Former VF intern, now design specialist and CARS graduate to see her designs in Wal-Mart and K-Mart
Soon, Georgiana (“Georgi”) Varzarus ‘14 will be able to step into any Wal-Mart or K-Mart across the nation and see her original designs in the ladies denim department — more than 4,000 stores. Less than a year ago, she was a senior in the Consumer, Apparel, and Retail Studies (CARS) department. The year before that, she landed the internship that started it all.
A native of Romania, Georgi came to the United States when she was three years old. Madison, North Carolina, to be exact.
“It gives me chills when I think about it,” Georgi says. “My path from Romania to Madison to UNCG is what led me to this opportunity with VF Jeanswear. You just have to have faith, work hard and make it happen.”
In large part, the secret to “making it happen” was choosing the CARS program, and then, earning her internship. Because of the university’s proximity to North Carolina’s textile and apparel industry, many CARS students, like Georgi, remain instate for internships. Others seek opportunities in major metropolitan cities across the US and the globe — New York, Los Angeles, London, Hong Kong. CARS helps students find positions with leading companies like HanesBrands, Polo/Ralph Lauren, Belk, TJX, Kayser-Roth, Barney’s, Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger.
VF Jeanswear — the perfect fit.
For Georgi, VF Jeanswear in downtown Greensboro was the perfect fit. The company is a division of VF Corporation, the world’s largest apparel manufacturer, and an incredible resource for students hoping to break into the fashion industry.
Sherry Lyon is Pattern Manager for Mass Male Products at VF Jeanswear. She is also the previous director of the CARS Internship Program, so she has a uniquely holistic perspective on its relationship with VF.
“New York is exciting, but when you intern there, you are mostly fetching coffee, ironing clothing, doing very menial stuff,” Sherry says. “But the value of the VF name on their resume is priceless. Students often have stars in their eyes about design. They don’t think of the business side of it. At VF, they get that, and it’s on the world stage. Travel, design, technology, marketing and merchandising — there is so much to be had here.”
Working her way up
Georgi knows the value firsthand. She’s experiencing the kind of success that many don’t achieve until they are much further in their careers. Even so, she’s worked her way to where she is. As a young girl, she would sketch for hours. In high school, she took a sewing class. After graduation, she enrolled in classes at Rockingham County Community College. She opted for online because she was working full-time at Frontier Spinning Mills. For three years, she toiled during the 3rd shift as can hauler and a spinner; it was 12 hours of loud, manual labor a day. Character-building, for such a young woman.
“I’ve always known I would have to work hard to get things. I watched both of my parents work hard in physical labor jobs.” Her father worked at Pine Hall Brick. Her mother, in embroidery.
Then, a breakthrough idea, one made possible by scholarships and financial aid. She became a CARS major with a concentration in Apparel Design at UNCG, where she earned the internship that got her where she is today. Georgi started with 20 hours in the fall of 2012. By the summer, VF had increased her internship to 40 hours. Less than a year later, she was hired, working full-time as a merchandise specialist — three months before she graduated. Today, she’s a design specialist, excited to see her work in a mass retail channel.
Jenni Broyles, a director of marketing with VF Jeanswear, managed Georgi. “From day one, it was evident she had a bright future,” she says. “She was always willing to lend a helping hand and proactive on getting involved.”
Case in point: When VF offered training on a new 3D design program, Georgi jumped at the opportunity. Now, she’s the go-to for her colleagues who have questions. “When you are passionate about something and you enjoy what you do, you go beyond what’s expected.”
An empathetic approach
Georgi tries to be empathetic to what her team needs. Empathy is a theme that guides much of her work, in fact. It has something to do with the way her family was treated as they immigrated to the United States, people were supportive, involved.
“You have to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. What that means for my work is that I have to know my consumer,” she says. “I have to feel for them to understand what they want.”
The same goes for her colleagues in Asia, with whom she collaborates every day. “Communication is huge. You can’t be vague and you have to be sensitive to different perspectives.” She also credits a course she took in intercultural awareness; she’s made many connections between what she learned in CARS and the work she’s doing at VF.
Barb Robinson, Product Development Manager, is Georgi’s current manager. She couldn’t be more pleased to have Georgi on the team. “She has a very demanding role on our Product Development team,” Barb says. “But she always shows up with a can-do attitude and a passion for her job.”
by Andrea Crossley Spencer