MFMS is a University of Michigan student organization that brings expert minds and ideas in fashion and style to campus. The Michigan Fashion Media Summit, is a full day event focused on fashion, retail and media that’s held at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business, annually.
According to the MFMS website, “Founded in 2018, the Michigan Fashion Media Summit was created by 3 University of Michigan students [Ali Gropper, President, Ryan Walker, Chief Operating Officer and Rachel Roth, Chief Marketing Officer & Creative Director, and Meredith Rush, Head of Operations] looking to connect and learn from professionals in the fashion, retail, and media industries.” (MFMS)
Four years later they still act on a committee that oversees the accomplishments of future student planning teams.
The summit has hosted over 75 speakers, 50+ partners, 400+ industry professionals, and over 3000 attendees. Some past speakers have included Diane von Fursternberg, Rachel Zoe, and Maverick Carter.
This year, the summit was sponsored by Forbes and run by co-presidents Dana Papandreadis and Sophie Glassman with a team of 54 students and professionals.
The summit hosted both virtually and in-person, with two Q&A live session panels using Hopin technology, professional headshot photographers, and a free “Lunch + Learn” workshop sponsored by Adobe.
You could hand in your résumé near check-in for a “coffee chat” networking opportunity with Louis Vuitton, Bustle Digital Group, Rachel Zoe’s CURATEUR, Steve Madden, Gap, Adobe and/or IMG.
Figures from Steve Madden, Carhartt, Manolo Blahnik and Nike, among others, engaged in conversations surrounding branding, technology and the process of a product launch, among other fascinating and deeply relevant themes, livestreaming to the website for virtual attendees.
The first keynote speaker was Shona Pinnock, VP of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for Louis Vuitton Americas; with second being Rachel Zoe, fashion icon and entrepreneur, and Derek Blasberg, Head of Fashion and Beauty at Youtube.
Topics during the day included diversity and equity, NFTs, avatars, and the ins and outs of the new influencer economy, with a wide range of experts from different walks of life.
MFMS asserts, “Whether it’s educating our attendees on the implications of digitizing the industry or discussing opinions on the latest fashion trends, our summit provides a large spectrum of topics from all different areas for everyone to participate in.”
The event tackled questions as large as, “How does one disrupt prejudiced hiring practices?” and as focused as, “What is the right platform to tell your stories?” with expert facilitation and the incisive questions from UM’s students.
Discussing how to Design a Launch were (L-R) Ben Ewy, VP of Global Product Design at Carhartt; Rebecca Goodman, VP of Marketing and Communications at Manolo Blahnik; Matt Gutharz, President of Women’s Wholesale and Better Private Label at Steve Madden; Matt Walker, President at CURATEUR and Rachel Zoe Inc.; Marcus Collins, Head of Strategy at Wieden+Kennedy and Clinical Assistant Professor at Ross School of Business. Photo by Dequan Gambrell.
The evening before the event, CURATEUR, Rachel Zoe’s fashion subscription company, hosted a launch party at The University of Michigan Museum of Art, giving free ear piercings, hors d’oeuvres and cocktails while even screening the night’s basketball game on the projector (Unfortunately the Wolverines lost).
Attendees at the MFMS launch event were even able to watch the UM basketball game. Photo by Dequan Gambrell.
MFMS commented, “[We are] a unique boundary-breaking organization, and we are elated for what’s to come. With our newly rendered hybrid platform, we are excited to expand our reach internationally and procure industry leaders who were previously inaccessible, as well as reach students from across the world.”
The future is bright for fashion, as Shona Pinnock reassures, “I’ll tell you a secret, you kind of have the upper hand right now [in the workforce].”
She goes on to explain that there are twice as many jobs available due to the Great Resignation, the surge of quittings spurred by the pandemic, and some of the themes highlighted in the event help to put this in the context of a self-managed business economy in the fields of media, fashion and tech that wasn’t as accessible before.
In a later Q&A panel on the growing influencer economy, Chrissie Rutherford, founder of FWD JOY, explains her hopes for this shifting economy:
“We are experiencing that with creators. and so what I hope is that we start to see this notion of equity amongst creators in terms of how brands are looking for them, hiring them and, most importantly, paying them. … This is a real job, same as a Creative Director. … That’s the level of expertise that creators are bringing.”
Pinnock ends her keynote about nepotistic hiring practices at Louis Vuitton, by saying that, “We’re disrupting what existed before. And so that takes daily, intentional action […] but it is also going to take some self-advocacy…I’m changing the conversation that people have at work. I’ve come up in a time where people worked crazy hours, and they didn’t want to take time off; they burned themselves out. This is a 40 or 50 year commitment that you’re creating, and we want to make sure that you’re making that commitment and balancing the rest of your life. This is just a part of the life that you have.”
Inspiring words for a new graduating class heading into the workforce this spring.
Students who want to be a part of future Michigan Fashion Media Summits should contact MFMS through this form.