Fashion Merchandising Student Neely Connor ’25 Shares Her NYC Experience 

Author Julia Shiels '24 is a Graphic Design major and works as a student assistant at JWU, contributing to JWU News.

The rapidly growing fashion merchandising industry is a global business that defines cultures as well as generations. At JWU, Fashion Merchandising & Retailing students learn the ins and outs of this exciting industry first-hand on the program’s yearly trip to New York City, the fashion capital of the U.S. On this trip, majors tour the headquarters of different fashion brands for a behind-the-scenes look at how these companies approach fashion merchandising. To learn more about the annual trip and the benefits it offers, I talked to Fashion Merchandising & Retailing major, Neely Connor ’25. She also shared some great photos from the trip!

What made you want to study fashion merchandising?

I have always loved fashion since I was young. I dreamed of being a designer, and I used to make clothes for my Barbies and draw sketches. I briefly wanted to go into the medical field before learning about fashion merchandising. For some reason, I never considered that a company must order all the clothes and put them in a store or online before I can even buy them. It’s something I could really see myself doing. Studying fashion merchandising has opened my eyes to many possible careers in the industry that I had never imagined before.

View of NYC and two mannequins.

What led you to choose JWU?

I’ve always wanted to go to school in the city. Once I knew what I wanted to study, I had to find a school that provided the major and the location. JWU was the best decision for me because it could offer me everything I needed: a campus in the city, a fashion merchandising major (with a buying specialization) and only two hours from my hometown, Kennebunk, Maine! JWU also has a lot of opportunities that excite me, such as studying abroad in Florence, Italy.

Where did you get to go while in NYC?

We toured Herman Kay (an outerwear and apparel company), went behind the scenes of Broadway’s Lion King show, visited Primark at the American Dream Mall and saw the corporate headquarters of Ann Taylor and Loft. In our free time, we also visited the Food in Fashion exhibition at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

Photos of student Neely Connor on NYC trip.Neely Connor '25

What was your favorite part of going on the fashion merchandising program’s annual NYC trip?

I loved getting to hang out with my classmates! They aren’t people I often get to see outside of class, so it was a lot of fun to explore the city with them. It’s hard to choose a favorite part of the trip since each place we visited was super cool in its own way! Going backstage at the Lion King show may have won though because it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. The work and detail in all the set pieces and costumes were insane and beautiful!

What were some important things you learned from this trip?

I learned a lot of valuable visual merchandising dos and don’ts at Primark from their visual merchandising supervisor and their assistant, Melanie Robinson. Melanie is actually a JWU alum who graduated in 2022! At Ann Taylor and Loft, they taught us about influencer marketing and how to create successful campaigns and events. At Herman Kay, I gained valuable knowledge about the challenges of managing a company that manufactures and designs for six major labels! Each of these visits were great learning experiences.

View of NYC and mannequin.

How did this trip prepare you for the fashion industry?

I experienced so many different sides of the fashion industry on this trip. It was cool and helpful to imagine myself working for each of these places or similar jobs. I learned about a lot of different paths that are available to me that are very intriguing, especially the opportunities on Broadway. This trip was also a great networking experience. A few of the stores, like Ann Taylor and Loft, let us know about their upcoming summer internship opportunities.

What are your plans for after graduation — do you think you'll end up back in NYC?

I would love to end up back in NYC! That’s part of why I chose JWU — I wanted to start small before going to a bigger city. I’m not sure about my plans after graduation yet. I may stay in Providence for a little while or see where I end up, but I’ll be doing something in the fashion industry! My goal is to be a stylist at a bridal gown store.

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