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Diane von Fursentenberg Among the Hottest Names in Fashion and Retail Who Participated in the Fourth Annual Michigan Fashion Media Summit


With big names in fashion and retail, including Diane von Furstenberg and Rachel Zoe, speaking about the realities of the industries today, this year’s Michigan Fashion Media Summit (MFMS) drew thousands of participants worldwide.

Normally a one-day conference held annually at the Ross School of Business, the 2021 summit transitioned to a three-day virtual event. The summit is organized by University of Michigan students and is aimed at helping college students obtain jobs in the fashion, media, and retail industries. Besides hearing from inspiring industry leaders on important topics and trends, MFMS provides students with exclusive networking opportunities. 

For 2021, Uma Chalik, BBA ’21, one of the summit’s organizers and chief operating officer of MFMS, said they had to re-envision the event’s offerings, strategy, and logistics into a new virtual landscape. Chalik said MFMS members also had to take on new roles to host a successful summit. This led the organization to create this year’s MFMS theme of pivoting: how companies, brands, and people are adapting and responding to this unprecedented time amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the rise of social activism, and the changing economic landscape. 

“Just as our team had to pivot, the industry saw a lot of pivots — with e-commerce surging even greater than in the past and many store closures,” she explained. “Companies had to re-envision their strategies, and I believe being able to adapt in times of uncertainty is the key to success.”

To tackle the changing realities of the industry, MFMS organizers landed many of the hottest names in fashion and retail, such as the iconic entrepreneur and philanthropist von Furstenberg and Zoe, co-CEO of Rachel Zoe. Other speakers included Nathan Forbes, president and managing director at the Forbes Co.; Scott Zalaznik, senior vice president of digital at Adidas; and Marissa Thalberg, executive vice president and chief brand/marketing officer at Lowe’s.

Many of the speakers discussed how the industries are growing and evolving to adapt to societal change. Katie Lowenbaum, BA ’21, and co-president of the MFMS, shared that she particularly enjoyed the social impact panel. 

“Given all the major events that have happened this year, I truly believe it is imperative for brands and companies to be more cognizant of the impact they have,” said Lowenbaum. “Now, more than ever, consumers are looking for brands that share a positive and meaningful mission. I also hope that this panel further added to the important conversation on diversity, equity, and inclusion within the fashion industry.” 

Maximizing Michigan Ross resources

Chalik used many of her Michigan Ross learnings in helping her organize MFMS and carry out a successful event this year.

I think Ross professors do a particularly great job of teaching people management and organization skills. At Ross, we are constantly working with and learning in student teams. Those projects have molded my leadership ability and helped me to efficiently organize tasks across our seven MFMS sub-teams and 50 person student planning team.

Uma Chalik, BBA ’21

Chalik also expressed her gratitude for certain professors and classes. 

“I am particularly grateful for two professors that I have the privilege of working with this semester: Marcus Collins, who taught me the power of people in MKT 409: Social Media Marketing, and Anuradha Nagarajan, who taught me how to clearly articulate ideas through STRAT 290: Business Strategy and STRAT 390: Corporate Strategy,” she said. 

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