Brooke Pikiell completed the Master of Science in Business of Fashion Program in January.

From hoops to haute couture: Alumna realized true career path in business of fashion master's program

Her sights set on a career in healthcare, Brooke Pikiell filled her schedule at Northwestern University with pre-med courses. But the pandemic prevented the psychology major from getting hands-on experience in the field. It wasn’t until she began an accelerated nursing program after college that she realized “this was just not for me,” Pikiell said.

Pikiell, who attended Northwestern on a full basketball scholarship, felt she was back at square one on her career quest. While researching options online, she came across the Rutgers Business School’s Master of Science in Business of Fashion (MSBF).

“I’d always been interested in fashion but figured beyond being a designer or model, the career options were few,” Pikiell said. At 5-feet-10, she grew up watching “Project Runway” and clothes shopping with her mom when she wasn’t playing basketball. (Her father is Rutgers Mens Basketball Head Coach Steve Pikiell.)

After a conversation with MSBF director Tavy Ronen, “I realized this was a perfect fit,” Pikiell said. The program provides a rigorous academic business school degree tailored to the fashion industry. Students complete 10 courses, including core classes in finance, accounting and supply chain. They also have opportunities to interact with industry professionals during the course of the program.

Pikiell was working part time at a boutique near her Basking Ridge home when she enrolled at Rutgers Business School in the fall of 2022. The Business of Fashion Program taught her business fundamentals as well as marketing, branding, and runway production. During her first semester, she got to volunteer at New York Fashion Week, helping to set up a designer’s runway show. “It was so exciting,” she said. “It confirmed I’d made the right choice.” 

In her second semester, Pikiell landed an internship with Markarian, a high-end women’s wear brand in Manhattan’s Flatiron District. At the time, Markarian had only seven employees, so Pikiell got to try her hand at many facets of the business. She managed inventory, shipped orders, dressed models and even helped with a photo shoot, she said. With her classes held evenings and Saturdays, Pikiell was able to juggle school, the internship, and her part-time boutique job.

Pikiell graduated in January and is living in Manhattan and working full time for Markarian. She is a showroom assistant and customer relations liaison, answering clients’ emails and calls, and handling returns. She helps with uploading photos of products and creating descriptions for the website, and coordinates with the production and public relations teams regarding sample requests, production, and repairs. “I get to apply all the knowledge I learned at RBS to my job,” she said.

What impressed Pikiell most about the Masters in Business of Fashion was “how well-rounded the program is, and how much we learned in such a short period of time.” She described the career management course as extremely useful: “The final was a mock interview,” she said. Among her favorite classes was the Industry Leaders Seminar Series on Saturdays when she got to talk with fashion professionals. She liked it so much she took it for three semesters.

RBS Adjunct Professor Loubna Erraji had Pikiell in four courses. “Brooke is an A student who actively participated in our class discussions and wrote great reports,” Erraji said.

Erraji said she was also impressed by Pikiell’s group project in the entrepreneurship class. Pikiell and her teammates developed “an innovative way for fashion shopping,” Erraji said. Pikiell described the proposal as “basically an Uber Eats for clothes.”

Pikiell’s long-term goal is to work in sports fashion, “combining basketball and fashion — my two favorite things.”

- Margaret McHugh

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