The New School News

Christopher Lacy and Joshua Williams with Dr. Niz Safrudin, one of the podcast experts
Christopher Lacy and Joshua Williams with Dr. Niz Safrudin, one of the podcast experts

MPS Fashion Management Course Pivots to Online Learning, Complete with New Podcast and Experts

The retail industry is undergoing a profound shift in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic. Stores are closed, millions of people are out of work, and shopping for clothing and accessories isn’t considered essential business. Legacy brands, designers, stylists, and other creative professionals are rapidly pivoting their business strategies in order to survive, and creating plans in order to move forward in the aftermath of the crisis.

For “Retailing and Service Design,” the final 5-week course in the MPS Fashion Management program in the School of Fashion at Parsons School of Design, professors Joshua Williams and Christopher Lacy had always planned to teach students about retail from an omnichannel perspective in order to help them find spaces to innovate after graduation. The current global health crisis has forced them to alter the curriculum, which now includes lecture videos, a weekly online seminar, and a podcast, “Retail Revolution,” where they interview experts about the impacts of Covid-19. 

“We realize that this is an extraordinary time and we want this course to reflect that,” said Williams. “The pandemic will now be a major part of any retailer’s considerations going forward, forcing companies to change course much quicker than planned, and under far more drastic and dire circumstances. This now becomes an opportunity—a very real starting point—for our students to be part of these changes that will impact retail forever, beyond the theoretical.”

The MPS Fashion Management program has been engaged with industry experts all year, underscoring Parsons’ approach to education. Students have listened to Tracy Reese, Fashion Design ‘84, share her advice, and have also been mentored by celebrated designers including Kay Unger, Fashion Design ‘68. The new podcast was developed by Williams and Lacy in order to allow students to still hear from experts even while classes have gone online, and features leaders from Intermix, Newmine Omnichannel Consulting, SAP, and more.

“Throughout the past year, students have had the opportunity to meet business executives, designers and entrepreneurs, benefitting from their expertise and perspective, as well as “real time” industry information,” shared Lacy. “The podcast allows us to continue these conversations in a digital format, and because podcasts are at once intimate and story driven, we hope each episode will add to the overall learning experience in a format that’s entertaining and thought provoking.”

The podcast explores a range of topics, including technology, finance, merchandising, customer engagement, and more. In conversation with Lacy, who serves as host, experts discuss how businesses are adapting in real time to the effects of Covid-19, and how they are shaping both short and long term plans.

One of the podcast guests, Ron Thurston, Vice President of Stores and Operations at Intermix, notes that his podcast episode is “about the balance between statistics (KPI’s) and the heart of service, which are empathy and curiosity, and helping listeners understand that one cannot exist without the other in retail.”

The podcast also explores the future of retail, which Thurston believes is “about connection and marketing, with the retail store serving as the connective tissue between a brand, their e-commerce experience, the marketing and customer acquisition efforts, and the customer connection to the brick and mortar store. In the past, these may have functioned independently, but in the near future they are all interconnected in a “channel-less” world.”

Williams and Lacy are confident that their course will help students prepare for a retail revolution that has only sped up thanks to the current crisis, and give students the opportunity to create positive change in the fashion and design industries once they graduate.

“We wanted to develop a course that took this into consideration—our new shared reality—and ensure that students could learn in an entertaining, thoughtful way that reflected the world in which we live,” said Williams.

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