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Fashion Design + Merchandising

Fashion is the vehicle people use to express who they are and who they would like to be. Today, the ever-changing world of fashion is one of the greatest economic forces in the world and the fashion industry provides careers for millions of individuals in design, manufacturing, retailing, marketing, advertising, publishing and many auxiliary services. It is both creative and scientific, with careers at every point in between.

During this exciting three-week course students will try on many roles including fashion designer, stylist, product development specialist, buyer, and fashion show director. One half of the course work focuses on the business side of fashion and the other half focuses upon design. Culmination of the program includes creation of garments and a fashion show staged and produced by participants. Participants also learn how to publicize the fashion show and to create the program.

Each day of the three-week session will start with a morning of merchandising. Students will learn about the various segments of the fashion business and about possible careers in the fashion industry. Activities will include a product development project based on visits to retail establishments; creation of an inspiration board; and organizing, producing, and promoting the fashion show to be held on the last day of the Intensive. Students will have an opportunity to learn about the business side of fashion and how merchandisers contribute to the world of fashion through, not only their creativity, but also their abilities to plan, analyze, and operate as leaders in the fashion industry. Students will have an opportunity to explore their own desires to become fashion industry leaders and executives.

In the afternoon of each day, students will learn about design and design principles. Activities will include the creation of a garment to be worn in the fashion show.


Michael-Birch Pierce is a fiber artist and fashion designer based in Richmond, VA. He received a BFA in Fashion Design from Virginia Commonwealth University and worked as a menswear and print designer. He studied at the Savannah College of Art and Design for an MFA in Fibers with a focus on embroidery and embellishment.

As a student, Michael-Birch interned for Diane von Furstenberg, invented a line of cotton paper sequins, and designed and embroidered Christmas decorations for the Obama White House. He has since exhibited work internationally in numerous galleries and museums, served as stylist for André Leon Talley’s Little Black Dress costume exhibition, and founded Anchor Studios. He is currently an assistant professor of Fashion Design at VCU and represented by Quirk Gallery.

Jennie Cook’s  career has spanned many sectors within fashion merchandising, including retail management, buying, marketing, graphic design, business ownership, and consulting projects. She has traveled nationally to shows including ENK’s Accessorie Circuit, Intermezzo Collections, and Children’s Club, High Point Furniture Market, ABC Kids Expo, and Atlanta Apparel and Gift shows. She has experience in the menswear, children’s apparel, maternity apparel, and home décor industries.

With a passion for start-up culture and e-commerce, Ms. Cook has enjoyed the opportunity to be active in areas like web design, Google Analytics/Adwords, and email marketing applications necessary for managing and marketing an online retail presence. In addition to her merchandising work, she has served as a technical editor and cover designer for multiple publications.
Ms. Cook received her BA from Virginia Commonwealth University in Fashion Merchandising in 2004. After working in the private sector, she then returned to VCU’s Fashion Design and Merchandising department in 2012.

As an adjunct professor, she primarily teaches Computers for Fashion, a class that focuses on basic design principles, concept board development, and Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator instruction. Her class culminates with a research project on a specific culture that involves the development of a concept board, icon design, and pattern creation. She enjoys sharing her experience and passion for fashion merchandising with Summer Intensive students.