Interview with Michele Granger

Michele Granger, fashion textbook author
Michele Granger

Michele Granger

Meet Michele Granger

Some people are lucky enough to know exactly what they are meant to do in their careers. For the rest of us, we have to figure it out along the way. Many people dream of a life in fashion. But what exactly does that mean? Do you want to be a designer, a buyer, a stylist, or perhaps a PR person? These are the more popular career paths that are taught in school. However, there are actually numerous other fashion related jobs that most people have never even heard of.

This week I was fortunate enough to interview Michele Granger, a once buyer/ merchandiser, shop owner, professor, and author of the book, The Fashion Industry and Its Careers. In this book, she goes into great detail about every possible job in the industry and explains all that is involved in each one. The interviews within the book give a great perspective from the men and women who make up the fabric of this business. She explains how all the moving parts of the industry work together in tandem to create the business of fashion.

How did you get into the fashion industry?

In the last semester of a dual Bachelor’s degree in Business and Fashion, I interned with a women’s specialty store chain. Upon graduation, I was hired as an assistant buyer in accessories with the company. A year later, I was promoted to a buyer—right place, right time. I moved up the ranks over 9 years to merchandise manager and then was recruited by an apparel manufacturer to work on the other side of the fence as a manufacturer’s rep. I did this for 2 years before realizing my dream of going back to school and teaching about what I knew—fashion merchandising. Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri, was looking for a program director of fashion merchandising. The University of Missouri there had a Master’s program in Textiles and Apparel Management. It was a perfect fit. A love of learning and the desire to share what I have learned led me to teach. I also love to write and travel; both of these passions can be incorporated into the academic career track. The schedule also worked well for me as a mom.

About 4 years ago, I co-authored an entrepreneurship text and was bitten by the own-your-own-business bug—again. While I was teaching at Stephens College, I opened an apparel and accessories boutique and loved it. The business was sold 3 months after my daughter was born because teaching, “entrepreneuring,” and being a new mom were too much all at once.

There were very few resources available for fashion businesses at the time. I knew it was something I wanted to pursue later. Later came about 3 years ago when I had the opportunity to teach in the entrepreneurship program of the College of Business at Missouri State University. I love teaching students the skills to open their own businesses, to control their own destinies.

How did you become an author?

Over the years, I have authored 8 books and co-authored another. Working with a publisher for years makes the process easier; however, when I started, I simply reached out to a fashion education publisher with my idea for an internship guide. As a regular author for the publisher, the acquisitions editor is my point of contact on new books or updated editions. She will tell me about “book voids” that need to be filled that fit with my background and interest. Alternatively, I will contact the publisher if I have an idea for a new book. Next, I will write a prospectus for the potential book—purpose, objectives, audience, table of contents, sample chapter, and competition analysis. The publisher’s marketing staff will determine sales potential. Reviewers will provide feedback on the prospectus. If it’s all a go, the writing begins! In addition to it, art is selected; permissions must be acquired for every quote and image in the book, and 2 rounds of editing are completed.

The idea for this book (The Fashion Industry and Its Careers) came from two places. The first was from teaching introduction to fashion courses every semester. How the fashion industry is configured and what career positions are available at each level seemed to me to be critical knowledge for students considering a career. Second, friends and readers who already had degrees requested a book that would allow them to understand the fashion industry and the jobs it holds.

I hope [the reader] will see the tremendous range of career opportunities the fashion industry offers and that they will see how global trends impact career options now and in the future. I hope that I can help guide them toward a career path they will love for a lifetime.

How do you do research for your different books?

To me, there are 4 big requirements for “timely teaching” and successful publishing: effective research, a strong industry network, travel, and the ability to never meet a stranger. I read a lot and I talk to my friends in the industry, my students after their internships, industry employers, etc. I travel a lot—to Paris, London, New York. And I don’t have a problem with ringing someone up or emailing a person who I would love to feature in a book. Here’s an inside tip. Most people love students. They remember being in the student’s position and appreciate their passion, hope, and youthful enthusiasm. They want to help—whether she’s Rachel Zoe, Vera Wang, or Catherine Martin.

Who was the most memorable person you interviewed and why?

One of my most memorable interviews was one that I orchestrated from behind the curtain. David Wolfe is one of my favorite people in the industry. He’s an amazing forecaster for The Doneger Group and a legend in the industry. I love his personality, style, and knowledge. We worked with one of my students on setting up an internship in New York and asked if he would be interested in interviewing David while he was in New York for the summer. I knew David would love talking to this intelligent and exciting young man, and he did. The only part of the interview is in the book. They talked for hours; my student asked the questions I’d provided and even better queries as the two of them talked. It was this flowing exchange of ideas between two people—one sharing thoughts at the start of his career and the other sharing what he knows from the pinnacle.

What area of the fashion industry do you see having the most growth opportunity?

Product development is the most interesting to me right now. It’s key to brick-and-mortar and online retailers, as well as manufacturers. Product development integrates into so many consumer trends, such as mass-customization (e.g., Nike id) and vertical integration (e.g., retailer/manufacturer/contractor partnership on a private store brand). It is highly impacted by technological innovations. There are big opportunities for employment in this career path, one that combines design, merchandising, and marketing. Technology is [also] impacting every segment of the industry with the speed of lightning. Our world is always changing. Especially with technology.

What is the best advice you ever received?

I had 2 wonderful mentors at the start of my career—a buyer in retailing and a dean of academics. Now, I try to be a good mentor and a woman who helps other women. It’s so important to give a hand up to those who are starting their careers–to be available, to share contacts and knowledge, and to open doors for others. When I do this, I ask the recipient to remember the moment and to pay it forward. I’ve seen that happen many times.

What advice would you give young creatives just starting out?

1. Be prepared to work hard.

2. Anticipate what needs to be done and do it without requiring positive feedback for every move (the workplace isn’t a place where everyone gets a trophy for showing up).

3. Believe in yourself. You’ve got a set of skills and a team of supporters.

4. Listen carefully (and don’t be afraid to take notes). Bad questions are the ones you ask to be answered again.

5. Be positive; show interest and energy.

6. Say please and thank you. A hand-written thank you note for a contact, an answered question, or a helpful phone call will be remembered by the recipient.

7. Exercise your creative muscle to keep it strong. It may take a while for you to have the chance to use your personal creativity on the job. Paint, journal, travel, photograph, draw, clip, and observe.

8. Don’t worry so much; have fun!