Berkeley alum shares her success in the fashion industry with prospective students

At a recent Berkeley College Fashion and Marketing Career Seminar, High School and Community Relations Associate Melissa Coudon didn’t waste any time capturing the attention of participants considering a career in the fashion industry.

Big numbers mean big opportunity

“One hundred billion items of clothing are produced each year. That translates to nearly 14 items for every human being on the planet,” she began. “So, it comes as no surprise that clothing production represents the world’s third largest manufacturing industry. Let’s also not forget that $49.2 billion is generated by cosmetic sales in the United States each year,” she continued. “With the global cosmetic industry, we’re talking about more than $380 billion dollars. So, don’t listen to anyone who says there's no money in fashion!”

With that, Ms. Coudon introduced Francesca Cohen, a 2015 graduate of the Berkeley College Fashion Merchandising and Management program, and the current Director of International Accounts at Milk Makeup, a well-known New York City-based cosmetics and skin care company.

Following a lifelong passion

photo of Francesca RomanI always knew I wanted a career in fashion, but I thought I wanted to be a designer,” Francesca explained. “Growing up, I always like loved clothes and loved to dress up. I was never into Barbies or anything like that. I always wanted to go shopping!” She said, “I took a few classes in design and sewing and found that the technical side was not for me. I wanted to learn the business of fashion. I did a lot of research and found Berkeley’s fashion program was exactly what I wanted.”

“The flexibility of attending the different Berkeley locations was key for me,” according to Francesca. “I attended the New York City campus my first year. When I worked at the Garden State Plaza, I was able to take classes at the Woodland Park campus. Through Berkeley, I was able to do two internships—which were very important. My first internship was at Aritzia in NYC, where I did retail sales, public relations and marketing. My second internship was at Rebecca Minkoff, where I worked production, which is the nuts and bolts of the fashion industry.”

A fascinating career journey

“Throughout my career journey, I’ve found that networking is key,” Francesca pointed out. “I was working as an account manager in handbags and had friends who worked in the beauty sector. One of my friends told me of an opportunity; I interviewed; got the position and thought I would give beauty a try. Beauty is definitely a faster paced field. I starting working at Becca (Estée Lauder) in operations and production with Sephora accounts. From there I slowly learned about international sales, and I found my niche. Estée Lauder gave me opportunities within Dr. Jart where I was Sales and Marketing Manager and became part of the International Team dealing with Mexico and Columbia. I launched Blush Bar in Columbia. From there I became Manager, Travel Retail Worldwide Marketing Department in Estée Lauder for all accounts in China.” 

Rebounding to even greater heights after a setback

Unfortunately for Francesca, many facilities in China shut down when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and she lost her job at Estée Lauder. But she quickly bounced back. “With my International experience, I was able to start a position as Director of International Accounts at Mario Badescu Skin Care,” she remembered. “Once again, networking played an important role as I have a friend that told me about the position as Director of International Accounts at Milk Makeup.”

Believing in the products she helps to sell

“Before pursuing the position, I tried the makeup,” Francesca explained. “I need to believe in the products before I’ll work for a company. Sustainability was also important to me and it plays a big role in the industry. Milk Makeup maintains 100% commitment on sustainability. The products are cruelty-free. We are what’s called a clean make up brand.”

When she started at Milk Makeup last year, she was in charge of the Sephora accounts in Europe, AMZ (Australia/Mexico), and Middle East. “I now have added accounts in the UK, so I’ve traveled to London and Paris for negotiations,” she recounted. “And I’ve just returned from our sales meeting in Barcelona.”

Empowered by her Berkeley College education

Ms. Coudon went on to ask Francesca the ways that her education has helped her along the way in her career. “My Berkeley experience has been instrumental throughout every stage of my career. The classes that I took were so important – Product Development, Retail Math, Retail Buying, Strategies, and so many more,” she said. “The professors were amazing and shared real-life information that helped prepare me with the tools that I would need. And, of course, my internships played a key role in learning the industry.” 

Offering advice for future fashion industry professionals

When asked about the qualities need for success in the fashion business, Francesca responded “Along with an education in fashion, communication, hard work, dedication, and resilience are what employers look for.” She was quick to point out the importance of learning and experience for those with aspirations in the fashion industry. “I would say to start out in production so that you can understand every piece of the fashion business,” she recommended. “In time you will find your specialty as there are so many opportunities.”

Francesca also spoke of “misconceptions” about the fashion and beauty industry always being glamourous. “ Behind every event that looks glamorous, like the fashion shows, there are countless people behind the scenes who are just as important as those participating directly in the events,” she noted. “You have to do the work to get the glitz and glamour. The hard work pays off!” As the mother of a young son, Francesca also remarked that, “I love the international aspects of by job, but being away from home can be challenging.

Forging a future in fashion

Francesca plans on continuing her current path and hopes to one day one day head an International Department. “Ultimately, I’d love to develop a new beauty brand,” she said. “Sometimes it’s all about the right place and the right time.”

And it seems like Francesca is developing quite a knack for that.

The views and/or opinions in this article are those of the individuals interviewed. The academic achievements and/or employment outcomes described in this article are specific to each individual and are not a guarantee of similar results for past or current students. For up-to-date and detailed information, please visit and view our catalogs at