Carlson School Alumni Leverage Business Expertise to Break into the Fashion Industry
For Adrian Suncar, ’09 BSB, his career calling was evident in how he spent his downtime – perusing fashion blogs and brushing up on the latest collections from his favorite clothing brands. The problem? The recent grad was in the early stages of an accountant career. Unfulfilled at work, he began exploring how top pros got their start in the fashion industry.
So two years after graduating from the Carlson School, he relenquished his job at a major Minneapolis accounting firm to pursue a career in fashion.
In 2011, Suncar sold his car, withdrew his life savings, and moved to New York where he began a degree in fashion marketing from Parsons the New School for Design. He soon applied his business education to land an internship at Dior, where he streamlined logistics processes to increase efficiency in his department. Because of the new processes he developed, Suncar soon freed up his time to take on new projects.
“Dior is the cream of the crop of fashion, and I really wanted to work closer to their product,” he says. “My supervisor let me spend one day a week on logistics and two days working with merchandising.”
Suncar soon leveraged his experience at Dior to win a sought-after position as a wholesale assistant at Fendi. After only one year, he was promoted to men’s account executive. He now supports the men’s Fendi line by attending fashion shows in Milan, meeting with buyers for department and specialty stores, coordinating launch events, creating looks for advertising and catalogs, and more.
“My job is never the same day to day, but it never feels like work,” he says. “I love fashion and it gets me excited. It gets me to wake up in the morning.”
The accounting student turned fashion industry pro credits his fast success to his business background: Suncar says his ability to practice effective business communication, think strategically, and understand financial data has propelled his rise through the highly competitive fashion industry.
“I didn’t become the accountant or analyst in the world of fashion, but those skills allow me to do things a lot more effectively and allow me to look at things in a whole new way,” he says. “That sets me apart from my competition and allows me to spend my time doing the things I want to do.”
Forecasting trends at Bloomingdale’s
Alumna Hannah Cairns, ’13 BSB, got her start in fashion working on fashion competition TV series Project Runway. In the summer prior to her junior year at the Carlson School, she immersed herself in the fast-moving and fashion-forward environment on the Project Runway set. Soon after, she spent a pivotal semester studying at Universita Bocconi in Milan.
“The fashion and finance capital of Italy fueled my passion to find a career where my analytical skills and love for fashion aligned,” she says.
Cairns received an offer from Bloomingdale’s in 2013, where she serves as the replenishment team planning assistant. As her team implements a new forecasting system, she forecasts consumer demand to efficiently replenish products in the stores. After only one year in her position, Cairns has been recommended for the Bloomingdale’s Executive Development Program, and is on track to become a merchandise planner.
Promoting the Kenneth Cole men’s line
Kenneth Cole Divisional Coordinator of Men’s Apparel Robert Vaupel, ’13 BSB, discovered his passion for sales and fashion as a sophomore at the Carlson School. With the help of three classmates, the accounting major opened and ran MADE Clothing, a start-up that specialized in made-to-measure suits for men. Vaupel and his partners, Carlson School alumnus Justin Kwan and students Rob Grosskopf and Brandon Hickey, eventually sold the company.
“For me I realized how much I enjoyed the process of selling — more importantly selling a tangible good. Something I can hold and touch,” he says.
Today, his work with Kenneth Cole entails selling men’s apparel to department stores. He hopes to eventually move back to Minneapolis to open a boutique shop specializing in high-end apparel.
Balancing logistics and product management at Burberry
As a senior buyer for Burberry, alumna Susan Dordal, ’10 BSB, handles products for one of her favorite brands. Throughout her education and early career, she relentlessly pursued her longtime goal of becoming a buyer for a global retailer. Upon graduation, she began her career as an analyst at Target where she worked with women’s apparel. From there, she was recruited by Coach, and jumped at the opportunity.
“I always wanted to live in New York and work as a buyer in fashion,” she says. “At Coach, I learned the analytics behind retail and learned from some of the brightest men and women I've met in the industry.”
In 2013, a former colleague connected her to an opportunity at Burberry, where she manages retail for Canada, Brazil, Mexico, and the United States. The role requires her to interact with the menswear line, attend fashion shows, manage financials and logistics, lead teams across the globe, track trends, and build relationships within the industry.
Her advice for students pursuing a career in fashion is to cultivate relationships at every opportunity.
“Network, stay in touch with colleagues, and find a mentor,” she says. “The industry is small and there is a lot of movement and opportunity, so stay connected and stay true to yourself.”