Courtney Bomberger, from Lititz, Pa., is a senior fashion merchandising major at the University of Delaware. She plans to return to Asia after graduating in spring 2011 and hopes to volunteer her time there. She ultimately aims to work as a buyer or visual lead with Free People in Philadelphia, Pa.
Living in a foreign country can be both exciting and terrifying all at once. In my case, as an intern from Lancaster, Pa., working in Hong Kong for two months was altogether the most incredible experience I have ever had the chance to embrace.
Like most experiences that lead you far away from your comfort zone, there were many opportunities for growth, both as a student and as an individual. In general, my time in Hong Kong was thrilling and unforgettable, filled with endless learning opportunities and cultural experiences.
The company I was so fortunate to intern with was called Denizen. It is a new global brand from Levi Strauss & Co. that has recently launched in Asia in order to target emerging Asian markets. I arrived at a convenient time, when the hub was receiving the first round of samples from the vendor. It was my job to assist the garment technicians in checking the construction and taking measurements of the garments to ensure accuracy consistent with Denizen’s specifications. I participated in model selections, model fittings, affiliate buying meetings, vendor visits, and creative concept presentations.
I learned so many things about the overall process, as well as many technical details. I learned small, technical details such as the various types of denim finishes and how to measure garments according to global standards. I also gained understanding of processes like such as Denizen’s sample evaluation process or what happens in a fit review. It was great to learn detailed information and then go to a meeting or review and see these technicalities applied.
In the last few days of my internship at Denizen, I was privileged enough to be a part of the buying meeting that would begin the concluding activities on the market calendar. At the meeting, the product specifications would be finalized for mass production. It was an exciting and invaluable experience for me. I was able to see people in specialized roles within the company working together to productively prepare their market offerings for the upcoming season, which would mark their penetration into the Asian market.
My time spent at Denizen broadened my overall understanding of the fashion industry and the processes within, as well as strengthening my ability to conceptualize different aspects of production, sourcing, and retailing. I was able to interact and spend time with extremely talented and equally passionate designers, garment technicians, developers, merchandisers, and the in–house expert on finishing techniques. My team fostered an open learning environment in which I could participate and engage in all of the activities that turn a creative concept or idea into an execution on a retail shelf. I cannot stress how beneficial the hands–on experience was to my college education in fashion merchandising.
As for Hong Kong’s culture, it was intriguing, enticing, fast–paced, and diverse. It was a wonderful place to see firsthand the process that encompasses fashion production. Its close proximity to the surrounding Asian countries and countless cultures makes it one of the most remarkable places I have visited. It was great to be able to work with the people of Hong Kong and also to familiarize myself with the country through my experiences with them outside of work.
My co–workers invited me to go night swimming at public pools, bike riding on small nearby islands, and to eat at local restaurants, where I discovered that I was a very adventurous eater. With foreign cultures obviously come exotic foods, and before I knew it I was eating things like chicken feet and jellyfish. I was even invited into homes for eight–course traditional Chinese meals. It was the warm willingness of my co–workers to invite me into their culture that made my experience memorable.
Becoming accustomed to the work culture in Hong Kong has prepared me to work effectively alongside foreign partners in the future as well as to be adaptable, flexible and open to new experiences and opportunities. I am a concrete example of the impact that an internship in Hong Kong can provide for a fashion merchandising student looking to pursue a future career in the fashion industry. Its location makes it rich with opportunity for advancement into the ever–changing world of fashion.
I would encourage and challenge all fashion students to embrace the possibilities that await them in a place where the global market is currently most accessible. All you need is a willingness to learn, a passionate interest in your industry field, and the ability to keep an open mind.