthony Marshall called “being on set in general” as the biggest highlight so far of his photoshoot production internship at luxury retailer Saks Fifth Avenue.
“I started off wanting to be a visual merchandiser,” said Marshall. “I’m passionate about styling and set design. I’m also a theater minor, so I’m passionate about the performance aspect, and videography, as well. I really enjoy being on set and being able to network with people in so many different roles.”
Marshall said shadowing the art director, stylist, producer and other team members were among the best parts of the experience.
“I’ve really been able to get a great understanding about the ‘before process’ of these people, getting into the roles that they have and able to get a better understanding of my strengths and weaknesses, and what I need to further work on to get into some of these roles in the future,” he said.
Aniya Chavis has been making the rounds in New York City at Bloomingdale’s as a buyer intern for ready-to-wear portfolios at Bloomingdale’s. Her responsibilities range from shadowing a senior buyer to starring in an Instagram video for the retailer.
“One of the cosmetic buyers emailed the coordinator in charge of the internship program and said, ‘We’re launching a new skincare brand at Bloomingdale’s and we’d love for the interns to come and volunteer if they have time and they want to,’” Chavis said. “So, I emailed them and said, ‘Yes, I’d love to volunteer and help you guys.’”
From the 17th floor in the Bloomingdale’s office building, Chavis and other interns acted in a montage video of “customers” looking excitedly into a shopping bag at a mystery product, later revealed to be the retailer’s skincare lineup.
“Having that experience, and getting the feel of how the fashion directors work, was really fun,” said Chavis. “Being on Instagram with my family being able to see it, and getting the exposure in different departments, was probably the best thing out of the experience.”