In Pursuit of a Dream
Mike Micheli was headed down the path of international politics before a semester in Cuba gave him the courage to pursue his real dream: a career in the fashion industry. With the help of Poole College’s Global Luxury and Management (GLAM) Program, a dual master’s degree program through the Poole College of Management and the Skema Business School, Micheli received the foundation he needed to not only pursue that dream but build a successful career in it.
“A career in the fashion industry is often viewed as a pipe dream – and for a long time, that was my view, too. Even though I was interested in it, I considered it an unorthodox career and lacked the courage to pursue it,” Micheli says.
While pursuing his undergraduate degree in international studies at the College of Charleston, Micheli headed to Havana, Cuba to get a feel for what a career in the U.S. Department of State would be like. “As I reflected on my desires there – in this context where I witnessed so much poverty and lack of opportunity – I realized how fortunate I was. I recognized that I was in a position where I could chase my dream, rather than settle for a career I viewed as more conventional,” he says.
Micheli took the plunge and secured an internship at a local apparel company. But his next step down the path all started with what he calls “a tremendous stroke of luck.” He stumbled across an email promoting a GLAM information session at the College of Charleston’s School of Business – and the rest is history.
“The GLAM program exposed me to the complexity and seriousness of the global luxury fashion industry and gave me the skills I needed to excel in it – which bolstered my confidence in this career path and forced people to take me seriously,” Micheli says.
After graduating from the GLAM program, Micheli turned down opportunities to intern at large companies in major cities – opting instead to return to his hometown.
“Boston has a large apparel industry, so I decided to shoot for an opportunity at one of the smaller companies there and put what I learned in GLAM to the test – with the hope of rising up the ranks faster than I would by grinding it out and playing politics at one of the behemoths,” Micheli remembers.
While finishing his dissertation, Micheli began working as a part-time sales associate at Ministry of Supply. A year later, he was manager at its flagship location and beginning to play a role in the product development process. Drawing from his experience in factories at GLAM, his involvement in product development grew, prompting him to lead Ministry of Supply’s initiative to produce seamless knitwear garments.
“My visit to the Individualized Apparel Group’s factory in New Jersey during my New York City study trip inspired me to get more involved on the factory floor,” Micheli says. “I went back to New Jersey for training sessions on Shima Seiki’s 3-D knitting machines and had one installed in our flagship store for custom orders, revolutionizing our supply chain management – which is another thing I learned in the GLAM program.”
Looking for a more permanent, full-time role to apply his product development and strategic knowledge, Micheli transitioned into a product manager role at Alps & Meters. Within two years, he was promoted to product director – his dream job.
“I’m involved in the entire product creation process – from creative concepts to go-to-market processes – which is the perfect balance of art and strategy for me,” Micheli says. “Because the GLAM program brings a unique balance of art and business within the luxury sector, everything I learned directly translates to my role here. I use it every single day.”
Micheli notes that because he started in a management role at Alps & Meters relatively early on in his career – and because he has worked exclusively for small brands – he didn’t have the opportunity to gradually learn the ins-and-outs of the industry while working his way up the ladder. Still, he finds that the GLAM program prepared him for each aspect of the luxury industry.
“With its emphasis on management, macro-strategy, branding and the global marketplace, GLAM’s holistic approach prepared me to take on a lot of strategic responsibility very quickly,” he says. “In meetings and negotiations, I’m the person with the least industry experience – but I’ve been able to meaningfully contribute to the brand’s growth. I’ve never felt in over my head.”
A co-creative director with the CEO, Micheli develops creative themes for each season, creates a merchandising range plan to meet both brand and market needs and develops blueprints for new pieces. Once products are ready to go to market, he informs the photoshoot strategy and makes decisions about which global wholesale accounts to allocate inventory to.
“GLAM gives students the ability to steer a brand’s strategy – so it’s given me the well-rounded knowledge and confidence I needed for my current position and the path that brought me here,” Micheli says. “I think a lot of graduate degrees can be transactional in their nature these days – you pay for a degree in exchange for a job. But that’s not the case with GLAM. I paid for an education that allowed me to build my career.”