Fashion Meets Social Commitment: JCU Welcomes Hollister Representatives

John Cabot University welcomed two Hollister representatives, in the context of Professor Antonella Salvatore’s course “Retailing Applied to Fashion Industry” on December 3, 2019. Mariagrazia Buono, general manager, and Sara Grappasonni, assistant store manager, discussed the internal organization of a company as large as Hollister, the soft skills needed to grow professionally, and the importance of social commitment.

Hollister representatives with Professor Salvatore and her class

Hollister representatives with Professor Salvatore (first on the right) and her class

Hollister is part of the Abercrombie & Fitch (A&F) group, which was founded in New York City in 1892 by David Abercrombie. In 1904, after Lawyer Ezra Fitch bought a significant interest in the business, it was renamed Abercrombie & Fitch Co. Nowadays Abercrombie & Fitch encompasses four brands: Abercrombie & Fitch, Abercrombie Kids, Hollister, and Gilly Hicks. Each brand focuses on different targets. Hollister, for instance, is aimed at teenage customers and recreates the Californian style and atmosphere.

Sara Grappasonni started out as brand representative and, after undergoing a training period, she became assistant store manager. Sara said that the training lasts 90 days and it teaches employees the main tasks they will have to handle as managers: opening and closing routine, floor supervision, customer experience and talent management. In addition to acquiring these technical notions, an assistant store manager should have some fundamental soft skills, such as strong communication, problem solving, team building, and ability to motivate other employees. Assistant store managers are responsible for teams of 40 to 50 people, and have to make sure that clients have a positive experience. The role of the manager is also to make an accurate marketing analysis of the sold items in order to choose the visual strategy to adopt in the store.

Many people are not aware of A&F’s commitment to sustainability, social and environmental causes. For instance, for the winter women’s collection A&F is introducing clothes made of recycled material. In the past, Hollister also made collections to raise money for NGOs and specific campaigns such as gay pride and anti-bullying. Mariagrazia explained that one of the most important partnerships the company has is with “SeriousFun Children’s Network,” for which A&F is the official apparel sponsor. SeriousFun is a network of thirty community camps all around the world, founded by Paul Newman for children living with serious illnesses and their families. A&F’s partnership with this network started in 2015 and, so far, more than 300 of the company’s associates have volunteered in the SeriousFun camps. Moreover, since 2015, A&F has organized an annual party and fundraiser at its Home Office in Ohio, in order to raise money for SeriousFun.

“This testimonial made my students more aware of the complex internal organization of fashion companies, as well as the soft skills needed to develop their career in this field,” said Professor Salvatore. “I also found them very interested in A&F’s social commitment. I think this made them more aware of the positive impact that such big companies can have on young people.”

(Giorgia Tamburi)