By Ailee Campbell

Driving on I-695 at 5:00 am on a Sunday isn’t the typical commute for anyone with a job, but this is the prime time to do a floor set at Express. As a fashion design student, my manager is sure to schedule me for these shifts, as I seem to be the best fit, despite the fact I’ve told her I am not a morning person, at all.

I started working for Express in June of 2016, in my home state of New Jersey, with no retail experience but a high interest in shopping and anything fashion related. Although I am a fashion design student, creating floor sets and updating store visuals every month has also given me a glimpse into the realm of fashion merchandising, and I like it. I use the skills and details I pick up at work to my benefit when it comes to classwork, or personal projects.

I have always had an interest in styling, and look forward to being a personal stylist post-graduation, so dressing the mannequins in the store – both men’s and women’s – is good practice for me. For floor sets, the outfits are already chosen. When we don’t have the specific items in the VSD (Visual Standard Directive), it is up to me to pick an item of the same trend as a replacement. I also worked at Charlotte Russe where I could pick the outfits for the mannequins in certain trend zones with complete freedom as long as it was within the color story in the trend. As a sales associate, I also help women (because I still don’t understand why men’s sizing is so different) who have just lost weight, had a baby, got divorced, or are going for a new look find outfits that flatter their bodies and make them feel confident.

Balancing rigorous four hour studio classes as a fashion design student with a part time job and other extracurriculars may seem overwhelming at first, but the 40% associate discount makes it all worthwhile.