Say auf wiedersehen to settling for anything less than your dream job by learning a thing or two from Parsons‘ Gretchen Harnick. The savvy 42-year-old went from promoting checking accounts to becoming a fashion marketing assistant professor and resident social media expert at one of the world’s most prestigious fashion schools. We swung by Parsons to hear how she “made it work”!
What did you study in school?
I studied psychology in undergrad, which led to my working in the areas of marketing and consumer behavior. I went on the earn my MBA in marketing, after which I moved to New York to work for a company that specialized in checking accounts.
So you went to New York, but not for fashion! How did you fall into fashion, then?
I was always interested in fashion. When I was working in New York, I knew I needed change. I needed to get into fashion. I couldn’t launch one more checking account promotion, or go back to my other job at a cell phone company. So I took the knowledge of all the wonderful young designers I met in New York, and moved back home to Cleveland to open my own boutique. My boutique aimed to help spread the word of, and support those emerging designers! After closing my business, I worked for a year at a product development company that imported home fragrance products internationally.
The variety of work experiences I had, and my entrepreneurial attitude led me to administrative roles in education. Teaching is very entrepreneurial and creative, and it helped that I understood a little bit of every part of the industry. I taught at the Art Institute in Pittsburgh, where I then launched the program for a Bachelor’s in Fashion and Retail Management. [I did everything] from recruiting faculty to finding students internships, and when that first class of students walked across the stage, I knew I did a good job. Shortly thereafter, this position at Parsons presented itself, and I said, “That’s my job, I’m going to get it!”
What do you teach at Parsons?
I’m a full-time faculty member, and teach online courses in fashion marketing, retail, and manage social media for Parson’s School of Fashion which includes our Facebook page, the Parsons560 Twitter account, and the Fashion School’s blog. We only started our official Facebook page in February, and just passed a thousand followers on Twitter. My role has evolved to include educating our faculty in social media.
Any trends you’ve noticed in fashion marketing recently?
What’s really prominent right now is styling. The styling of a celebrity, the styling of a girl on the street, or of a blogger. It’s a huge trend, and it’s interesting that it’s being used as a marketing tool because people always did it, and now retailers, reality TV, and the industry are paying attention to it.
And, how about the future of fashion at Parsons? Any new and exciting developments?
The school just launched an MFA degree in Fashion Design and Society! It’s not in my specific field, but I do know that sustainability is a big focus for the future. We’re trying to weave it into our curriculum, whether it’s talking about shipping, water, or waste production. Certain students are doing case studies on fashion industries, how the design process works, and how it can be improved for the future.
What advice would you give to someone with an interest in fashion marketing?
It’s a creative industry. If you’re going into fashion marketing, two things you need are speaking and writing skills. Anything you can do to improve those will set you apart. Also, understanding social media, and how it’s used by consumers, businesses, and fashion companies.
We saw Mondo in the lobby and now have to ask… Any in-house Project Runway secrets?
Everything Project Runway takes place on the second floor. They don’t let us on that floor at all. It’s under wraps!
In a few weeks, we’ll feature another amazing woman with an awesome job. Tell us what you think the best job ever is — and we might just find that someone who does it!