Fashion, Retail, Consumer Products, Hospitality

Photograph of runway show


Often the excitement about a career in fashion stems from the allure of the industry itself, dazzling and entertaining. We all have a fashion sense to a degree, and fashion drives how we see people and identify ourselves; it’s no wonder there’s a large interest in the field. The question is: what do you want to do in fashion? It’s a large and complex industry. If interested in design, you could become a fashion designer or buyer of materials, such as textiles. If you love how clothing looks and feels, you could model or become a fashion reporter, sharing your insight. If you want to ensure that fashion organizations develop, manage, sell, and account for their products and services, there are a variety of business related functions that could be a great fit. Below are some common sectors and job titles in fashion:

Fashion Design

  • Assistant Designer 
  • Associate Designer 
  • Designer 
  • Design Director Technical Designer 
  • CAD Designer Production Manager 
  • Textile Buyer 
  • Fashion Forecaster Buyers  
    (See descriptions of these roles on ArtBistro.)

Merchandising and Retail

  • Assistant Merchandiser
  • Merchandiser
  • Associate Merchandiser 
  • VP of Merchandising/ Design 
  • Merchandise Manager 
  • Visual Merchandiser/ Display Director 
  • Product Specialist 
  • Personal Shopper/ Wardrobe Consultant 
  • Department Manager 
  • Store Manager 
  • Showroom Representative 
  • Director of Customer Relations/ Sales 
  • Merchandiser 
  • Manufacturing Executive 
    (See descriptions of these roles on ArtBistro.)

Retail & Consumer Products

The second largest industry in the U.S., retail comes in a variety of shapes, sizes and platforms, and involves the sale of goods or commodities directly to consumers. The most commonly known retail stores, often referred to as “brick and mortar” operations, include conventional and specialty department stores, discount and chain stores, consumer electronics, home improvement and office supply retailers, sporting goods, footwear and jewelry stores, as well as pharmacies, food stores, grocery stores, and more. Brick and mortar stores face significant competition from web-based retailers, in addition to direct mail and catalog retailers. Typical career paths and training vary depending on both the company and its industry segment.


The hospitality industry offers many career options throughout the world. While some of the career opportunities may seem obvious, such as front-desk manager, chef, or tour guide, there are countless other positions operating behind the scenes at hotels, casinos, restaurants and more.

Finding Internships

Interviews for fashion and retail are highly competitive, and the number of fashion and retail employers who visit campus is relatively small. These industries value candidates who are willing to "put themselves out there" and demonstrate a genuine interest in the field.

Major hotel groups tend to focus their attention on colleges and universities with a hospitality program when they visit campuses to recruit. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t consider submitting an online application to be considered for a management training program. These programs typically rotate candidates through several of their core business areas – food services, event management, front-desk operations, and housekeeping – with the intention of finding the right fit based on both the candidate’s and hotel’s needs.

Finding Jobs

Explore every possible opportunity to meet and get to know (and be known by!) as many people in the fashion and retail field as you can through on-campus events as well as through your own, independent efforts. Harvard student groups and career clubs can help enhance key job skills and develop industry contacts. Consider taking a leadership role or taking a course that involves some form of quantitative activity, especially if you're interested in fashion and retail merchandising.

With so many different jobs in the highly diverse hospitality industry, it is important to target your search in order to learn what qualifications are needed. Sometimes something as straight forward as previous experience will qualify you for full-time consideration, while in other cases, technical training may be necessary. Hotels may also offer entry level opportunities in specific support functions such as marketing and finance/accounting. The industry is also highly sensitive to prevailing economic conditions, which will have an impact on hiring.

Graduate and Professional Programs

While specialized undergraduate programs prepare candidates for this industry, there is plenty of room for liberal arts students, especially in the business operations area. Before signing up for a graduate program, take some time to work in the industry to road-test your interest and gain the amount of experience that may be required.

Similarly, don’t shy away from an opportunity to work at the bottom of a hospitality organization before signing up for a graduate program. It provides a no risk/low risk way to learn whether or not the industry is right for you. smaller hotels and resorts may allow you to try your hand at various tasks, while larger establishments will have more defined roles.