Uptown and Downtown offer students “intense” experience in running fashion stores
At the start of the term there were only mysterious signs on the fourth floor of Casa Loma campus C building.
But now, they come alive as pop-up storefronts hosting the latest designs chosen by George Brown College fashion management students for their campus market.
Latisha Aitken is the menswear division manager for Uptown this year.
Aitken said she was interested in menswear because she had six brothers, and that growing up with their clothes around her style is now kind of tomboyish. She was excited to show me the sportswear she and her purchaser had found for the store opening.
Aiken said that they considered the student population at the Casa Loma campus and took a cue from the organic fashion of the students.
“I see students at George Brown dressing in certain ways,” she said. “We have many different ethnicities like Korean, Jamaican, Latin, so we wanted to see what fits best for our school. “
Uptown and Downtown are competing stores with different teams of students working on all aspects of managing a store. But with a lead time of only two weeks to put it all together, it’s a make it work moment.
“It’s very intense” said Ingrid Wagemans, fashion professor. “The kids are really under pressure to come up with something fast.”
And they’re using real money. The program is self-funding from year to year and both teams have to make their money back in order to fund next year’s store.
Jasmyn St. Hilaire is this year’s general manager of Uptown. St. Hilaire told The Dialog in an email that with the buying, staffing, and publicity work required, Uptown helps students get a sense of running every facet of a store.
“It teaches students how to run a front from the bottom up, from promotions team to buying team to operations team to human resources,” she said.
Miranda Kamis was last year’s general manager for Downtown. She said that she gained valuable experience and made important contacts for her resume. Since graduating, Kamis works in her field in wholesale showrooms and trade shows.
Cameron Knowles ran the menswear buying team for Uptown last year and said that with their budget they had to be creative with sourcing and ended up doing a lot of thrifting and looking online for items.
“My buying team and I learned to adapt,” he said. “(We) react to what our customers liked and demanded and we enjoyed the teamwork and comradery that came along with going on buying trips, ordering the product online together, pricing and tagging product, marking it down when necessary and most importantly watching it all sell.”
For Knowles, his time with Uptown made him decide that he wanted to pursue a career in buying and one day run his own store.
Both Uptown and Downtown are only running for 10 weeks, so pick up your curated fashion finds while they last. Each store runs Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.