The Department of Fashion Design and Merchandising is extremely proud of the accomplishments of all of their alumni and the successful careers that our graduates enjoy. Our alumni work for such companies as Marc Jacobs, Ana Sui, Armani Exchange, Ralph Lauren, Eddie Bauer, Gap, Macy’s, Lucky Magazine and Nordstrom to name just a few. Featured below, are several alumni that are active with the Department of Fashion, and represent a sampling of the careers and success of our graduates.

Sue Goodwin

Sue Goodwin built her VCU degree into a lifelong career in the fashion industry. Beginning as a designer in Dallas, Texas, she acquired product development and production skills that took her to the top companies in apparel.

The real break in her career was the job she took in New York with Bern Conrad, then a leading designer of contemporary women’s fashion. The business was a partnership with a Hong Kong factory and the operations took place from Kowloon. Sue spent the better part of the next five years living and working in pre-1997 Hong Kong, traveling extensively in Asia and Italy. Private label was just beginning to take hold, and the major client was Ann Taylor. Sue managed Bern Conrad’s product development and production, working closely with the buyers and factories.

Returning to New York, Sue continued to advance her career working with companies like Liz Claiborne, Dana Buchman, Kellwood, and Jones Apparel. Travel has always been a part of her life, with trips to Asia and Italy as often as 6 times a year.

Sue devotes considerable time to helping people early in their fashion careers, using her global experience to prepare them for an industry that will be very different in the future. “The global opportunities are tremendous,” she says, “but I also see a strong groundswell toward ‘made in the USA.’ Our country may become producers again as well as consumers.” She has spoken at FIT career days and mentored a number of young staff. As an alum, Sue is especially interested in helping students at VCU, where she is active on the VCU Fashion Advisory board and serves as a juror of the annual fashion show. Sue knows from her own experience that VCU fashion students have as much opportunity in the fashion world as anyone graduating from Pratt or Parsons.

Currently the Senior Director of Knitwear Production for Ralph Lauren Men’s Purple and Black Labels, Sue divides her time between New York City and her home in Richmond, Virginia.

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Kathryn Irby

It’s more than luck that’s landed this recent graduate of the Department of Fashion and Merchandising at her coveted job at Lucky Magazine, the magazine about shopping. She says, “Place yourself where you want to be. Be a hard worker, treat everyone equally and believe in yourself.” Apparently, she’s following her own advice.

After graduation in 2005, Kathryn moved to New York with an apartment and no job. She soon landed a position with Bing Bang Jewelry in Brooklyn as an assistant. During her first week, Marc Jacobs asked Bing Bang to create a jewelry line for his ’06 runway show. It’s been full speed ever since.

Kathryn was with the jeweler for a year when a friend of a friend introduced her to an editor at Lucky. She was brought on as Assistant to the Senior Accessories Editor. It’s Kathryn’s job to find the jewelry that the magazine will feature. “It’s so rewarding to find a jewelry designer you feel is great and they’re featured in the magazine. We shoot anything from $20 to $20,000 at Lucky, so we learn the entire market.”

Kathryn changed jobs in Fall 2009 to become the Women’s Concept Designer for THE GAP. She works forecasting trends and concepts for the womenswear product development teams.

She believes internships are essential. She also says to, “try to figure out your true strength and be proactive and go for that. Perfect your resume and target it. Find those contacts! My VCU contacts were a great start.”

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Marie West

Attitudes In Dressing, Inc. d/b/a Body Wrappers

Founded by Marie H. West, Body Wrappers®, a dance and team apparel manufacturer with a showroom and office located at 1350 Broadway, celebrated its 25th Anniversary On January 17, 2006.

Marie West, the founder and president, started Body Wrappers® June 1980 in her apartment in Queens, New York with a $1000.00 inheritance and incorporated Body Wrappers, Attitudes In Dressing, Inc. Jan., 17, 1981. Marie, who studied fashion at Virginia Commonwealth University, started the business with the idea of being a fashion designer. Her first design, which put her on the map as a company, was called “Le Wrap”. It was a one piece, one-size-fits-all wrap type leisurewear garment; hence the name Body Wrappers®.

Soon after starting her business, Marie partnered up with Nicholas Karant. In 1983 she was joined by Michael Rubin, partner and CEO and together they have built Body Wrappers into one of the most successful dance apparel companies in the world with over 100 employees.

Today Body Wrappers® showroom is located on Broadway in New York City, where every dancer hopes to end up. “We are right here where all the action is,” says Marie West, “and through our model Maria Kowroski, principle dancer of the New York City Ballet, we know first hand what the career dancers like to wear. We then take those ideas and adjust them for our young hopefuls, who are between the ages of three and twenty.”

Most of Body Wrappers® products are made in the USA, in the factory in Elizabeth New Jersey. Marie’s partner Michael Rubin, is there every day managing every aspect of the operation to assure quality control and good service to their customers.

Marie remains a hands-on owner who stays involved in every aspect of her company and who listens to her customers needs. As a result, Body Wrappers® has become one of the prominent names in the dance apparel business with such famous brands as totalSTRETCH™, Princess Aurora™, Dance B Tween™, Under Wraps™ and Premiere Collection™. Known for high quality in tights and dance apparel designs, Body Wrappers® continues to grow, just like their customers.

Recently nominated as the President of The Dancewear Association of Canada, Marie also serves on the Board of United Dance Merchants of America and on the Fashion Advisor Board of VCU.

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Jemmalyn G. Santos

Jemmalyn G. Santos graduated from the Department of Fashion Design and Merchandising at Virginia Commonwealth University in May of 1995. Her fashion merchandising major had already taken her to New York City as anintern for the prestigious firm Givenchy. In January of 1996 she began her fashion career as a product assistant for the Federated private label company Jennifer Moore. There she honed her skills analyzing fashion trends and sourcing product while monitoring samples and making line presentations. About 8 months later, Jemmalyn moved to Ann Taylor Loft as an assistant Production Manager working diligently with designers, merchants, vendors and overseas offices. During her 4-year stint with The Loft she worked her way up to the Product Development Manager of Woven Casual Separates and Woven Tops. In 2000, Jemmalyn assumed the responsibilities of Associate Manager of Textile Development for Banana Republic. She created a generic textile reference library and assumed ownership for the textile development process for sleepwear and outerwear departments She also assisted in the development of all textiles for both men’s and women’s wovens. Jemmalyn was then promoted to Manager of Textile Development for Wovens. Her responsibilities included research of new textiles and trends for each season and sourcing fabrics for outerwear, swimwear, accessories, sleepwear and intimate departments. She worked closely with design and product management teams, and takes complete ownership for the development of wovens for the men’s division.

After 6 yrs at Banana Republic, Jemmalyn was then offered the opportunity at Marc by Marc Jacobs to work on fabric sourcing. There she became the Senior Sourcing Manager over Mens and Womens which grew into heading a team of 8 in the entire Product Development dept while still focusing on the fabric R&D. After almost 2 yrs at Marc Jacobs , she was offered the opportunity to be a part of a new brand, a division of JCrew called Madewell 1937. Currently Jemmalyn is the Senior Sourcing Manager – Madewell Fabrics.

Quoting Jemmalyn: ” ….I had not expected to change jobs but this was an offer I could not pass up. An opportunity to be a part of a line that I believed in that had quality and style all in one, and where I was a complete customer.

In Oct 2007, I decided to the make the move and work for the brilliant CEO Mickey Drexler who led the brand Gap to the top and now is doing the same for Jcrew & Madewell”.

“I am so fortunate for everything that has happened in my career since I graduated VCU.

If it was not for the internship that I had at Givenchy couture after graduation,I’m sure my career history would have moved a bit slower. I’m glad I took the jump to move to NY and just took the chance.”

As a loyal and dedicated alumnus of the Department of Fashion at VCU, Jemmalyn constantly supplies job leads to the Department and attends alumni activities to share her fashion and NYC experiences. We are very proud of her accomplishments and thankful for her continuous support. And best wishes and congratulations on her new marriage to the handsome and talented Tony Kretten., Senior Design Director of Gap mens division.

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Tamara Rogers Rabil

Upon graduation from the Department of Fashion Design and Merchandising at Virginia Commonwealth University Tamara Rogers Rabil entered Hechts Department store’s Executive Training Program. As an area sales manager she managed 20 associates and $2.1 million department. In 1994 she became the merchandise coordinator for Guess? Jeans in Richmond, Virginia where she managed 63 stores totaling a $3.3 million volume. She tracked monthly sales and executed shop installations in 42 stores. She was the main source of feedback for buyers and corporate management.

Unable to resist the call of the big city, Tamara moved to New York in 1996 to become the East Coast Regional Training Manager for Guess? Jeans. She organized and facilitated leadership conferences for all merchandise coordinators across the United States, and developed 22 product knowledge video broadcasts for department managers and sales associates. Business increased 13% during her tenure.

In just two years Tamara was promoted to National Specialist Program Manager for Guess? developing and marketing sales staffing programs for 18 national department stores for both the junior and men’s divisions. She was also responsible for recruiting, training and tracking the sales of over 300 specialists across the country. In 1998 she became the Training Manager of Donna Karan New York and then moved on to become the Manager of Training for Polo Ralph Lauren in New York City. She designed and implemented the Standards of Visual Excellence training program and the New Employee Orientation training program for corporate employees while at Polo. Building upon her expertise in training, Tamara returned to VCU to become an assistant professor in the Department of Fashion Design and Merchandising in 1999. She taught Advanced Store Development, Introduction to the Apparel Industry and Trend Forecasting via a distance learning agreement. She also began her graduate work in Adult Education.

Tamara returned to New York City to finish her graduate work at Columbia University receiving an M.A. in Adult and Continuing Education in 2003. She also married an avid golfer, Al Rabil, and inspired by her husband’s enthusiasm for golf, she took up the sport. Almost immediately she realized that women golfers had demands that were not being met by either the fashion or golf industry. She created TEGNA, a line of golf wear exclusively for women with a fresh perspective on style, silhouette, color, fabric and performance. The successful CEO and Designer of TEGNA has just become the mother to a beautiful baby girl, Ruby.

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Michael Fisher

Shortly after graduating from VCU in the spring of 2002, Michael secured a phone interview with Polo Ralph Lauren. It then took a summer of determination to finally be considered for the position of Merchandising Assistant in children’s buying office. After being offered the entry level position, Michael moved to NYC to start his first job in September, 2002. His first year at Polo was spent assisting the entire merchant team of the children’s outlet division. He assisted in forecasting trends but also learned a tremendous amount from seasoned buyers, planners, and distribution analysts. During the spring of 2003, Michael was selected as a new candidate for the Executive Training Program within Polo Ralph Lauren. He was selected from thousands of applicants for the only trainee position within the marketing and advertising division.

In the summer of 2004, Michael had the opportunity to move his career to Barney’s as a Senior Assistant Buyer in Men’s Contemporary Clothing. After three years as what Michael calls a “wonderful ride” at Barneys, he was offered the job of Associate Trend Director for Men’s Designer, Tailored Clothing and Accessories at Bloomindales, NYC. This position will enable him to travel the globe to search out trends in places like Italy, France, Tokyo, Sweden, Berlin, St. Tropez and South America. In March 2007, he began his responsibility of forecasting trends as well as planning executing all related marketing materials and to work with public relations on developing all special events around the USA.

Michael has landed another wonderful job but now in the forecasting arena of the fashion industry. He works in the Fashion Office of the web based forecasting organization Stylesight as the Men’s Editor,  forecasting trends and reporting on menswear on a global basis.

We are very proud of Michael and we appreciate all of his support to all of our alumni, the Department of Fashion and his role on the NYC Advisory Board.

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