Hustling with Nick Hissom

April 18, 2012 § Leave a comment

The glamour and beauty of fashion is the epitome of people’s perception of the industry behind it. There is never a shortage of gorgeous models to strut the catwalk, or dazzling creations that only the most talented of people (designers, primarily) can dream into reality. From flaming shoes, not unlike those put out by designer Miuccia Prada, to the ethereal designs of the late Alexander McQueen, fashion intends to surprise and astound.

Then, there’s the other side of the fashion industry. It is no less glamorous or beautiful, but it has a stronger stance in reality. What is the reality of the fashion industry? Bluntly put: hustle and bustle. During Penn Fashion Week we caught up with Nick Hissom, a 19 year-old Ivy League student who balances a modeling and music career alongside his academics. It is no surprise, then, that his style inspiration comes from his peers. “When I was growing up, I was always told what to wear,” Nick recalls. He then proudly continues, “By entering the fashion industry and going off on my own, I was able to finally dress exactly the way I wanted to all the time.” He does, indeed.

Nick sitting front row at the Penn Fashion Week fashion show. Photography by AJRPHOTO.COM

In a world dominated by designer brands and flashy labels, Nick appreciates fashion solely for its aesthetics, and places no importance in knowing whom someone is wearing but, rather, how they wear it. He says of models’ sense of style, “They had a relaxed vibe and they never dressed showy, they never showed brands even if they were wearing them. So I kind of admire that and adopted elements of their style, and put my own spin on it.”

Before he was able to observe how his fellow models dressed, Nick was just a regular, albeit privileged, teenager with a Facebook account. The social networking site proved to be a hunting ground for talent scouts looking to track down individuals with potential in modeling—individuals like him. No sooner had he been scouted than he began shooting for world-renowned photographer Kai Z Feng, who has shot the likes of Eva Mendes and Katy Perry—a miniscule portion of his extensive celebrity portfolio. Nick also started modeling for Tommy Hilfiger, with whom he has a very friendly relationship. Making rounds at fashion weeks all over the world also helped Nick gain traction, as you can always spot him sitting front row at shows, alongside pals Harry and Peter Brant.

From Interview Magazine April Issue. Photography by Gregory Harris.

A jetsetter by definition, Nick did not slow down as soon as his career started taking off, “I kept building on that success and now I’m at a really good point and starting to pursue other interests in music and other things like that.” When faced with the suggestion that he works harder than other Penn students, Nick politely waves it off, “I think that everyone at Penn is such a driven and ambitious person that everyone is busy with something, and whether it’s more direct like me leaving campus five days a week to model and travel,” he continues, “it doesn’t have to be as direct as that but it could take up the same amount of time.”  As he elaborated on how hard Penn students worked, he was most impressed with Penn Fashion Week, which he praised for providing Penn students with a creative outlet in the form of something they loved.

As a matter of fact, this year’s Penn Fashion Week took place from March 26 to March 30, allowing for a 5-day celebration of different aspects of fashion. We had an interesting conversation with Nick earlier during Penn Fashion Week about doing what you love. One of the events taking place over the week was a publishing panel featuring Eva Chen of Teen Vogue, who also spoke about doing what you truly love, despite pressure, as Nick had faced when he initially conferred what he wanted to do to his parents. She recounted telling her parents that she was going to work at Teen Vogue versus pursuing a more conventional career path, “My mom didn’t speak to me for months,” she recalled. Ultimately, she gave in to her passion, as did Nick, and is now the Beauty and Health Director/Special Projects Director for Teen Vogue. Her career choice has given her the chance to shoot with Nicki Minaj, talk to Beyoncé, and interview a puppet-like Lady Gaga in a Tokyo hotel room. Nick, an individual who chose what he loved as his career, is clearly on a path to do things that are just as fantastic.

Nick chatting with fellow students during Penn Fashion Week. Photography by Pascale Tam.

As someone who is on track to do fantastic things and be surrounded by people who both strive to be successful and that have achieved an enormous amount of success over their lives, Nick believes success in any industry comes from the same place. “If you’re confident in your abilities and what you can do, people will want to be around you so that they can also pick up on that energy,” he shares, “Just like at a party, you have friends that you want to bring and you know that they’ll mingle with everyone and have a great time and everyone’s going to like them.” Nick exerts that very same energy. When he stopped by Penn Fashion Week, a gaggle of girls always seemed to form around him—he took it all in stride.

If one were to see him interact with those girls, Nick would seem like a typical college student. However, a very brief mention of a Teen Vogue photograph shot by Angelo Pennetta of him at the Crillon Ball (think debutante ball of the global elite) in Paris is enough to make anyone think otherwise, “The photographer, Angelo Pennetta, is a friend of mine,” he shares, “I met him at Sun Valley of all places, probably the most relaxed, low-key place on earth.” Not many Penn students can draw a world-renowned photographer from their list of friends, yet it is evident that knowing high-profile individuals has only strengthened his assertion that he is no different from other Penn students. As he recounts the Angelo Pennetta anecdote, the faintest of smiles can be seen on his face, probably wondering, “Is this real life?”

Nick at the Crillon Ball in Paris. Shot by Angelo Pennetta for Teen Vogue.

The College sophomore, a history major, is now finding inspiration in music and intends on making it a part of his work. He has collaborated with the best in the industry and, as he reveals, “I’m in the pop/house market, and I’m going on tour this summer.” The tour will be a culmination of effectively balancing travel, modeling, long hours at the studio, and college life. If anybody knows how to hustle, Nick Hissom does.

Post by Daniel Ortiz


Wharton Retail’s Happy Birthday to Marc Jacobs!

April 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

We all know his work, we love his clothes, and we can’t seem to fit enough of his accessories in our bags all at once.  We just wanted to reach out and say Happy Birthday to one of our favorite designers of all time, Marc Jacobs, who turned 49 two days ago on April 9th.

The designer, a Parson’s grad, former creative director for Perry Ellis, and pioneer of all things 90’s grunge, is still going strong today.  One of the most attractive aspects of his brand, Marc by Marc Jacobs, is the range of consumers to whom it appeals.  We love how you can buy anything from a designer dress to an iPhone case.  You can invest in a full leather purse or opt for a nylon tote.  It’s the versatility of Marc Jacobs that makes him such a timeless designer.

What else sets Marc apart from the rest?  His ability to conform to any brand is amazing.  If you had to put Louis Vuitton and Marc by Marc together on one shelf, well, at one point in time this would have been rather difficult.  But since his time at LV, beginning in 1991, he has turned the brand into much more than a luxury luggage company.  The designs stick to the original French house’s quality and design, but with a fresh new twist each season.  We’re talking hot pink graffiti over the traditional LV print Keepalls and Speedy’s, models in bunny ears swinging handbags down the runway, or Kate Moss leading beautiful women handcuffed to their purses out of elevators.

There’s hardly anyone more charming or more amazing than Marc Jacobs in the fashion world today.  A champion in his own life, he has overcome adversity and still succeeds in every department from purses to perfume to philanthropy.  Rarely in the spotlight himself, his brand speaks for his personality and the world of Marc Jacobs that he strives to create through each design.  We love Marc Jacobs and only look forward to many, many more years of innovative design and collaboration.

Please—April 9th  should be a national holiday.

Post by Alex Enny


April 8, 2012 § Leave a comment

As college students, we rarely have the time to watch television. But when we reached for the remote last night, something shocked us: Sketchers BOBS. If you have not seen the ad yet, we highly encourage you to take a look ( It looks familiar right? Actually, the business model behind BOBS is a direct copy of TOMS. The question: is this okay because needy children are benefitting?

We personally think that the Sketchers BOBS concept lacks creativity and seems like a marketing ploy. The problem is, as we heard on the advertisement, Sketchers is the second largest shoe company in the United States—meaning it has a lot more market penetration than TOMS. Because of the prevalence of Sketchers across America, could shoeless children be better off with this copycat concept?

What the TOMS versus BOBS scenario calls into question is not only a blatant copyright issue, but more importantly the idea of cause marketing. Is cause marketing ethical? On one hand, the children are benefitting because companies like Sketchers and TOMS are donating. Conversely, this is openly recognized as a marketing strategy. When we dove deeper into the Sketchers program, we found that the company does not donate shoes, but rather donates to a nonprofit called Soles4Souls. When looking at the accounting of Soles4Souls, we can see questionable numbers (–user_id-121964). Although we love TOMS model of one-for-one, we are concerned about the actual donation process that takes place. TOMS’ accountability is also questionable because they are not a publicly traded company. The combination of nonprofit politics with questionable marketing practices makes us rethink cause-based marketing.

Post by Julia Wu

Aspiring Athletics—Newest Trend on the Bench?

April 5, 2012 § Leave a comment

If we could count how many times we made the resolution to spend every afternoon in the gym post-New Year’s celebrations, well, we would be here a long time.  Let’s face it—it’s not the easiest thing to stick to, and finding the inspiration to continue after so many months and so many iPhone apps is near impossible.  But we’re feeling another trend on the rise that may help motivate you a little more than usual.  And that’s because, of course, it’s fashion related.

We picked up the newest issue of V Magazine earlier this week and got to thinking.  Now, normally “sports” issues aren’t something that attracts the eyes of fashionistas and shoppers of the vast majority, but this was something different.  Besides the captivating look of boxer-clad Jennifer Lopez on the front cover, the list of celebrities included inside, from Marc Jacobs to Lady Gaga, was enough to have us sold.  Upon opening the magazine, however, we were struck with the overwhelming question: what is this sports trend?

Looking back, there were shows in the past that definitely proved this was coming.  Marc Jacobs literally had his models wearing sneakers. But why?  What pushes people towards a certain trend and such a specific one at that?  Is it because of the upcoming Olympics?  Or is March a perfect time to be obsessed with everything “Madness” related?  How much influence do current events around the world really have on our daily fashion choices?

Keep your eyes open for this trend.  We see it coming, and Cathy Horyn predicted it long ago.  Check out her Runway Report here, from 2011’s September Fashion Week, where she points out the oh-so-many sportswear innuendoes in the S/S 2012 Collections.  Then, let us know.  What do you think is the cause of this trend?  Will it be a slam-dunk?  We’re intrigued.

Post by Alex Enny

Shopping Habit: Power of Online Flash Sale Sites

March 31, 2012 § Leave a comment

Every morning iPhones ding, Blackberrys vibrate, and Andriods flash with new emails containing a list of the day’s online flash sales. An hour before the sale, another notification pops up. At noon, fingers feverishly hit F5 and the sale starts. Within ten minutes, sighs are heard through offices, classrooms, and cafeterias—everyone just scored an amazing deal. This is the online sample sale sequence that features companies like Gilt Group, RueLaLa, Hautelook, and ideeli. This is the shopping habit.

We recently picked up a fascinating read called The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg. Suddenly, everything about the online sample sale model made sense. We learned from the book that habits follow a cycle initiated by a cue, followed by a routine, and completed with a reward. We are cued by online sample sale sites every morning with their sale alert emails and cued again by their hour-before-sale reminder emails or texts. At noon, we routinely open up not only our lunch boxes but also the sample sale websites and go through the motions of browsing, adding to our virtual cart, and purchasing. Upon purchase, we are rewarded with great satisfaction at having scored a fantastic deal paired with excited anticipation for our new goods. This habit translates to phenomenal business for online flash sale companies.

Recent research (Duhigg 2012) showed that when we enter our habit loop, our brain activity decreases and we begin relying on our basal ganglia. This means that when we form a shopping habit, we are making mindless purchases rather than conscious ones. By appealing to our habit loop, online flash sale companies are poised for success because they are encouraging us to form a shopping habit. And as the saying goes, old habits die hard.

Post by Julia Wu

Penn Fashion Week Spotlight: Michael Kors

March 29, 2012 § Leave a comment

Now that Penn Fashion week is in full swing, we at the Wharton Retail Club Blog feel it’s only appropriate to do a little writing about the companies that have contributed so much to this amazing week full of speakers, shows, networking events, and giveaways—tons, and tons, of giveaways.  The first company we’d like to spotlight and give you a little insight on is Michael Kors.

Who doesn’t love Michael Kors?  Seriously—whether you’re a working woman looking for the perfect power suit and gold heels, or you’re on a mission to purchase your first brand name purse (remind you of anyone?), Michael Kors has something for you.  There’s enough glitz and glamour in his pieces to go around, but it’s never overdone.  The luxurious feel of his ads and show complete the image and make the name ever more alluring.  Not to mention, his style is timeless.  (We’re talking getting compliments on those monogrammed driving flats you bought four years ago and still manage to make work with almost outfit.)

Michael Kors launched his label in 1981 after graduating from FIT.  He began by selling at Saks and Bergdorf, but no long after became a name synonymous with American luxury and glamorous style.  Now internationally known, with flagship stores in most large cities, Michael Kors also encompasses everything from home to handbags to hosiery.  Read more about Michael Kors’ brand on NY Magazine’s fashion section (one of our favorites!).

If you’re on Penn’s campus this week, hopefully you’ll be able to stop by some of the awesome Penn Fashion Week events.  Come to Dhirubhai Ambani Auditorium (JMHH G06) at 6:30 (or earlier if you want a Michael Kors gift bag!) to hear John Idol, Chairman and CEO of Michael Kors Holdings Limited speak.  We’re looking forward to it—but in the meantime, here’s a sampling of our favorite looks from his most recent F/W 2012 show!  What do you think?


Post by Alex Enny

Traversing Tradition

March 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

Do you remember how just a few years ago, Coach monogram bags were the go-to schoolbags of high school girls around the country and Cole Haan shoes were only found on the feet of grandmothers? Recently, these leather houses have completely reinvented their image and have produced goods that we covet.

Coach, founded in 1941, produced hardy leather goods from 1941 through 1985. Shortly after, Sara Lee Corporation acquired the company. From that point onwards, Lewis Frankfort led the company and became famous for positioning Coach as a bridge brand. Through the 1990s, affordability manifested itself in the signature Coach monogram fabric. On one hand, this drove the popularity of Coach bags among teens and middle-aged crowds but marginalized trendy young professionals. A few days ago, Coach launched their new ‘Legacy’ collection, which blends pop art colors with traditional shapes—making the perfect updated vintage collection. By adapting trends to the classic Coach aesthetic, Coach looks to dominate not only the mainstream market, but also the fashion forward one.

The history of Cole Haan is slightly older than that of Coach. Founded in 1928 as a men’s footwear company in Chicago, Cole Haan struggled to shake itself of this image for decades. Two pivotal changes happened for Cole Haan throughout the brand’s lifetime. The first came through Nike’s acquisition of the company in 1988, which should have been a rebranding experience. Instead, for fifteen years, Cole Haan remained stagnant under the Nike umbrella. In 2000, Cole Haan was launched online—and the change began. First, the brand publicized the use of Nike Air technology in all of its shoes. Second, the design direction converged to current trends. The combination of the two has placed Cole Haan as a contender for the go-to brand for trendy comfort. Their current Spring 2012 collection, filled with updated classics, showcases this strength.

Companies like Coach and Cole Haan are not the only ones reinventing their brand image. It is a change prevalent through the industry. From fashion houses like Courrèges (when was the last time we heard about them!?) and Brioni to main stream retailers like Ann Taylor and Gap, success in retail no longer depends on finding a niche, but rather focuses on meshing the old with the new.

Post by Julia Wu