Fashion Merchandising and Science Courses

Introduction

Fashion merchandising is the combination of various processes undergone by a new product in order to be available in large quantities to the consumers after it has been completed by the designer (Buttle, 1998). The majority of people often confuse fashion merchandising with fashion marketing. Despite their integration, they are two distinct things. In order to understand fashion merchandising perfectly, an individual has to understand how fashion items are promoted through their selling, buying, and manufacturing. In the manufacturing process, a fashion merchandiser plays a role that is extremely significant. He has to have the capability of choosing various types of fabrics that will end up with an adorable product. A fashion merchandiser has to have wide knowledge in terms of socio-cultural and historical aspects of his job. This will help in changing the visual design into reality. Fashion franchisers should have the ability to design fabric and come up with an item that can be sold to the public. He has to take into consideration the target market and the price of the product.

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Fashion items are sold to stores, which eventually sell the final commodity to the consumers. In that case, the merchandiser needs to have a piece of wide knowledge in terms of market trends and forecasting. This enables the merchandiser to give specific recommendations regarding the item production.

Creativity is crucial as suggestions are needed when it comes to displaying items within the store.

In the light of the above, fashion designers in the fashion merchandising industry are being faced with great challenges. Just like manufacturers, the designers need to undergo an evolution due to the consumer changing tastes and preferences in today’s world. In that case, the designer has an obligation to understand his or her consumers intimately. One of the biggest challenges is the consumer’s desire to come up with their own fashion combination and self-express themselves in terms of whom they are, their mood, what they stand for among others. To overcome these challenges, the designers need to assume the same mix–and–match mindset when it comes to today’s consumers. For many designers, this means the coordination and cooperation among various industries for purposes of creating more lifestyle themes (Baker, 2004). In addition to that, they should understand the significance of visual merchandising. Visual merchandising is part and parcel of total merchandising and design concepts.

It is a concept that is extremely significant to consumers as it enhances their decision on whether to enter or not to enter a retail premise (Lea-Greenwood, 1988, 1997). In that case, the window display can play two functions. It can act as an inhibitor or an attractor towards the patronage behavior of the consumers. Visual merchandising is a vital visual tool of communication that retailers can use to improve their brand image and brand attributes to various consumers. Therefore, it is of great significance for school curriculums to integrate Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics(STEM) with fashion merchandising so as they can able to understand the diverse needs of the consumers as they get employed in fashion industries. Through the understanding of the STEM concept, they will be able to provide solutions to various challenges that face the fashion industry.

Nature of Fashion

The fashion merchandising mystery underlies its definition as the majority of people do not understand what fashion is. Fashion has been defined differently by various people. For example, Ambrose Bierce defines fashion as a despot whom the wise “obey and ridicule”. On the other hand, Thoreau has his own perception. According to him, the old fashion is often ridiculed by every generation but follows the new fashion religiously. In Oscar Wilde’s view,” fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.” In relation to man, fashion wears out more rapidly (Daniels, 2009). In summary, fashion is a perception of what is appropriate currently. Human activities are influenced by fashion. In addition to that, fashion shapes individual possessions. It affects how human beings perform their duties, what they say, and the things they use and wear. Fashion is greatly affected by conditions and times and might be viewed as a subtle reflection of an individual’s life composite reactions and feelings.

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Fashion can be broken down into various components. To begin with, we have biological and psychological drives that are integrated into fashion. The drives are often constant. Therefore, what customers want remains constant in terms of a sense of belonging, glamour, or security. Secondly, fashion undergoes transformation very slowly (Walters & White, 1990 ). For example, women’s emancipation has to get reflected in their clothes. However, this is considered a long historical process. Casual and sub-urban living has increased significantly the importance of sportswear. The number of women working has increased drastically bringing about new fashions such as a basic dress that can change overnight with the addition of accessories. Fashion no longer depends on price (Oakley, 1992).

Statement of the problem

Traditionally, when science or mathematic courses were taught in schools, in most cases they were taught exclusively via abstract thought. In that case, students were only though laws or formulas which were eventually tested. The connections in the real world or significance of those laws or formulas were rarely taught. In most cases, whenever they were included, they were just mentioned by teachers or in books. The connections in the real world are seldom at the center of learning and teaching. As a result, students only memorize these laws or formulas without having a clear understanding of their connection to situations in the real world. In addition to that, education institutions and government agencies have come up with numerous programs to equip students with adequate knowledge. Despite the increased number of these programs, employees keep on lamenting the difficulty of finding employees who meet the 21st Century demands in the workplace (Martinez, 2005). This leads to various questions such as why the existence of such gap? Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to identify STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) need to be integrated into the various courses such as fashion merchandising in order to prepare students for workplace successful entry.

Research Objectives

  • RO1: To determine if there is a difference in science competencies in relation to fashion Merchandising competencies.
  • RO2: To determine if there is a difference in technology competencies in relation to fashion merchandising competencies.
  • RO3: To determine if there is a difference in engineering competencies in relation to
  • fashion merchandising competencies.
  • RO4: To determine if there is a difference in mathematics competencies in relation to fashion merchandising competencies.
  • RO5: To determine sample course requirements to learn if universities are integrating

STEM concepts into their fashion merchandising programs.

  • RO6: To determine what needs to occur in the future in incorporating STEM concepts into fashion merchandising programs?

Background and significance

The current economy needs individuals that are equipped with knowledge. However, the level of education has declined rapidly. The expansion of the global economy has affected how various industries hire their workers. Other industrialized nations are improving on their education levels thus posing a threat to the United States.

Technological, economic, demographic, political, and informational forces have transformed how individuals think and work (Anderson, 2001). These changes are expected to accelerate. Therefore, schools such as communities, businesses, and families must devise ways of adapting to these ever-changing conditions if they need to thrive in the highly competitive world. Thus, the need for school curriculums to integrate STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) in various school courses.

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STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) project-based learning helps individuals in integrating the design principles of engineering. The design principles infusion into fashion merchandising promotes real-world applicability. Furthermore, it helps in preparing students for post-secondary education by making them get an overview of how STEM professionals operate. Project-Based Learning is not a concept that is new to students and teachers. On the other hand, STEM education emphasis is a concept that is new and it focuses on linking secondary education with practices in the real world (Capraro & Slough, 2009). Among post-secondary institutions, STEM is a concept that is common and enables students to work in various groups in order to solve problems that are complex, to be precise with larger projects. Given the fact that projects and problems do not necessarily facilitate convergent solutions, students are therefore required to explain their own solutions. Moreover, they have to justify their proposed solution suitability to the project-based learning suitability.

This process has commonly been referred to as problem-solving. It is also expected to be taught in engineering or mathematics classes. On the contrary, STEM professionals engage in problem-solving processes that are extremely complex, and in most cases, they come up with multiple possible solutions.

The solutions have their own strengths and limitations. Therefore, it is of great significance for undergraduate students to develop in-depth knowledge that will enable them to be successful in the job markets as it will help them in reflecting on their solutions’ weaknesses and strengths. STEM process helps in developing critical thinker’s nature skills that are essential in their job environments. The integration of STEM with fashion merchandising is important as it enables the inclusion of authentic tasks such as artifact construction and use of vocabulary through design briefs inclusion.

Traditionally, when science or mathematic courses were taught in schools, in most cases they were taught exclusively via abstract thought. In that case, students were only thought laws or formulas which were eventually tested. The connections in the real world or significance of those laws or formulas were rarely taught. In most cases where they were included, they were just mentioned by teachers or in books. The connections in the real world are seldom at the center of learning and teaching. As a result, students only memorize these laws or formulas without having a clear understanding of their connection to situations in the real world and how they can be applied in the so “engineered” world we reside in. These students often lack the idea that these laws and formulas have a connection to the technologies they use such as iPods, cell phones, automobiles, television, computers, and wireless, and cable services. Therefore, it is important for teachers to incorporate project-based learning in their classrooms. Engaging students in real-world projects helps them learn the science and mathematics laws and formulas that the world revolves around. Whether a school is comprised of high achieving or low achieving students, a greater percentage of these students get more interested when it comes to dealing with real-world projects. This is because; they find these projects to be extremely engaging, fun, and meaningful.

According to Schneider et al. (2002), through this method of learning, they get to understand a deeper meaning of what revolves around the world unlike the traditional methods of teaching (Dart et al., 1999; Tobin & Gallagner, 1987).

Hence, project-based learning is a tool that is remarkably powerful that educators should embrace in order to increase educational excellence and equity. Project-based learning works hand in hand with STEM. This has resulted in the revolution of curriculums whereby math and science can be comfortably integrated with technology. The main reason for integrating STEM in the school curriculum is because the world economy greatly depends on engineering. In addition to that, the technological innovation rate and change are highly tremendous.

STEM education has become an effective choice for reforms in the education sector. The main reason behind this is the need for developing further the learning principles of the 21st century. However, there exist various challenges with regard to stem education. For instance, some teachers do not understand what the concept really means. What they do understand is that they will teach physics to students in the 9th grade (Markham, 2011). In addition to that, a lot of people do not know how STEM education came into being. The term was first created in the 1890s at Harvard by a committee of ten individuals. They did that in order to respond to the existing loopholes in the Agrarian school systems.

STEM was used to describe the characteristics of an effective school system that raised the modern student’s excellent standards. In order for parents, teachers, students, and other stakeholders to comprehend the STEM education potential, they need deeper thinking as compared to the past. In order for STEM education to succeed in the 21st century, there is a need for a systematic change than what was outlined by Harvard 110 years ago. In absence of the adoption of student-centered, inquiry-based, and skill-driven approaches to learning and teaching, then STEM education will be perceived as a term that adds to the engineering and mathematics courses (Markham, 2011).

This can only be achieved via doing the following:

Teach doing and knowing: The addition of design media or advanced calculus course is not enough. Engineers design and build things via the utilization of applied mathematics. On the other hand, through multiple failures scientists are able to develop new products such as drugs. At the core of any STEM program, students should be given an opportunity to come up with their own products and not only perform tests. Furthermore, there is the need to display the created products to various stakeholders such as teachers, experts, parents among others. This can only be achieved by diverting much attention to the process of designing.

Permit Creativity: STEM education is perceived as innovation.

For it to be successful, the education professionals have to rewrite again the course names, collaborate closely with the coordinators of the curriculum to ensure the maintenance of academic rigor. Similarly, innovation can be achieved by not subjecting students to standardized tests or course exams. Therefore creativity should be given much emphasis when students are performing their own projects. This will enable students to think widely as this category is open-minded.

Teamwork maintenance: Engineers and Scientists work in teams in order to make their missions successful. Teachers and students need to undergo some training in order to create effective teams in their classrooms. Teamwork is vital for STEM education. Through the use of a team, students will have an idea of what is expected from them in the 21st century.

Commence with questions: Any essential venture in engineering, technology, or science commences with a question. The questions are as How can this product be created? Which designs are perfect? What is really needed by consumers?. A thorough STEM education puts emphasis on questions rather than lecturing, learning, lectures, or known information regulating. STEM programs are significant for undergraduates as they equip them with the needed facts and information. In that case, it is essential if children are constantly challenged in order to come up with solutions to problems affecting society. Students should be able to come with answers that can help solve the problems or questions being asked.

In summary, STEM education means the utilization of learning and teaching standards of the Science, Technology Education, Engineering, and math disciplines in a fashion that is collaborative, integrated, and innovative. This fashion is often applied to various levels of challenges that are adequate for career readiness or college. STEM education strives to change the typical classroom that is teacher-centered through the encouragement of a curriculum that is spearheaded by discovery, problem-solving and focused engagement of students and exploratory learning in order to come up with a solution (Community Report, 2012). Therefore, the integration of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) with Fashion merchandising will enhance the student’s capability of coming up with new designs in the fashion industry. In addition to that, they will be able to come up with various solutions when they are faced with aggressive competition. Given the fact that STEM advocates for teamwork, the students will be able to fill the gap existing in the employment market as they will be able to come up with various products that suit the demands of their consumers. As merchandise managers in the future, the students will have the ability to choose the best trends and looks, they will be able to match and mix colors in order to satisfy a wide range of customers in the market. Students should acknowledge that fashion merchandising is a rewarding and challenging career that incorporates analytical thinking and creative skills. Teachers should embrace project-based learning rather than testing children on what they have learned in class. Project-based learning help students to be creative by coming up with products that will help in solving various world problems.

Research Limitations

The following limitations will affect the research of this study:

  • The research was limited to fashion merchandising granting institutions in the state of Virginia.
  • The population was limited to 15 state institutions that provided an undergraduate study in fashion merchandising.
  • The undergraduate course requirements for fashion merchandising will vary between the different state institutions depending on the interests of the faculty and community.
  • The population of the 15 college and university fashion merchandising programs is structured differently and controlled by university and department policies.

Assumptions

The foundation of this research was based on the following assumptions:

  • Not all Virginia state institutions were motivated by STEM initiatives.
  • Fashion merchandising differs in concept, content, quality, and application from university to university.
  • Fashion merchandising students need Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics competencies to overall understand fashion merchandising study requirements.

Procedures

Compare the different state institutions’ requirements for both STEM and fashion merchandising. Compare the advanced requirements of both programs and the level of entry science, technology, engineering, and mathematics coursework. (Please elaborate on this).

Definitions

Collaboration: is working together within the STEM framework to ensure students are sharing and gaining knowledge in fashion merchandising.

Critical thinking skills are the reflective judgments about a problem and developing outcomes-based on observation or experience.

Fashion Merchandising: involves all activities related to the development, buying, and selling of merchandise. Fashion merchandising requirements are to be able to select and buy materials to be sold in stores or to manufacturing companies and industries dealing with clothing, furniture, and textiles. They forecast trends in order to decide what to stock and how to most effectively display and market them to consumers.

Integration: is the process of bringing all academic disciplines into the course of study.

ITAA: is a professional and educational association in the textile, apparel, and merchandising disciplines in higher education.

Mathematics literacy: is applying the correct mathematics skills in a given situation to develop the answer or the solution to the problem.

Problem-solving skills: are mental processes someone goes through to develop a solution to a problem. The process starts with understanding the problem in order to develop certain outcomes or solutions to the problem.

Science literacy: is the knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts and processes required to correlate information and solve the problem.

STEM: is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. It is a conceptual term that signifies an element of integration between the academic disciplines.

Technological literacy: refers to the ability to use, manage, understand, and assess technology (ITEA, 2007).

Virginia State institutions are state-funded colleges and universities.

Overview of the Chapters

This chapter highlights the need for STEM competencies to be included in the fashion-merchandising curriculum. The purpose of this study was to research ways one can improve STEM integration into fashion merchandising undergraduate programs. It also gives the significance of integrating STEM into the school curriculum. The chapter also highlights the challenges being experienced by teachers in the implementation of the stem programs and gives the way forward. In addition to that, the chapter also gives what is lacking in the 21st Century workforce and the need to fill the gap via incorporating STEM programs in undergraduate courses such as fashion merchandising.

References

Anderson, P. (2001).The Skills Gap 2001. National Association of Manufacturers, Center for Workforce Success.

Baker, S. (2004). Next trends in apparel retail, manufacturing, fashion & merchandising – management briefing: Fashion / merchandising. Bromsgrove, United Kingdom: Bromsgrove:

Buttle, F. (1998). Merchandising. European Journal of Marketing, 18(5), 4-25

Capraro, M.R., & Slough, S.W. (2009). Project-Based Learning: An integrated Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) approach. Web.

Community Report. (2012). Career and Technical Education. Web.

Daniels, A.H. (2009). Fashion Merchandising. Harvard Business Review, 52-60.

Dart, B, Burnett, P, Boulton-Lewis, G, Campbell, J., Smith, D., & McCrindle, A. (1999). Classroom learning environments and students’ approaches o learning. Learning Environment Research, 2(2), 137-156.

Lea-Greenwood, G. (1997). Visual Merchandising: Its role in corporate brand management. MMU: Manchester

Lea-Greenwood, G. (1998). Visual merchandising: A neglected area in UK fashion marketing? International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, 26(8), 324-324.

Markham, T. (2011). Strategies for embedding project-based learning into STEM Education. Web.

Martinez, M. (2005). What does “success skills” mean across the country?: Defining success skills for the 21st century. Journal of Business and Economic Development, 1-24.

Oakley, W. (1992). Design Management: A Handbook of issues and Methods. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Schneider, R.M., Krajic, J., Marx, R.W., & Soloway, E. (2002). Performance of students in project-based science on a national measure of science achievement. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 39(5), 410-422

Tobin, K., & Gallagher, J.J. (1987). What happens in high school science classroom? Journal of Curriculum Studies, 19(6), 549-560.

Walters, D., & White, D. (1990). Retail Marketing Management. London: Macmillian

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