If you were always interested in getting into the fashion circuit but didn’t consider yourself creative enough to be a designer, fret not, because fashion designing is not the only option.
Designing is an integral, yet small part of the vast industry that fashion is. Unfortunately, in the country where career options start from medical and end in an engineering degree, this area of expertise remains unnoticed and at times ignored. But things have begun to change and youth has started to follow their heart without any fear, to be in the unconventional fields of their choice.
So, what exactly is merchandising? To understand that one must know how a fashion industry functions. A fashion or garment industry consists of four components –a buyer, a buying office, manufacturer and retail.
A buyer is nothing but the representation of the brand that decides the collection, gets it manufactured and eventually sends it to its retail outlets. For example, Nike is a brand that hires a team of buyers that co-ordinate with the design team (which in turn is responsible for forecasting the collection for various seasons), pattern team (which co-ordinates with the design team to prepare the tech pack manual containing the sketch of the garment, size specifications, trims and fabric to be used along with construction details) and their marketing team to place an order with a buying house.
A buying house is a mediator between the buyer and the manufacturer. It is mostly located in the country where the manufacturers are situated. A buying house consists of group of merchandisers who communicate the order to various manufacturers, get the quote for the first samples and based on the best bid, they place the order with the manufacturer on behalf of the buyer. Buying houses makes sure that the manufacturer follows proper instruction, meets the deadline and makes an on-time delivery to the buyer.
The manufacturer is responsible for producing the garments and shipping it to the buyer as per the requirements. Now, the person who communicates and co-ordinates between the buying office and various departments in the manufacturing unit is also called as a merchandiser. It is the responsibility of the merchandiser to plan and execute the order according to the instructions provided.
Once the garments are shipped to the buyer, retail comes into the picture and the buyer or retail merchandiser plans out the assortment for its outlet, keeping in mind size and location, and looks after the target with the help of sales department at the same time.
This makes us come to an understanding that merchandisers exist in each phase of the process; only the nomenclature varies from being called a buyer or a merchandiser. The main roles of the merchant or merchandiser are to co-ordinate and communicate with the people in this industry. It comes in with a lot of responsibility as it plays a very crucial part. A small miscommunication and things can go from bad to worse; a faulty planning can delay the shipment which can lead to claims (loss).
It requires a lot of patience, pro-activeness, common sense, good documentation and math skills. Since the industry is prone to errors because of the large human involvement, it becomes very challenging to overcome all the hurdles and meet the target whether it is placing an order, getting it manufactured, making an on-time shipment or placing the right product, at the right time in the right outlet. It is also interesting to create or contribute to a product that the whole world will get to see and wear.
Two of the best institutes in India that offer courses related to fashion merchandising are:
1) National institute of fashion technology – Course offered at graduation level is Bachelor of fashion technology (apparel production) for which the eligibility is 10+2 with Maths, Physics and Chemistry from a recognized board of education. This course is a four year degree program offered at New Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai, Gandhinagar, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kannur, Kangra, Kolkata and Jodhpur centers of NIFT. To get an admission, one has to take an all India written entrance exam which comprises of GAT (General ability test) and MAT (Managerial ability test). Shortlisted candidates are required to take a written situation test, followed by a group discussion and a personal interview. NIFT does not recommend any coaching classes for preparation, one need to be good in English, Maths and General knowledge to get through the admission process.
If you have done B.E or B.Tech from a recognized college in India, especially if you had textiles as your branch, then there’s a two year post graduation course called Master of fashion technology (apparel production) available at NIFT Bangalore, Gandhinagar and New Delhi centers. Admission process remains the same as graduation. Although, M.F.Tech adds to the value of a textile engineering degree, candidates from non-textile background looking for a shift in career can also join the course. But they should be aware that it will be very different from what they had studied; they should be mentally prepared to accept the change especially because this industry is unlike the IT or software industry and requires more human interaction based work. While the pay scale is comparatively lower, the growth is great for people who have perseverance and dedication, and good work always receives recognition in this area. They should be clear on why they made the switch as that is a crucial question during the time of placement.
There’s another 2 year P.G. course called Master of fashion management available at NIFT New Delhi, Bangalore, Bhubaneshwar, Mumbai, Gandhinagar, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Patna and Jodhpur. Eligibility criteria are an undergraduate degree from any institute or university recognized by law in India or an undergraduate diploma of minimum three years duration from NIFT or NID. The admission process is the same as M.F.Tech program.
More information on NIFT is available at www.nift.ac.in
2) Pearl academy of fashion – Offers a four year bachelor program in fashion marketing and retailing management at New Delhi. Eligibility criteria are 10+2 pass in any discipline with minimum 50% marks. There’s an all India entrance exam consisting of GPT (General Proficiency test) in English language to demonstrate their proficiency in the language (comprehension, vocabulary and expression), basic mathematics, logic, etc. Successful candidates from the GPT are called for further screening through Group Discussion and Personal Interview.
There are two post graduation courses – Fashion retail (New Delhi, Jaipur, Chennai) and fashion merchandising (New Delhi, Chennai). These two year courses are for graduates in any discipline and the admission process is same as the bachelor program.
Pearl academy also offers a one year certificate program in apparel marketing and merchandising at its New Delhi center. It also offers one year diploma program in apparel manufacturing at the Chennai center. These courses are designed to address the needs of working executives, full-time students, homemakers and even entrepreneurs such as you, who have a passion for design and communication. Admission is based on first come, first serve and an interview.
The institute’s official website is - www.pearlacademy.com
Placements in NIFT and Pearl academy happen every year and a lot of good companies participate. The pay scale starts from approx. 20,000 rupees per month and can be more or less depending on the course and company that is hiring. It might occur to some that the salary is very less but with experience and dedication, good hikes and promotions can definitely be achieved as the growth in this industry is immense because the product (garment) is one of the basic necessities in life.
Merchandising is a field for those who love fashion and want to be an integral part of it. There’s a lot to learn and after a hard day’s work, you can tell your friends and family that the world would be devoid of clothes if the merchandisers didn’t exist.
(Writer is an alumnus of NIFT, Bangalore and has experience in merchandising)
Isha Sinha is an alumnus of NIFT, Bangalore and has experience in merchandising
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