March 14, 2014 by Rose Ehrlich
The design & merchandising program at the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design is crafting an entrepreneurial experience by hosting a student-run pop-up shop. The shop, called The d&mShop, is open for two weeks out of the year; usually once in the spring and once before Christmas.
Open in the URBN Center Lobby between March 10 and 14,, the shop attracted students, teachers and alumni.
Junior design and merchandising major Priya Kothari was helping to set up the scarves and had time to share her thoughts on the experience.
“It puts you out into the real world,” Kothari said. “It is the first time you are working with customers and [testing] your merchandising skills.”
All of the merchandise is homemade; however, this term the shop is also selling products from local boutiques including Smak Parlor, Eye’s Gallery, Naomi and Vagabond. The requirements for submissions are particular: They need to be well made, priced competitively, crafted or designed, and must be an original creation of the artist.
Products are submitted in a similar fashion to a consignment shop. Forty percent of sales are reinvested back into the shop, and 60 percent goes to the artist. The students run campaigns, develop the atmosphere and promote collaboration.
Kothari said they use design principles including balance and harmony. This helps to make the atmosphere more appealing to the customer.
For those interested in opening their own boutique one day, this experience can be an important first step.
The array of items on sale was impressive, and the presentation was inviting. Some products on display included teacup candles, clothing, bracelets, rings and scarves. One particular bracelet had a map of University City on it, and right next to it was a ring made out of copper that was wound around a gemstone.
Kristen Ainscoe, assistant teaching professor of fashion design and merchandising, teaches the independent study class which offers this opportunity. She says there are many loyal customers, and the setup for the pop-up shop is done mostly by the students.
Products are not just available in the shop. The website for the program, dmshopatdrexel.com, has unique handmade items premade or made to order.
The collaboration of local artists, alumni, students and faculty is what makes the depth of talent in the store so unique. Very few universities offer a student-run store like this. The encouragement to “Think it, Make it, Gift it” is strongly enforced and is their motto throughout the entire process. The pop-up stores are often held around holidays, and the class encourages students to get inside the mind of their consumer to create an effective product.
The collaboration with the community also has the added benefit of helping students to network with local professionals in their industry.
Networking relationships are imperative for a design and merchandising major, because the road to retail is not easy in any sense.
“[Instead of getting my Master of Business Administration] which most people do to get connections, I invested immediately into my business. However, just by picking up the phone, I easily made connections,” Erica Kiang, 29-year-old founder and owner of the New York City boutique Babel Fair, said.
She also mentioned that there are many resources for entrepreneurs out there, and that students should take any opportunity that they are given.