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Charlotte Piccagli - Re-innovating a Fashion Dream


FAST Alumni Interview: Charlotte Piccagli

Re-innovating a Fashion Dream


Many kids dream of what they want to be when they grow up, but few have the opportunity and good fortune to be able to turn those dreams into reality.


I grew up in an Italian-American family in Dallas, Texas where I went to an all-girls school for twelve years. I dreamt, from as early as I can remember, that one day I would become a fashion designer. After graduating from high school, I attended the University of South Carolina, where I started working towards a degree in Fashion Merchandising; if I was going to be a fashion designer, I needed to know the business of the industry too, right? So after graduating in May 2014, while all of my friends started working and earning their first real paychecks, I took a risk. I packed my bags and headed to Florence University of the Arts to pursue my fashion dream by completing a Career Program in Fashion Design.


I took all sorts of design classes, sewing, photography, patternmaking and the history of fashion, but in throughout entire experience, there was one individual that had the greatest impact on me: Gaia Poli. I unexpectedly struggled through the sewing and patternmaking classes and quickly came to realize that I did not possess the technical skills and manual precision necessary to be the fashion designer I wanted to be. But it was Gaia who helped me envision that while I might not have exceled in all of the aspects that are required of a designer, I did have something that is rare to find: drive, determination, and a knack for the business behind the fashion industry. She saw something in me that no one else had ever seen and was able to help me understand what I was truly good at. Gaia challenged me to create innovative business ideas not only through projects in the classroom and the collection I made during my program, but even more so after I left Italy and began on my career.


The most valuable skills that I took home with me from my time in Italy were confidence, independence, and the desire to use my creative business brain to accomplish something beyond expectations. I was offered a great opportunity while I was nearing the end of the program: an interview for Neiman Marcus’ Executive Development Program. I was honored, but scared. Gaia helped me to realize what a great opportunity I had in front of me and encouraged me to try, knowing before I did that I would indeed succeed. I was accepted into the program and moved back to Dallas to work for Neiman Marcus as an Assistant Buyer. I thrived there, and I attribute much of my success to my time in Italy and everything I learned at FUA. I spent almost two years at Neiman Marcus in their Last Call division where I developed the plus size department and store test. I was even recognized by CEO Karen Katz for managing the department with the largest growth in the whole company.


While it was definitely a successful experience, I felt there was something missing: adventure, and room for growth that did not follow a structured ladder. I had been following a lifestyle company called Island Company out of West Palm Beach, Florida. I got an interview and then a job as an Account Executive with this swimwear designer turned lifestyle brand. I now oversee the entire wholesale department on my own. All of my skills that led me to where I am today were developed while living in Florence and attending FUA. The people I met there, the challenges I faced, and the things I experience all shaped the person I am today. And while it did not quite turn out like I had originally imagined, I am definitely living out my fashion dream.


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