In a new era of fashion enterprise, RMIT University has launched The Retail Initiative, showcasing the best emerging talent in fashion retail.
The Retail Initiative (T.R.I) is a year-long project that allows students from RMIT’s Associate Degree in Fashion and Textiles Merchandising to challenge the current nature of retail.
Students dissect local and global market trends to inform and develop capsule collections, working alongside mentors from iconic Australian retail brands, including Myer, Country Road, Target and Supre.
This year, more than 180 students formed into 23 groups to participate in the project.
Kit Hebenton, Recruitment Manager for Target Australia, said the partnership is a mutually beneficial one that allows for the exchange of knowledge and key insights.
“Target wanted to partner with RMIT, given their highly valued rating as one of the top fashion and merchandising courses in Australia.
“T.R.I provides us with an opportunity to help inform and shape Australia’s future influencers of the fashion industry.
“Students gain direct contact with our leadership group, including buying and design managers, who share their experiences and provide support, knowledge and guidance throughout the project.”
The project culminates in November each year with the glamorous T.R.I awards and exhibition night, where the four winning groups for Myer, Target, Country Road and Supre are announced.
The winning teams are acknowledged by industry partners and their collections have the potential to go into commercial production.
The awards and exhibition night is also structured to allow graduating students the opportunity to network with key players in the Australia fashion and textiles industry.
Christine Clark, Program Manager of the Associate Degree in Fashion and Textiles Merchandising, said that over the duration of the project students build strong relationships with the industry partners.
“The awards night provides a chance for the students to deepen that connection and explore career opportunities.”
The T.R.I program is constantly evolving, shifting from its initial inception 19 years ago as the Young Essentials Project.
“The new program is now more deeply embedded across the entire second year of study, allowing students to develop stronger networking connections and a greater level of interaction and mentoring by industry,” Clark said.
“Students work on the briefs from their conception right through to the production and marketing phase, and what they produce is fashion-forward and very exciting.”
With a greater focus on global supply chain and logistic operations T.R.I has expanded its industry partners from three to four of Australia’s retail giants, said Tony Cooper, T.R.I Project Coordinator, Fashion and Textiles Merchandising.
“Having direct access to the key players in Australian fashion who are willing to share their experience and provide insights to the students is amazing,” Cooper said.
“It’s allowed us to place a greater focus on the sales and distribution processes and explore how global markets and new technologies are influencing future trends."
It’s well known that the Australian and international retail sector is in the midst of major transformation.
Professor Robyn Healy, Head School of Fashion and Textiles, said what we are experiencing is a global shift in the way consumers engage with retail and fashion businesses.
“There is a substantial change that’s occurring in how the consumer and operators interact with each other through the application of digital technologies and traditional brick and mortar sites," Healy said.
“Where RMIT Fashion and Textiles and the T.R.I project are leading the way is by challenging students with new models of thinking and by engaging them in future possibilities, which positions our graduates as fashion-forward industry leaders in both a local and global context."
Hebenton said: “T.R.I allows students to gain a fuller understanding of the sector and Target’s customer while working on the project.
“As an employer, T.R.I is a valuable project; it’s an avenue that supports Target in our recruitment activity for graduate level entry roles and provides support to the future of the retail industry.”
Graduates of the Associate Degree in Fashion and Textiles Merchandising work in a range of fashion industry positions, including in product development, trend forecasting, merchandise planning and allocation.
Graduates are also positioned to complete one additional year of study at RMIT University to gain a Bachelor of Fashion (Merchandise Management).
Story: Scott Knight
Photography: Lucas Dawson photography