Annie Smith '12 Johnson Opportunity Grant Winner Learns the Business Behind Fashion


Hometown: New Canaan, CT

Major: Psychology

Minor: Studio Art

Extracurricular Involvement:

  • Recruitment Chair and class representative for the Standards Committee for Kappa Kappa Gamma
  • Member of the General Activities Board
  • Member of the Advertising Club

Off Campus Experience:

  • Intern, Cullman and Kravis (interior decorating firm)
  • Volunteer, Boxerwood Gardens
  • Volunteer, New York Genealogical and Biographical Society

Why did you apply for the Johnson Grant? I originally applied for the Johnson Grant with the knowledge that my internship would be unpaid. At the last minute, Kate Spade found the financial resources to offer a paid internship. The Johnson Grant then underwrote my commuting expenses, which in the New York area are very high.

How does your work under the grant apply to your studies at W&L? My market analysis project gave me a deeper insight about the consumer mindset and a better understanding of how people think and act when making purchase decisions that reflect their sense of self. This also complements my psychology studies, especially the science of cognition, theories of personality, and other behavioral traits and characteristics.

What has been the most unexpected aspect of your grant experience so far? The impressive local and international presence of the Kate Spade brand in comparison to the modest size of the company.

Post-Graduation Plans: Business School.

Favorite W&L Memory: Homecoming Weekend freshman year.

Favorite Class: Microeconomics 101 with Professor Diette.

Favorite W&L Event: Orientation Week.

Favorite Lexington Landmark: The Southern Inn.

Annie Smith applied for a Johnson Opportunity Grant to intern in the marketing and advertising division of designer brand Kate Spade New York. While shadowing the director of marketing and strategy at the firm, Smith worked on projects related to consumer and market analysis, as well as prepared reports on the development of the firm's marketing program. Smith is involved with W&L's Advertising Club, as well as the General Activities Board.

A typical day for me begins at home in New Canaan, CT. I drive myself to the station to make the express train to Grand Central, arriving 68 minutes later, and then take the subway downtown. From 28th Street, I walk to the Kate Spade Headquarters located at 48 West 25th Street in the heart of the Flatiron District, sign in, and immediately check my e-mail. Usually I already have six or seven sample requests from magazines such as Elle, Lucky, Harper's Bazaar, Vogue, and InStyle.

Throughout the day I work with style editors to help choose the most appropriate clothing, shoes, or accessories that will complement their themed photo spreads. I collect these samples, pack them up and get them ready to be picked up by a messenger. In a typical day I will send and receive about 30 sample requests. I keep track of all these samples by recording them in the "Fashion GPS" system.

Depending on the week, I attend various meetings for marketing and PR throughout the day regarding marketing strategies, preparations for events and photo shoots, as well as updating the LookBook. (The LookBook is a preview of our best pieces from the holiday line that fashion stylists and magazine editors use as a reference for sample requests.) The meetings about the launch of our new fragrance, Twirl, inform me about the process and the creative strategies behind an advertising campaign. Working with the PR team to choose the top 50 clothing, shoe, and accessory pieces gives me a behind-the-scenes experience of all of the effort and time that goes into creating the LookBook. Participating in many conference calls with the event planner from InStyle magazine teaches me the complicated process of putting together a successful event. Working with the creative and PR team for the Elle photo shoot at executive director Deborah Lloyd's house in Brooklyn offers a hands-on experience with decorators, designers and photographers for a three-page photo shoot in a magazine.

After assisting my boss, Julie Ly, in the PR department with the planning and organizing of the Handbag Awards Ceremony and the Elle photo shoot, I was actually able to attend the ceremony and work on-site at Deborah's house in Brooklyn. In doing so, I got to experience first-hand the final product of all my hard work. The awards ceremony was held at Parsons The New School for Design, and the photo shoot will appear in the September issue of Elle magazine under the section "Elle Living: Entertaining."

Every two weeks, I attend a two hour long resume-building workshop where I learn strategic organizational skills as well as appropriate interview techniques. I also attend weekly "Speaker Series" meetings hosted by the company's departmental vice presidents. During these meetings, specifically for the interns, the VPs explain their professional careers and the obstacles they have overcome in reaching their current positions. Their advice gives me greater insight into potential career paths after I graduate from W&L.

Between sample requests and meetings I spend a significant amount of time researching the areas in Florida, Naples, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Palm Beach and Tampa, where Kate Spade has wholesale and retail markets. I use residents' "letters to the editor" as well as articles from local newspapers, magazines and blogs to garner a deeper insight into the Florida consumer mindset beyond demographic and quantitative information. My research helps the marketing team understand the nuances of the lifestyles by market. From my final 25-page retail analysis, I present my findings to the executive team and Deborah and propose a more focused brand strategy that should increase Kate Spade's business in Florida in the future. This is by far the most rewarding aspect of my internship.

Working for both the PR and Marketing Departments, I can never be sure when my day will end. If I am planning on attending industry events, my day might not end until 11:00 p.m.! However, most days I meet friends after work and compare notes on the day's experience. Then, I catch the train from Grand Central back to New Canaan, where I can relax and unwind so I am ready for the next day.