What is Your Dream Career?

I talk about my career as a merchandiser A LOT around here, and it’s easily one of my favorite things to talk about.

Since I DO talk about it so much, I spend a lot of time reflecting on my career. And it always comes back to the same realization: I FREAKIN’ HAVE MY DREAM JOB. I know I’m absolutely one of the lucky ones. I do love talking about how much I love my job in hopes that I can connect and chat with people who may be looking at Merchandising as a career. I talk about my career A LOT on It’s Casual, but today I want to talk a little more about my journey, and why I consider Merchandising a DREAM career.

how the dream started

Let’s be honest: I’m a SUPER indecisive person. I also tend to be a follower, not a leader. Specifically when it comes to BIG decisions. Luckily, my sister is six and a half years older than me. She can 1000% take credit for the reason why I’m in the fashion industry. Once she began working in the industry after college, I knew there was nothing else I wanted to do. Well I mean, I actually didn’t know what I wanted to do. I just knew it HAD to be in fashion.

Remember when I said I was a follower? Yeah, SOOOOO instead of making the *smart* decision of going to the Fashion Institute of Technology, I followed my high school boyfriend down to the DC area where I went to school at Marymount University. They had a fashion program there, so I figured it was a great idea (spoiler alert: We broke up the first week of college LOL). I stuck it out — but ended up changing my major to Communications with a minor in Fashion Merchandising.

I switched my major because I was having doubts about becoming a buyer because I was HORRIBLE with numbers and I really was intimidated by them. I figured because I loved writing and speaking so much, I could always do something in fashion PR or journalism. PS: While you don’t need to have a degree in Merchandising to get a job as a merchandiser, I definitely recommend having relevant courses under your belt (economics courses, retail math, etc.).

During my senior year of college, I realized that being a merchandiser was the ONLY thing I wanted to do. And then for WHATEVER reason, I was inspired by menswear. So I wanted to become a merchandiser for a menswear company.

my career path

ANOTHER SPOILER ALERT: I landed a job as an Assistant Merchandiser for Perry Ellis — one of the first American menswear brands. It was then and there I realized just how much I would love being a merchandiser. I had amazing bosses who took me under their wings. I love my designers. I loved my cross-functional teams. I loved watching our product come to life. I learned how the design process worked, how to use their inspirations to create a compelling assortment, I learned how teams negotiated costs and how planners bought units.

Then, I hit a wall.

I didn’t hate my job. I never did. I always loved it. But there was a point that I just felt super stagnant. I wanted to work for a company I could WEAR. A company I could relate to. Long story short: I ended up at Free People.

While I won’t go into specifics: It wasn’t the best job. It was almost the opposite of what I wanted to do (even though I was a “merchandiser”, I was really more of a wholesale buyer who mainly kept track of inventory). I didn’t love the way the wholesale company was run, and I just couldn’t handle it anymore. I will say, it was a good experience to see the buying side of things…and probably lead me to where I truly believed I belong.

In February 2020, I started my job at Lou & Grey.

And honestly…it’s been a dream. A saving grace during the pandemic.

Lou & Grey is everything I’ve ever wanted in a company. The brand itself is basically everything I love about fashion and clothing: Comfortable, effortless, easy head-to-toe dressing, fabric driven, trendy yet classic, versatile clothing. I’ve been wearing the brand for years, and to be able to now work for the company? A literal DREAM. But let me tell you why merchandising is the best.

why merchandising?

I get asked what exactly goes into being a merchandiser. And the answer is: There’s no simple answer because SO much goes into it. Merchandisers truly see EVERY aspect of the business. So much of being a merchandiser is going with your gut, and I really love that. I also am really learning a lot of the business side of things — which is a HUGE goal of mine. I want to be able to not only put together an amazing assortment, but also have the numbers to prove what we did worked. And I really, really have a hard time with numbers, so this is a good challenge for me to get to the next level of my career.

While every company operates slightly differently…one thing is pretty consistent: Merchandisers are involved in A LOT. We see everything from the ground up:

  • Concept and color from design
  • Sketches to colored illustrations
  • Review and pick fabrics with design
  • See samples
  • Help figure out fit of garments
  • Build the line and coming up with big ideas
  • Share big ideas with marketing team
  • Review in-store visuals
  • Discuss buys with planners

We literally DO. IT. ALL. I’m so lucky to be able to see so many aspects of the business and see the product I helped create come to life. Seeing it on customers is even BETTER. Oh, and I stalk online reviews like CRAZY because I want to know what YOU (the customer) love (or don’t love). I love getting to know the Lou & Grey girl: what she loves, what she doesn’t love, and how she lives her life. I also am 10000% THE Lou & Grey girl — I love being comfortable yet put together. Fabrics are a BIG deal to me. I like to mix and match getting dressed with comfort and ease. Everything about the Lou & Grey brand is what I strive for when it comes to dressing.

And the fact that I get to move this brand forward with an incredible team? It’s a dream come true.

photos by allie provost

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  1. 12.7.20
    Kacie said:

    I LOVE when you talk about your career Dana! Merchandising sounds so cool, especially since I’m on the marketing side of a retail brand (graphic designer over here!) so I just love hearing about all of the different teams that bring a brand & product to life. So happy you’re loving Lou & Grey!

    Xo Kacie | theprettylittlehustler.com

    • 12.7.20

      thank you so much, Kacie!!! I could talk about it foreverrrr. And I love that you’re in the marketing side of the brand. I’m always in awe of what my marketing team comes up with to bring assortments to life online!

  2. 12.7.20
    Alissa said:

    I never, ever, ever get tired of hearing about your career! It is SO freaking awe-inspiring and I love that I could buy something you picked out. That is just SO cool to me!

    Honestly I really do have my dream job BUT I would not be mad if it was my current career but for food marketing. I have always been obsessed with that and it’s a secret love.