School of Human Ecology

Fashion Merchandising and Design

A fashion student shows off a designThe Fashion Merchandising and Design concentration provides students with a diverse skill set in the design and merchandising fields necessary to pursue exciting career opportunities in the apparel, design, textile, and retailing industries.

The curriculum focuses on the design, production, distribution and selection of consumer products, to guide students through the entire design thinking process - from concept to sale of a product.

Career opportunities include positions in retail management, merchandise buyer, sales representative, personal shoppers, stylist, fashion coordinator, textile researcher, fashion designer and several exciting auxiliary careers in the fields of journalism and public relations.

Questions? Contact us!
Or contact Dr. Hannah Upole, Assistant Professor of Merchandising and Design, at to learn more!

Studying Fashion Merchandising and Design

There are two ways that students at Tennessee Tech can study Merchandising and Design: choosing the Bachelor of Science in Design Studies with the concentration in Fashion Merchandising and Design or choosing the Merchandising and Design minor.

› Major in Design Studies

The primary method of studying Fashion Merchandising and Design is by selecting a major within the College of Agriculture and Human Ecology, which earns students a Bachelor of Science in Design Studies. Once enrolled in Design Studies, students can then choose their focus concentration to be in Fashion Merchandising and Design.

› Minor in Merchandising and Design

The secondary method is to select a minor in Merchandising and Design which is an approved 15-credit hour minor program of study. Once enrolled as a Merchandising and Design minor, students will work with Dr. Upole to select courses that provide them with an overview of the Merchandising and Design field. 

Students in the Fashion Merchandising and Design curriculum are provided with a unique opportunity not offered by many institutions: the chance to experience courses in both Fashion Merchandising and Fashion Design.

The four-year plan in Fashion Merchandising and Design has been carefully developed to provide students with the opportunity to develop their aesthetic, learn to implement design thinking into practical solutions, assess their role as a leader in a global field, and apply knowledge to market their designs to unique target audiences. 

FMA 2023 Senior Fashion Show: Through the 90s — Video by Noah Mears, Sophomore, Interdisciplinary Studies
A special thank you to Noah for the filming, editing, and promotion of this video. Click the link in Noah's name to connect with him for your next documentary project!

  • Program Benefits 

    In Merchandising and Design, students take courses such as Concepts of Design, where you will learn about design elements and principles, while developing your own aesthetic. Students will also take classes in Product Development, Textiles, Merchandising, and Buying - toward gaining a comprehensive knowledge of the skills necessary to move from idea to market. Within the concentration, every student will also have the chance to take a course in Clothing Construction, which has been specifically developed to provide basic knowledge of construction processes to all students, regardless of your experience level.

    As you move through the program, you will continue to take advanced courses in styling and merchandise planning, as well as have the opportunity to expand your design knowledge through courses such as Flat Pattern, Draping, and Computer-Aided Apparel Design, to help you develop your skills to pursue diverse career opportunities upon graduation. 

    Classes in Merchandising & Design are taught by professors and instructors who have years of work and knowledge building in the industry. Each instructor in Merchandising & Design is focused on providing students with an education tailored to their specific interests, creating a curriculum that emphasizes capacity-building through hands-on exploration and experiential learning opportunities. The average class size in Merchandising and Design is 20 students, so that instructors are able to tailor projects and guidance to each individual student, while also focusing on community building.


Historic Costume Collection

Plaid Blazer and Braided Hat - MacIndoe Historic Costume Collection ExhibitTwo Button Blazer and Hat - MacIndoe Historic Costume Collection ExhibitA wonderful resource available to the School of Human Ecology is a Historic Costume Collection, which houses over 1,500 pieces dating from the mid-1800s to today! The Historic Costume Collection serves as a resource to all Human Ecology students, including those in Merchandising and Design. 

As a student in Merchandising and Design, you have full access to the Historic Costume Collection. Want to borrow a gown from the 1940s to learn about construction techniques? How about hosting a fashion show with pieces from the 1920s? Or maybe you just want to see how large shoulder pads really were in the 1980s. All of those items and more can be found in our collection. We are blessed to have been provided this resource by our alumni and are thankful for the opportunities it provides our students.

Check out this virtual exhibit in preparation for the Fall 2021 on-campus Center Stage event Cultural Appropriation: Fashion or Foul? to see the MacIndoe Historic Costume Collection Exhibition in action!

Fashion Study Tours

Study Abroad Trip to Italy

The field of Merchandising & Design truly contains some of the most global industries you will ever engage with. And at Tech, we believe it is essential to your learning that you have a chance to experience the industry while completing your classes! Each year, the Merchandising and Design concentration participates in a Study Tour experience, visiting a different city that is essential to the industry.

  • Learn more about Merchandising and Design study tours!

    On these Study Tours, we have the opportunity to meet with industry experts, engage first-hand with design-based experiences, and explore the culture in a new location. And every four years the Study Tour is extra special, as we travel internationally to explore fashion in the European Market!

    Our major goal in planning these trips is to provide the students with unique, personal experiences. We always look for at least two to three designers who can meet with students in their studios so you have the opportunity to see the entire process of design. We also engage in historical experiences, such as meeting with museum curators or costume designers to learn about how the past influences the future of design. Finally, we plan at least one or two cultural experiences, such as watching a Broadway play or visiting an art gallery. These experiences provide a look at the culture of the city we are visiting, allowing students to see how culture and society can influence design.

Design Study Tour of NYC

Students learning about sustainable textile development at Kvadrat New York.
Students learning about sustainable textile development at Kvadrat New York
Learning about the history of the Brooklyn Bridge.
Learning about the history of the Brooklyn Bridge on a rainy Saturday afternoon
Touring the famous Garment District of New York City with Mike Kaback.
Touring the famous Garment District of New York City with Mike Kaback, a well-respected member of the NYC fashion industry (and lifelong local!)
Sitting on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Sitting on the steps of The Metropolitan Museum of Art before our self-guided tour of centuries of art and design history
Students on the iconic interior staircase of the Met.
Students showing off their purchases from The Met on the iconic interior staircase
Two students attending a NY Yankees game during their free day.
Two students attending a NY Yankees game during their free day (and the Yankees won!)
On our final night, the Empire State Building was lit up purple and yellow!
On our final night in NYC, the Empire State Building was lit up purple and yellow - sending off Tennessee Tech from a wonderful visit to the city!


Fashion Merchandising Association

The Fashion Merchandising Association is our own student organization open to any student at Tennessee Tech interested in fashion! The organization offers students a fantastic extracurricular opportunity by providing you with hands-on experience in the industry and the chance to form connections with experts in the field!

Fashion Merchandising Study Tour - NYC

Some experiences you have the opportunity to engage with are:

  • Organizing campus-wide fashion shows
  • Visiting local market centers and learning about the buying process
  • Meeting and developing connections with local entrepreneurs
  • Gaining valuable industry experience through internship opportunities
  • Developing your leadership potential through officer positions

Check us out on Instagram!






Featured Work

HEC 1110 — Concepts of Design ›

Students work in groups of three to four to create a mood board that highlights a current trend and product category. For this product, students selected current design trends such as postmodernism and country cottage, then worked with their team to develop a product or product category that incorporates their trend. Students showcase their ideas by creating a digital mood board, using current industry design software, which is then presented to their peers. The examples included below represent a photo spread for a fashion magazine, two runway collections, and a formalwear boutique, in the team’s chosen trend and aesthetic.

  • Davis Hartman, Emily Worrell, and Peyton Harris – Mood Board (folkloric)
  • Canaan Jones, Jack Cheatham, and Kaylan Randolph – Mood Board (postmodernism)
  • Cheyenne Douthitt, Katrina Smith, and Nathalie – Mood Board (prep school heritage)
  • Karley Brown, Macy Farley, and Reagan – Mood Board (country cottage)


HEC 1150 — Analysis of Product Development ›

Students work in groups of three to develop a full specification packet, which is used in the fashion design industry to create products at a manufacturing facility. Students are given a design problem, such as producing gender-neutral clothing or all-weather garments, and must work with their team to develop a design that is inclusive, follows market trends, and could be produced on a large scale. As part of the project, teams must create to-scale product flats (which show the dimensions of the product) and full color illustrations, showing how the product could be worn as part of an outfit. The two examples included below represent a product that is gender neutral and a jacket which can be worn in multiple weather conditions, due to the textiles selected and garment properties. 

  • Canaan Jones, Kennedy Agee, and Aly Parks – Product Flat (gender neutral clothing item)
  • Canaan Jones, Kennedy Agee, and Aly Parks – Product Illustration (gender neutral clothing item)
  • Faythe Martin, Leanna Marcy, and Hannah Sullivan – Product Illustration (all weather jacket)
  • Faythe Martin, Leanna Marcy, and Hannah Sullivan – Product Flat (all weather jacket)


HEC 3320 — Textiles II ›

Students work in partners to conduct a research study around sustainability in the textiles industry. Students work in their teams to conduct a thorough literature review, followed by gathering data on their unique research question, which is then presented in poster form at the Tennessee Tech Research & Creative Inquiry Day. During this event, students will interact with research faculty and other students from across campus to present their unique research, which also features a judging component. In fact, a team from Textiles II won the Human Ecology portion of the Research & Creative Inquiry Day in Spring 2021! The two examples included are posters from the most recent Textiles II class, which was Spring 2022, and showcase research on fast fashion, environmental harm, and recycling initiatives. 

  • Seth Overton and Kaylan Randolph – Textiles II Poster (fast fashion)
  • Courtney Swafford and Delaney Stephens – Textiles II Poster (recycling initiatives)


Fashion Design Courses ›

Students in the Fashion Merchandising & Design concentration also have the opportunity to take advanced coursework in fashion design, as applicable to their interests. For students interest in fashion design, Tech offers coursework in clothing construction, tailoring, flat pattern, draping, and computer-aided design, in addition to special topics courses, which are offered on a one-time basis based on student interests. Students may also take coursework through the College of Fine Arts in the Fibers program, as part of the guided electives in Fashion Merchandising & Design. These courses offer students hands-on experience with fiber art, weaving, surface design, and other special topics areas, such as quilting. The examples included in this section highlight work from student’s clothing construction, flat pattern, and weaving courses, including projects focused around sustainability, such as an upcycled denim project.

  • Erin Simmons – Scarf #1
  • Erin Simmons – Shawl #2
  • Erin Simmons – Shawl #1
  • Kaylan Randolph – Bag #2
  • Kaylan Randolph – Bag #1
  • Kaylan Randolph – Skirt #1


More Information

To learn more about the courses offered in Merchandising and Design, as well as review a sample four-year plan, please visit the links below. 

Have a question about Merchandising and Design? Contact Dr. Hannah Upole, Assistant Professor of Merchandising and Design, at to learn more!

College of Agriculture and Human Ecology