Earning two degrees in one helps grad turn passion for fashion into a dream career

As one of the first graduates of the U of A’s fashion business management program, Frances Heaton gained a deeper understanding of the industry and a strong professional network.


Frances Heaton says earning her BSc in fashion business management was a perfect fit for her career interests and her job at local fashion house EMMYDEVEAUX: “I’ve been able to connect everything that I’ve learned on the business side and the fashion side, and it all works together.” (Photo: Supplied)

Frances Heaton has always loved dabbling in fashion design, even creating her own figure skating outfits as a kid.

“It’s like art, but with human bodies, which has always intrigued me.”

Fast-forward to spring of 2021, as she becomes one of the first graduates of the University of Alberta’s bachelor of science in fashion business management program, and that passion for fashion has turned into a dream career.

Offered jointly by the Faculty of Agricultural, Life & Environmental Sciences (ALES) and the university's Alberta School of Business, the undergraduate BSc program launched in 2018, combining studies in business management principles with processes involved in textile and clothing design, production, distribution and consumption. The hybrid program, the first of its kind in Western Canada, was a perfect fit for Heaton.

“It’s really helped me tap into a pathway to making a good career. I have more knowledge than if I’d taken one or the other of the programs; it feels like I’ve got two completely separate degrees that I was able to mold into one, which I think is super valuable.

“I’ve been able to connect everything that I’ve learned on the business side and the fashion side, and it all works together.”

Now employed at Edmonton-based fashion house EMMYDEVEAUX as a marketing community co-ordinator, Heaton is crafting social media posts about the company’s clothing products and creating content for the company’s customer newsletter, EMMYEDIT. She’s also helping edit THE EMMYEFFECT, a podcast by company founder Emily Salsbury-Deveaux.

Heaton said her multi-faceted position makes use of all that she learned at the U of A.

“The little knowledge bases I learned from every class, I can apply to my job in some way. And work is really just a giant group project, so my class projects prepared me to know how to work well with a team.”

She got hooked on the intricacies of the business side of fashion as soon as she took her first U of A marketing course, and realized that was the kind of career she wanted.

“I realized I loved the idea of why people buy things, why they want a specific type of clothing. Everyone has different ideas and opinions, and I love discovering our customer base.”

Heaton soaked up the many lessons offered through her degree program, including advanced understanding of marketing, buying and selling in the fashion business, product development, designing promotional campaigns and strategic planning and management.

Through class work exploring the U of A’s Anne Lambert Clothing and Textiles Collection, Heaton also gained insight into how clothing is integral to the wearer’s identity.

“It allows me, in my marketing role, to now look at how clothing links to people’s lives in a broader sense and how to make our clothing relevant to a customer.”

Her time at the U of A, particularly as a member of the Human Ecology Student Association, also resulted in finding a network of friends that she finds is carrying forward into her professional life.

“Even knowing people who work in textile departments at other clothiers is helpful,” said Heaton, adding it was a friend working at another company who alerted her to the job she now has with EMMYDEVEAUX. “It’s helpful when you build a strong community that wants to help further your career and you do the same for them.”

The experience of being a U of A student has “completely changed me,” Heaton added.

“Who I was when I started here and who I am now is different, because every class shaped my viewpoints. Not only did I go to university, but I left home and lived in Lister Residence and was around people from many different cultures. It developed my skills in every aspect. I have better communication skills, I learned about being a leader and I also know how and where to find information.”

And as businesses change constantly to adapt to COVID-19 pivots, Heaton said her U of A education “gave me a strong base to be able to pivot easily when something changes in the field and know where to go next in terms of finding information and dealing with change.”