After months searching for a place to learn the business of fashion, entrepreneur Jordana-Lee Pearce finally found her home at RMIT.
Here Pearce shares her RMIT experience, her transition from fashion and textile merchandising to an entrepreneurship degree, and the light bulb moment that led to her start-up, FASHION CONVERSION.
Tell us about how you started out in fashion.
My career in the fashion industry started quite young, landing the head merchandiser role at a young fast fashion retailer in the city at age 19, after just a few months of working casually on the floor. As the years went on, I moved around between merchandising and management in some of Australia's biggest retailers, and my curiosity of what went on behind the scenes grew rapidly.
I still remember searching for months online for a fashion course that didn't involve designing, and then a girl from work told me she'd done the Associate Degree in Fashion and Textile Merchandising and highly recommended it. I had my heart set on it, and was pretty devastated when I didn't get in the first year I applied. I was determined though, so worked hard at the job I was in and applied again the next year with success!
What are some of the highlights from the program?
It covered so much of what I wanted to learn about, including a real life brief for a retail client, which was part of the Young Essentials Project (YEP). The YEP project went across all classes from concept to product development, costing and marketing.
Our team ended up winning for our brand and the fabric we'd designed was manufactured and sold out multiple times. It was such a thrilling experience, being able to see something from start to finish and I guess that was my first taste of entrepreneurship.
Why did the Bachelor of Business (Entrepreneurship) stand out for you?
It took me a few years to decide I wanted to go back and study, mainly working in marketing and styling and then managing a small business concept store - that really opened up my mind about what I wanted to do with my life; forever dreaming and coming up with new ideas, but never knowing how to make things happen.
I had built the skills from fashion and textiles in each area of fashion, and built up my experience through work, but I felt I still lacked a solid background to be able to make my dreams become reality; alas business school was calling my name!
About a month after starting the Bachelor of Business (Entrepreneurship), the concept of FASHION CONVERSION came to me like a light bulb. I had initially enrolled for the marketing major and as second semester came closer, I realised how much I wanted to work for myself, so I changed majors to Entrepreneurship and can undoubtedly say that it's changed my life forever.
What's your business about?
FASHION CONVERSION resells the pre-loved designer wardrobes of stylish women at a premium pop-up shopping event. Our aim is to create an environment that promotes a positive sustainable impact on the way the fashion community converts their wardrobes.
Offering a holistic service, we take out all the hard work of selling, and reconnect shoppers with purchasing in a beautiful environment that shares the stories of pieces past. Partnering with local brands in food, beverage, design and social enterprise, this is not a warehouse sale - but more like a retail dream.
How did studying at RMIT help you in developing your new business idea?
Fashion and textiles gave me such well-rounded knowledge of how the fashion industry works and really gives you the opportunity to zone in on whichever element interests you most.
With business, the core subjects such as accounting, marketing and commercial law give you the foundations for starting a business, but the building block subjects like Applied Entrepreneurship is really what's ramped up my critical thinking and being able to look at an idea subjectively and ensure there is an opportunity present before learning how to pursue the concept.
I would definitely recommend RMIT for both fashion and business - as a 27-year-old student, it was a tough decision to go back and study, but I'm so glad I did. The networking and industry connections alone are worth it.