Li & Fung Interns Share Their Summer Experience

The YMA FSF was proud to have six interns at Li & Fung this summer, a significant representation of total interns placed.  Our Li & Fung interns worked in a diversity of departments including marketing, production, womenswear design and sales.  They seized the opportunity to meld creativity and business by working at the industry powerhouse who produces goods for fashion icons such as Rachel Zoe, Calvin Klein, Timberland, Hurley, and Under Armour, as well as home décor brands for major retailers including Wal*Mart, Kohl’s and Macy’s,  among many others. 

The six scholars represent some of the country’s most prestigious business, liberal arts and design schools:  Wharton / U.Penn, Brandeis, University of Virginia, Syracuse, Marist and Savannah College of Art & Design.

Hear what several of these interns have to say about their experiences:

  Marlena Filipowska, Wharton / U.Penn

My experience at Li & Fung was very different from what I expected. I decided to intern there in production because it was a part of the business I knew nothing about and what better place to learn about it than at the biggest sourcing company in the world? Since my internship was at LF USA, Li & Fung’s American wholesale subsidiary, I also ended up learning a lot about sales, design, product development (especially private label and proprietary), and brand management.  It was very interesting to gain a better understanding of a company primarily built on acquisitions of smaller apparel manufacturers and the way in which companies that fall under the LF USA interact with one another. For instance, companies such as Oxford and Regatta or Kids Headquarters and the recently acquired Fishman Tobin are still direct competitors even though they are now technically part of one company.

Overall, it was a great learning experience, especially because of the way the internship was structured. Apart from day-to-day work within each one of our divisions, interns were assigned groups of ten and given a project which we later presented to top executives at the company. My team’s project was on e-commerce, and more specifically on how LF USA can expand its online business. Learning about this growing, exciting part of the marketplace definitely influenced my career decisions moving forward. While I’ve learned that online commerce (as any retail) is hard to get right, I’ve also realized that there are still massive amounts of opportunity and innovation on the e-commerce horizon, and that I would really love to be a part of it in the future!

Latimberly Johnson, Syracuse University

Li & Fung is an invisible giant. They have their hands dipped in every aspect of fashion which creates such a great environment to learn. I’ve had the opportunity to learn so much because there are so many people to learn from. Everyone’s excited about what they do and it really shows when a collection is complete. Li & Fung has really mastered the fast paced world of fashion and not only are they on trend but a lot of times they’re ahead of the trends. Always pushing for something unique and exciting and providing directional product to people that may not be able to afford designer labels. It’s been really fun creating fashionable things to people that want to be fashionable but usually find it too expensive.

  Samantha Duke, Marist College

 I had never even heard of LF USA or Li & Fung before they contacted me, after getting my name from the YMA. I was intrigued to learn about their immense involvement in the industry behind the scenes and decided to interview.  Since becoming educated on the company, I have week after week read about their acquisitions in WWD. Coming from an internship with a small boutique PR firm last summer, I was excited to go to a big company and become immersed in a more corporate environment, seeing what I liked and what I didn’t like.

Although I was originally placed in Handbag Sales, I was moved to Handbag design, and being a Merchandising major, I was not sure what to expect. I actually found myself really enjoying working with the designers and seeing the entire development process from start to finish. Every market is a cycle of inspiration, sketching, design, prototypes, edits, showroom samples, buyer meetings, etc.  I gained so much experience communicating with overseas factories, which is not as simple as communicating with somebody in your own country. I got to sit in on meetings about costing, seeing the direct result of the rising leather and labor costs – something I’ve read about for months in WWD, but seeing how it is really affects the bottom line first hand was so interesting. I loved seeing the buyers’ reactions during their appointments to the showroom.  It was so satisfying to know I not only assisted in merchandising, but also helped in the development of each of the handbag groups.

Overall, I was able to interact with so many talented people: not only those working on the brand to which I was assigned, but also the five+ other brands that lived on my floor – all either owned or produced by LFUSA. Everyone was so nice and welcoming and wanted me to learn exactly about what they did. I worked with Sales to understand the weekly selling reports and think about why some things were selling well, while there was little reaction to other product.

Aside from my experience within my department, LFUSA put together an impressive roster of activities for the 60+ interns that helped to foster life-long relationships between us. We attended the company picnic, listened to impressive speakers from within the company, as well as Tommy Hilfiger, went out bowling after work, saw the Alexander McQueen exhibit at the MET, and were treated to dinner at Carmine’s after our group project presentations.

We were split into six groups of ten people, each to work on a very encompassing group project at the start of the internship.  I’ll be the first to admit that working with ten people, none of which you previously had any relationship with, all with different personalities and work styles, all from different parts of the country, was one of the biggest challenges I have ever faced.  My group struggled at the beginning to come up with what we felt would be a big enough idea for a company as big as LF. We went very broad and then narrowed down to an amazing project that somehow came together in the last week.

The Grand Prize of $1000 for each team member was a huge motivating factor and really kept us pushing through to the end (even coming in to work on a Sunday)! However, we really saw all our hard work pay off when we were awarded the Grand Prize after what felt like one of the longest, craziest days! I know the project personally pushed what I thought I was capable of accomplishing within a group and it was a really good learning experience in working as a team.

Kayleigh Harrington, University of Virginia

Li & Fung is an amazing intern experience.  Interning at a company with such a diverse portfolio of brands allows you to learn about all of the retail markets they are in – and there are many! From having Tommy Hilfiger answer our questions at one of our weekly speaker events to working in groups of interns from across the company to having President Rick Darling sit with our intern team at the farewell dinner, you can tell that they are truly interested in educating their interns about their company and the industry. Considering its size and the level of these executives, I was so impressed that many found the time to interact with us one on one. 

Interning during the launch of Rachel Zoe’s clothing line gave me a very thorough understanding of exactly how a brand is built. When I arrived not a piece had made its way to any retailer’s floor. In the time that I worked there I experienced resort market, order taking, shipping, merchandising on the floors, and the Fall 2011 feedback which was used in the design process for Spring 2012. 10 weeks flew by and I can’t wait to see people wearing the line!

  Ji Yun Lee, Brandeis University

The internship project was one of the most special components of the LF USA internship. Our team was able to create a full line of convertible clothing and we were able to take a 360 approach starting from design, sales plan, and comprehensive marketing strategies. Through the experience, I was not only exposed to the various parts of creating a compelling line, but also walked out with ten amazing friends, advisors, and the chance to present/receive feedback from numerous executives.

Victoria Strayhorn, Savannah College of Art & Design

LF USA is a fashion powerhouse that mostly works behind the scenes. If you took a poll of the average American who shops in the mall they would have no idea who Li & Fung are. Yet, LF USA creates/owns 30%- 40% (depending on the mall) of the brands that the average American buys. How’s that for a powerhouse? With this acquired knowledge, I was a little intimidated stepping into a world where one could easily become just another number. LF USA knows exactly how to place their interns in a comfortable and impactful environment. Their goal is to educate us on the business and learn how we can make it better. Working for such a large company gave me the chance to understand and observe how each section of the fashion life cycle works. Although I primarily worked in design, I was still able to see how the clothes we designed would go through several processes and samples before a final production was made.

I cannot stress enough how LF USA encouraged open communication and input from their employees. For me my concern is sustainability. I was fascinated on how LF USA maintains a lot of their sustainable practices from office, to manufacturing, to production etc. They even gave me the opportunity to express concerns that I had on unsustainable areas. I was impressed at the immediate action that was taken as a result of some suggestions. President Rick Darling even told me personally that, “It all revolves around the people. Learn how to make them happy and you’ve got a successful business.” So I’d say this summer was quite a success!


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