Mong Bui, Marketing and operations manager at fortress of inca


What was your position in UFG?

I was Secretary during my sophomore and junior year then I was VP of Productions my senior year.

A short description of Fortress of Inca and your position?


Fortress of Inca is an Austin-based leather shoe company that imports its goods from Peru. All of Fortress of Inca’s footwear are handmade by fairly paid artisans. The company believes that the people who make the shoes are equally important as the customers who wear them, so it tries to be as transparent with its production method.

My official title at Fortress of Inca is Marketing and Operations Manager.

I generate content for its Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and online blog. I manage the Instagram account daily—posting once or twice and reply to comments and direct messaged. Not to toot my own horn but I’ve helped improved Fortress of Inca’s Instagram aesthetic immensely and grew its follower base exponentially after I took over ;) Besides social media, I manage our online sales and customer service and facilitate collaborations with other brands and influencers.

What advice would you give for future graduates that are interested working in a career like yours?

My career path is definitely different from many of my colleagues who graduated with me from the McCombs School of Business. I would say be open-minded, be confident in your decision, and work hard. You can achieve anything with a positive attitude and a strong work ethic.

What do you like most about working with Fortress of Inca?

There are so many things I like about working with Fortress of Inca—from short hours at the office to seemingly unlimited paid vacation time—but I would have to say managing its Instagram is my favorite part. I can really let my creativity shine through.

What is one thing you learned in college that has become very helpful at this moment?

I learn in my marketing classes that in order for a company to succeed, it has to know who its target customer is and really tailor its products and services to that customer. I always have to remind myself that Fortress of Inca’s best customers are the older, socially conscious ladies with established, high-paying careers when I make my social media posts. I also have to be selective when I reach out to influencers or when they reach out to us depending on the influencers’ audiences.



What inspired you to start Southward Apparel?

After graduation from the UT Fashion Design program I decided to move out to LA and work for a clothing manufacture in downtown LA!  Being new to a big city like LA, it was fun to observe all the fashion and style of the city!  At the time I was really into graphic tee's and I noticed them a lot around LA but I never saw any that I could really relate to!  I loved all the body styles that I saw, but I wanted something that was more original to me!  With all the skills I had gained from working for a manufacturer, I decided I could do something on my own and create something that was original and unique, which turned into Southward Apparel!


How did you manage to quit your full time job and dedicate yourself to your company?

I didn't quite my full time job for about 2 months after starting Southward Apparel because I didn't know how much of my time this venture would really take up.  I quickly realized that it was going to take a lot more time and energy than I thought and I wanted to give it my all so thats when I decided to quit my other job.  I had some savings from graduation and I was lucky that my parents supported my dream so that definitely helped with the decision, but it was extremely hard and first and very challenging.  


How did your studies at UT help you with your career as designer and business woman?

My studies at UT helped me a lot with the design and manufacturing part of my business.  Knowing so much about fabrics, sewing, pattern making, styling, etc. really founded the skills I continued to gain as an apparel designer.  


What advice do you have for current design and merchandising students?

My biggest advice for any design and merchandising majors at UT would be to not stress out about failing.  Being a little ignorant about starting a business, quitting my job and believing everything was going to work out has truly gotten to where I am today.  Now, you have to be careful and smart about your decisions, but don't let them eat you up inside...nothing is going to turn out perfect, nothing is going to go exactly how you planned, but thats the beauty of being an entrepreneur and learning along the way!


How do you think the fashion industry has evolved in Texas?

Fashion is constantly changing everywhere and I think Texas has started to gain some momentum in that field.  With big cities like Dallas, Austin, Houston and San Antonio expanding in other ways like music, food, entertainment, shopping, etc. I believe it has a direct impact on fashion as well.  I hope to see Texas continue to keep up with the trends and make its way to being a leader in fashion!


Where do you see yourself in five years?

In five years I see myself doing many different things.  Starting other companies, starting a family, and continuing to be creative in life.  Southward will always be around, but I'm not too sure in what ways!  I think Southward Apparel has many different outlets and lots of potential in the future.  I love making clothes and creating unique designs that people love and I hope that I can do that forever!


In which SMCP are you located and what do you do?

The offices for SMCP (Sandro, Maje, Claudie Pierlot) are located in New York City. I am one of the two Retail Coordinators for the US for the brands Sandro and Maje. The Retail Coordinator serves as a liaison between the Chief Retail Officer and the store locations. Basically my job is to ensure the stores are well-equipped to run efficiently. This means my job includes sending out communication to stores on upcoming events, sales, team incentives, help recruit, order store supplies, etc. Anything the store needs, we’re there to help!

How was working at Ports 1961 different from your current job?

Because Ports 1961 was a smaller company, in regards to North American locations, I was able to wear many different hats. Wheareas now my job is a bit more defined, at my previous job I doubled as a District Manager and helped our corporate office with NY events. I was able to help with organizing promotional events at our store level, learned a lot and traveled to stores to assist with inventory, hiring new talent, etc. Being at the New York office and helping the Marketing team was always fun. Once we turned our offices into a dinner for 200 – the transformation was incredible!


What was your transition like from graduation?

Unlike most of the UFG population, I was one of the few who ventured over from the McCombs school of business. I always knew I wanted to live in New York and work in fashion but I wasn’t sure how to start. In my marketing classes, I discovered I loved branding. Which then led me to discover that my true passion was creating things. With UFG, it was the annual show, with branding it was building brand identities, creating the logo, etc. Through McCombs I saw a New York branding agency, Landor, was hiring interns. I saw a friend’s friend in the pamphlet so decided to reach out to her and ask her about the internship. I applied, was hired, and moved to New York all within a two-month period. I then was looking for a full-time job, as the paid internship wouldn’t last forever. A former high school friend’s roommate left Ports 1961 at the time I was looking for a job. I decided to apply, and the rest was history. It was very serendipitous, the way it all happened. It made me feel and believe that I was meant to be here.


What advice do you have for current design/merchandising students?

Network. Take advantage of every relationship you’re building now. It’s a small world – trust me! Take any connection you can and build genuine relationships. Reach out to anyone you know, because chances are they’ll know someone who’s hiring or know someone who’s done what you want to do. Take advantage of UFG! There are so many design/fashion majors that don’t take advantage of the many relationships and experience UFG can give you. I owe my entire professional career and experience to what I learned and who I met at UFG.


What is something you learned at UT that stuck with you or has been beneficial to you today?

In business school, I learned how to network, write a proper resume, cover letter, have great interviewing skills, write efficient memos and reports etc. Basically everything in B101 and the other mandatory business class – I forget the name – where we wrote a 60 page write-up. It was excruciatingly detailed, but those details matter in the real world, when you’re dealing with communicating with people in global locations via email. So important! In UFG, learning to delegate tasks was very beneficial when working with teams. And something that goes hand in hand with that is developing a team that you can trust to delegate these tasks to. I’ve used these skills pretty much every day since I graduated.


Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I’d like to eventually end up in marketing within the fashion world, like I mentioned before, I love creating! If I decide to ever move back to Austin, my dream is to become a wedding planner, maybe start my own events team. We’ll see!


What do you do for fun when you are not working?

Usually I like to explore different neighborhoods. Sometimes I pick a spot to eat and then explore the area it's in. I tend to stick to lower Manhattan - my favorite places are Soho, Nolita, West Village and Chelsea. I also like to arrange flowers, it's nice after a long week of work.


Who is your favorite designer and why?

Tough question! There are so many great designers, my favorite changes but I always love Givenchy, Dior, Giambattista Valli, Tibi, Alexander Wang. Too many to name!


If you could only wear one color for the rest of your life what would it be and why?

Black. I'm mostly always in head to-toe black. It's such an easy color to work with, and mostly everything comes in black!


Which, if any, bloggers do you keep up with? Who is your favorite?

So many! I love Margaret Zhang's fashion sense, and Vanessa Hong from The Haute Pursuit but I absolutely love Nicole Warne's photography mixed with her personal style. I love when blogger’s are art directors, because that’s what it’s about, in my opinion. It’s so much more pleasing when there’s a common thread to their work - love it!


What is your favorite quote to live by?

The quote "Leaders are ordinary people with extraordinary determination" has always resonated with me - thank my middle school band director for this. However, in terms of "living by" something, I'd say I live by the word Serendipity. I love the philosophy, the meaning of it, the movie, and even the place. I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. It's always worked this way for me - but then again, it could also be the law of attraction.


Natalie Poche, Head Designer | Madison StonE, new york city

A short job description of head designer?

As a head designer at a contemporary label, I give the direction for each collection and execute every aspect of design from choosing color palettes, sketching, and to actually send out items for production.

What are some important tasks of a head designer? 

I would say the most important task as a head designer would be executing your line in a timely manner before your show date. You have to set your own schedule of when to find inspiration and color palettes, when to sketch your designs and pass them along to the pattern makers, and when to source and order fabrics and trims. You also have to gauge the time it will take to receive the first samples from pattern makers, and once you receive them you usually will have to send them back out for a second sample after corrections are made to the first sample. 

Three essential skills a head designer should possess and why? 

I would say the first essential skill for a head designer should possess would be to always provide a fresh and new idea to your line while maintaining your brand/company's image. This is definitely a strength to have when applying for any kind of design job because companies want to see a sense of freshness, but they also want to be able to see how your freshness fits into their brand. It's important to be able to blend your personal aesthetic with the company's ideal customer and target market aesthetic. The second skill a head designer should possess would be the ability to work under pressure. As a head designer, you're responsible for completing the line, and as I mentioned before, you're in charge of setting your own schedule. A lot of times things have to wait until the last minute to be completed, and that can create a hectic work atmosphere. One must be able to keep their cool while working in a time sensitive environment. Lastly, the third skill a head designer should possess would be the ability to understand how the whole design process works. It seems silly to say that, but it's very true. If I hadn't done my internship at Rebecca Taylor, prior to my current job, I wouldn't have known all about the design process in New York. I knew the general idea of how it works, but my internship really set the foundation I needed.

How should current students majoring in apparel design prepare themselves in school to become a head designer after graduation? 

While in school, make sure your portfolio is up to par with a lot of graduates from specialty schools like FIT, Parsons, etc. It really is critical to make sure that your portfolio is presentable at all times. Also, if you have time, sketch a 10 piece collection with flats, fabrics, colors, etc. and add it to your portfolio. Companies really like to see how you would incorporate fabrics and colors into designs you've sketched. It is one thing to be able to sketch well, but it's more important to show how you would execute those designs.

Definitely learn as much as you can while you're doing your design internships because it really sets a nice foundation. If you're at a larger company, don't be afraid to take tasks in other departments other than design. A lot of times larger companies will also have a production department that works with the design department, but is a completely separate area. I would definitely advise to work with both departments if your company allows you to.

What advice would you give for future graduates who are interested in pursuing a career as a head designer? 

Don't be afraid to do things outside your comfort zone. You will grow to be a stronger designer and more opportunities will present themselves if you push yourself to do things that most people are afraid to do. 

One advice you would give to senior designers preparing for their fashion show. 

Don't ever let the word "No" discourage you. Instead, take it as an opportunity to be more creative.

This is your time to show off your art and your vision as a designer. Always take criticism with a smile, but stay true to who you are if you don't agree with it.

Also, don't forget to sleep. 



Bang Nguyen, Product Development | Yigal Azrouel

What important tasks do you have to complete daily?

Check factory schedule for both import and domestic to make sure shipments will be on time before cancel date from buyers, process purchase orders and invoices for payments, calculating trim consumption for garments (down to the labels), set up cut tickets and calculate sufficient amount of fabric to send out for cutting (make sure oversold units are accounted for if possible and what style/sizes to reduce if cannot accommodate in the same fabric group), previously we have been pricing/costing garments before market opens. 

What three essential skills one must possess to successfully work in the production and product development field?

Think on your feet, things will always go missing from the office to the factory, so know how to replace them without purchasing more of those items. Have a schedule set up to show the work in progress (production and product development go hand in hand, one cannot start until the approval of another). Be more sufficient in Excel!! I cannot stress how important that is, every department/company will use it, yes even design. It says 3 but I want to throw this one in, be truly detail-oriented and not just throw it onto the resume because people look for that and will test you on that. 

What do you enjoy/like working in the production and product development field?

The problems I encounter daily are interns doing something wrong, delayed payments from finance; which will affect shipping schedule, and factory cutting something wrong. I see this as an opportunity to challenge myself. Also it is pretty boring if nothing happens. Which is also why I like working for a non-corporation, you experience a lot more things that can strengthen your resume.

Can you describe a typical day at work?

Dealing with import styles from Italy or Hong Kong.

Deal with domestic factories and their schedule.

Calculating material consumption and fabric to be sent out for cutting.

Checking on the basic trims (hang tags, main labels, size labels, care labels, buttons, zippers, etc... Bias can be a bit tricky to deal with to avoid cutting into self fabric if the bias is using the main fabric) before sent out.

Instructing interns throughout the day, make sure they are learning and not just blindly doing something.

Process factory and vendor invoices for payments. When it is development season, provide accurate pricing info for sales to price garments and transfer the cost of every single item to the customer. (Yes, even down to the hangers and poly bags to ship it in.) 

What advice would you give for future graduates interested working in the production and product development field?

It's not a difficult field, it's creative with numbers and it shows you what makes a designer a designer rather than a tailor or seamstress. I suggest that people shouldn't shy away from it because you didn't "study" it. That's what holds you back. Also you will have a better chance of interacting with more people/important vendors/factories. When you design for someone, you're designing behind the scene at your desk most of the time and communicating through emails. 

Lastly what advice would you give to the senior designers preparing for the senior fashion show?

Don't over-develop your designs because they can go out of style pretty quickly. Know the market/labels you want to go into/work for because they will judge your portfolio based on that (For example you can't design evening wear and go into a ready-to-wear market). It's a bit late for this one but make sure each "collection" that you do from your freshman year to now have your aesthetic in it and stay in the same market niche, also do at least 10-15 sketches of each. Remove those sewing /construction skills you have from your portfolio because you will not do/show any of that as a designer. Also it doesn't matter if your runway garments are not perfectly finished, they are only sample garments and despite how you are being judged, in the real world you will have sample sewers making them for you because you are a designer, NOT A SEWER.


Amanda Schiller, design II | loft, New YORK CITY

What do you enjoy most about being a designer at LOFT? 

Compared to where I used to work, LOFT really lets their designers take on a bigger creative role. I am a part of every design process, from concept, to creating color palettes, to picking prints, and (of course) designing all of the woven tops for the brand. At some companies, the designers aren't as involved in the print and color aspect, so it really helps to be able to decide what is best for your category and what we think the client will like best. The whole creative and design team is really great and collaborative, so I enjoy coming to work still everyday and working with cool and down to earth team of people.

What are the top 3 skills you believe are essential to be successful for this position? 

People ask me this a lot and I think they are surprised when they hear what I say.  I think the most valuable skills for being a successful designer are:

1) Being intuitive and assertive. Take on more than what is expected and pick up on things to do without being asked to do them. This takes a little time working with certain people and figuring out what they want, but if you can think of things before your boss does or just remembering little things, it is a huge plus and shows that you want to be there and are paying attention.

2) Be a good listener! Things are really fast paced in this industry, and we want things done efficiently and done right the first time to avoid wasting time. I’ve learned as a manager to be sure that, whoever I am asking to do a project, is writing things down and [understands] very clearly on what is being asked. It’s really to their benefit to ask questions and listen closely to avoid doing double work.

3) Work well with other people. This seems obvious, but you have to be able to work with all different types of people in this industry everyday. People have to be able to trust you and rely on you. Being able to work well and build relationships with merchants, other designers, directors, visual, and marketing teams will help you in your role and make you not only a better designer, but a well-rounded and knowledgeable person. Building relationships is key in this industry. 

What advice would you give to textile and apparel students still in school who are interested in becoming a designer for LOFT?

Put yourself out there! Send your resumes to anyone you can think of. The industry is actually smaller than you think it is. Someone always knows someone at one company or another. Really practice and work on your flat sketches - that is super important. Also, constantly be researching new ideas, new details, beautiful images, etc. That is a huge part of the job so if you can show that you know where to find good, inspiring images, that just gives you more leverage when applying for a job. Companies want to know you are up to date on what is going on in the market and shows, what you think the newest silhouettes are, etc. Show them something they haven't seen or what you think could be the next new thing for LOFT. I wish I had done this while in Austin and in school, but I never did, I would start interviewing any designers or shop owners you run into or know in the area. Really ask questions, how they got started, if they have a portfolio, etc. A portfolio is something that shows us who you are as a designer - make it your own. There are no recipes or set criteria for a portfolio. See what other people have done and take ideas from everywhere to make yours right for you and what type of job you want. The more knowledge you have, the better! It will really show when interviewing.

What skills should one possess to be prepared for a career as a fashion designer?  

Be ready to work hard! It is not an easy industry to break into, and sometimes the hours are really long, especially when you first get started. If you can get through your first assistant and associate design job and still love it and want more, that's how you know you're in the right industry. It's very rewarding if you are passionate about designing. I would say skills that should be innate in a designer are to be assertive, opinionated (know when though), know the standard programs really well (Excel/Photoshop/ Illustrator), work efficiently, listen, communicate well, have good hand drawn flat sketches, have a good eye for color and prints, be able to bring new [ideas] to the table, be respectful, and let go of your ego.

What advice would you give to our current senior designers getting ready for the UT Fashion Show? 

Have fun with it! This is the one time (unless you start your own line) that you will have complete freedom of exactly what you want to design. Design something that you know is 100% you and that you know will be great for your portfolio. Coming out of school, you usually only have a few things in your portfolio so make sure those things are worth showing and you are proud of them!  Start on your portfolio NOW if you haven't. The end of the year comes fast, and if you get an interview for a job or internship right after graduation, you want to be ready and prepared to show your portfolio! Start sending your resume NOW for jobs. I started in December of my senior year, and even if it’s just for internships, it’s a great way to meet people, especially if you are moving out of state. A lot of companies (including LOFT) hire interns or freelancers with the hope that they do good enough so we can hire them. Start your research now on where you think you might want to go after graduation and what you want to do. Look up emails on websites or calling is better if there is a number. I think I emailed my resume to about 30 companies and got 4 responses, so don't get [brought] down, just keep pushing and something will bite.


Katherine Fagan, sports performance design | Adidas, Nürnberg

Do you enjoy working at Adidas? What do you like most about it?

I [do] like working at Adidas because I’m learning an insane amount about the industry in a really interactive way. The designers in my department treat me like I’m a full time designer, and I go through the entire design process with them from color selection for the season, overall design language direction, concept and product gut check, material selection, meetings with marketing and development, manufacturing handovers, and pro athlete testing. I do everything that a full time designer does, and I think that is a rare quality in a big fashion company.
[Most of all,] I love the Adidas company culture. It’s an environment unlike anything I’ve ever seen before - constant collaboration and creativity, all sports centered with people playing basketball, sand volleyball, rock climbing, tennis, soccer, etc. across campus.

What advice would you give for future graduates interested in working for Adidas?

I would recommend that they get high marks in their textile sciences courses and put together a few Adidas specific design sketches to include in your portfolio before applying.

What are the three essential skills you believe a future Adidas intern should have?

A solid understanding of technical sketches and illustrator - as you will be expected to complete tech packs for manufacturing right off of the bat. As an intern you should be well versed in sports performance materials and what can and cannot be used for certain garments. And you need to be self motivated - if your managers see you’re very motivated to learn, they will delegate more tasks and responsibility to you.

What advice would you give for those interested working out of the country?

If you want to work outside the country, look for companies that have established that they are a diverse and more international company culture - as they are more likely to do visa sponsorships. If they do business in the US, that is also a plus because then you bring a US consumer expertise to the table, and that can be a selling point in an interview.

Advice for the future senior designers?

I would like to tell the current seniors that in the wee hours of the night - when you’re really stressed and tired and you don’t think you will finish - I promise it will all fall into place. Don’t procrastinate, take a deep breath, and instead of watching that new episode of Grey's Anatomy, go to the sewing lab and get what you need to do out of the way so you can have some semblance of peace of mind. ALL THE BEST GUYS, I WILL BE WATCHING FROM GERMANY!

by Claire Kwak, Director of Alumni Relations