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Former Saks Buyer Finds Creativity in the Language of Math

After a long and varied career as a women’s accessories and home buyer, Charles Goldfine set his sights on educating the next generation of fashion professionals. He’s now taught in LIM’s Fashion Merchandising department for more than a decade.

After receiving an MBA from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, Professor Goldfine entered an executive training program at Ohrbach’s (a department store that closed in 1987) and became a buyer. He eventually went on to hold several positions at Saks Fifth Avenue, including women’s handbag buyer, cosmetics buyer and assistant general merchandise manager for intimate apparel, women’s footwear, childrenswear, and home. 

Applying the knowledge he gained from spending so many years in the fashion industry, Professor Goldfine teaches two required courses, Buying & Merchandise Math and Retailing. He’s also led LIM’s French Fashion Analysis Program, which takes place in Paris for two weeks each summer.

Professor Goldfine has been able to create enthusiasm for his Buying & Merchandise Math classes, even though, he says that a lot of students see the word ‘math’ and “freak out.” 

“There’s a fair amount of math anxiety so, invariably, at the beginning of each semester there will be students who come to me and say, ‘I’m so scared. I really hate math. I’ve never been good at it,’” Professor Goldfine explains. “I’ll try to calm them down and tell them what we’re studying isn’t abstract or theoretical or complex; it’s still meaningful, practical, relevant, and useful."  

He recalls one student who came to him at the beginning of the semester absolutely panic-stricken and she ultimately ended up getting the highest grade in the class.

“When you can take a student that has anxiety and move them beyond the anxiety and get them to the point where they feel comfortable with the material, it’s very rewarding,” he says.

He adds that some students don’t think that math is very creative. But he believes that math is a language that we use, and when we interpret what we learn, therein lies the creativity. 

As a buyer, “Looking at the results is mathematical,” says Professor Goldfine. “But taking those results and using them to forecast what’s next is enormously creative and very gratifying.”