Fashion Merchandising Students Propose Shinola Global Branding Concepts

Taught by Professor Monika Sinclair, the Merchandising II AFA 5460 course focuses on globalization within the fashion industry. Students learn about merchandising and marketing to support brand expansion into new countries and cultures. This year, students in the couurse created concepts for American lifestyle brand Shinola, which Sinclair chose for its local connection and existing expansion strategy. She recognized an opportunity to shine a light on her students’ talents and raise awareness of the B.S. in Merchandising degree at WSU.  Shinola is “a brand that is near and dear to our hearts here in Detroit,” she says. “This felt like a great fit, because in my conversations with members of the Shinola team, I knew that international expansion is part of their strategy, and this project was right on par with that. This was a great opportunity to create some awareness of the strong merchandising talent that we have here at WSU, just blocks away from Shinola. We are the only program in Detroit that offers this … I want everyone to see that the talent is here.”



Kicking off the project

The students researched different markets and, as a class, identified those with strongest potential for Shinola’s international expansion strategy. They started by looking at the Shinola customer base to determine demand. They then analyzed other trends and factors in those cities before selecting London, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Dubai, and Positano. “The students got really granular with these proposals,” says Sinclair. “The ideas included pop-up shops to test the markets, promotional strategies leading up to the launches, ideas for sustainability, and collaborations with local artists and artisans in the target cities.”

Internationalization concept for Shinola Amsterdam


Presenting to Shinola

Ultimately, the London, Amsterdam, and Copenhagen teams presented to six members of the retail development and community relations teams at Shinola. Cutting five presentations down to three was not easy. “I gave all the teams 48 hours to make changes before the final presentations to Shinola,” says Sinclair. “Only three groups were able to make the changes, so they were the ones that presented. This may seem harsh, but I had to make the final call because I wanted this to be the best representation of the students and of WSU, and everyone deserves to only show their best quality work. All of the students were still able to be there … and have that experience of a corporate presentation.”  

Impact and Exposure

The engagement proved to be a success, resulting in three successful presentations and a job offer for former student Zoe Rogula, who was hired as Wholesale Brand Coordinator for Shinola. “This project facilitated that door opening for her,” says Sinclair. Sinclair hopes to roll out a similar project next semester, and to continue these types of engagements with her students and leading fashion brands, within and outside of Detroit. She is committed to amplifying her students’ output. “It is so important to me that I get exposure for my students,” she says. “I sometimes feel that it's not fair that I am the only one who gets to see the work. It’s incredible talent and incredible work that I see every semester here at WSU. I want to give them other platforms to show off their work.”

Another example of this commitment is the annual WindowsWear contest, which has students design retail concepts for major brands, including Kate Spade and Michael Kors. Sinclair’s students have brought home numerous awards and internships over two years of entries. “With project like Shinola and the WindowsWear contests, I can see that my students are looking beyond the textbook,” says Sinclair. “They are looking at the industry and what’s happening in the trade and responding with great ideas.”


Internationalization concept for Shinola Copenhagen


Internationalization concept for Shinola London


New Developments for the Merchandising Program

Beyond exposure, Sinclair has also made critical updates to the Merchandising curriculum. She recently launched a new class called Fashion Marketing Management AFA 5460, which covers all aspects of marketing within the fashion industry and marketing terminology. “Terminology is so important,” she says. “If you know it, you can really hit the ground running in the industry.” They are also learning about the function of marketing to sustain brand growth, and how marketing strategies need to change with the industry and technology. “We are not only covering the basics, we are also discussing diffusion brands and addressing the integration of AI social media, and how that is disrupting various marketing channels within the fashion industry.

Building A Merchandising Community at WSU and in Detroit

Ultimately, Sinclair feels that the success of the program comes down to her relationship with her students and a mutual sense of commitment. “I have taught at New York University and Savannah College of Art and Design, and, by far, the WSU students are what keeps me here. They work so hard and they truly deliver. They really, really care about what they are doing, and they have the least amount of resources and the most profound output that I've seen in students throughout my 12 years of teaching. I don't want to disappoint them, and they don't want to disappoint me. There is a lot of mutual respect there.”

She adds that many of her students are committed to Detroit and have an entrepreneurial spirit when it comes to local fashion. “They are proud to be studying fashion in Detroit,” she says. “They want to make something happen here and to be part of this growth of the city. They want to be a part of putting Detroit solidly on the map as a place of creativity within the fashion industry.”



← Back to listing