The Columbia University Fashion Society hosted its first major event of the year on Oct. 4, bringing in excited students to engage in a conversation with Marika Wagle, a merchandising and brand strategy consultant at MJW Consulting.
The conversation, which took place in Hamilton Hall, served not only as CUFS’s first general body meeting, but also as an opportunity for students to discuss authenticity, confidence, and transparency in the fashion industry.
CUFS was founded a little over a year ago in March 2017. Despite having been on campus for only a short time, CUFS has already hosted a variety of events, speakers, and off-campus excursions.
At its first meeting on Thursday, Eugenia Hernandez, SEAS ’20, co-founder and president of CUFS, discussed the club’s goals for the upcoming year, which include fostering conversations surrounding fashion’s future in terms of technology, sustainability, and business.
To kick off the conversation, Wagle shared how she got involved in the fashion industry. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, Wagle said she had no idea what she wanted to do—she thought she wanted to be a Vogue editor. After graduation, she moved to New York and started working for Jimmy Choo as a “very low-paid” intern. She then worked for Max Mara as an associate buyer, and then later in her career, returned to Jimmy Choo.
In 2015, Wagle transitioned to brand consulting and merchandising and now helps companies effectively aim their marketing strategies. As a consultant at MJW Consulting, Wagle works with the popular espadrille brand Soludos and is trying to help the company expand its brand beyond just the espadrille.
In an industry as active as fashion, students were curious as to how Wagle maintains authenticity in her field.
“[You have to] really try to stay true to who you are and your style,” Wagle said. “It’s really about holding your authentic space.”
Wagle also spoke of the progressive strides being taken by the fashion industry today, such as increased transparency. Brands like Everlane, for example, are becoming more upfront about their production costs, profits, and environmental impacts. Regardless of Wagle’s love for the fashion industry, though, she also acknowledged that an internal tension exists within her while she works for the industry.
“The worst part is this tension that we have. Sometimes I’ll be like, ‘Should I just become a social worker? Like, do good things?’” Wagle said. “But I think what’s come down to it for me is [while] I do really enjoy my job, I need to spend time outside of my job, doing some other things that make me feel good and make me feel like I’m helping in a different way.”
Hernandez discussed a similar tension in her introduction of the club, but with regards to Columbia and its own students. At Columbia, she said, students feel like they cannot pursue their interests in fashion because it is not a major or because it does not strike them as intellectual enough.
“[One of CUFS’s missions is to] bring back the meaning of fashion on the Columbia campus,” Hernandez said. “We’re here because [fashion] is something we love. … It’s just something that brings us together.”