Trendsetter: Robert Morris University Trendsetter | Robert Morris University


When Tom Julian '84 peers out the window of his 27th-floor, Third Ave. office in New York City, he must feel a million miles from home. As senior vice president and strategic director of trends for McCann Erickson North America, Julian has come a long way from his boyhood home in Clairton, Pa.

At McCann Erickson - a global advertising agency network, with offices in 130 countries - Julian works with big-name clients like MasterCard, Kohl's, Verizon, Nestle and Tiffany & Co., creating strategies for launching new products. It's a fast-paced, work-intensive position, where each day presents a new challenge. "There's no typical day when you're a trend analyst," said Julian. "The job is one part business, one part science, one part consumer and one part culture. It's about looking at the world from a macro level and realizing that there are opportunities for brands and products at many levels."

Julian spends the majority of his time addressing the needs of his many clients. The rest is spent on researching global views, retail/apparel worlds, and analyzing media/ marketplace knowledge. It's demanding work that requires a solid foundation on the principles of business and marketing, which is just what he received from RMU.

"Robert Morris taught me a lot about marketing, communications and advertising," said Julian. "In my industry, you can really see how these three disciplines all work together. Here at McCann we have a business approach called the 'Demand Idea,' which helps us look at a client's larger communications concept and figure out how to bring it to life in many different ways. It's in this process where you see how trends play a role both with the consumers and within the marketplace."

Julian is also the fashion commentator for, where he writes all copy for the site's style galleries and serves as a fashion expert. In 1995, he hosted the first-ever Oscar Satellite Fashion Report for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences - a video recap of fashion trends for the 67th Annual Academy Awards. He also serves as a columnist and contributor to American Salon Magazine and Metro newspaper in New York City, and has appeared on NBC's Today, CNN's Headline News, CBS's The Insider, the Fox News Channel and ABC's Live with Regis and Kelly.

Julian's position exemplifies the type of global perspective that RMU champions. "Today, we're all connected," he said. "The world's borders are no longer barriers; they're opportunities. I need to be able to visually reference a shopping neighborhood in Milan alongside Walnut Street in Shadyside, or a lifestyle center in Los Angeles, or the Waterfront in Homestead."

Today's marketplace may be a global one, but according to Julian, you don't have to be intimidated by it. "The world is only as small or large as you make it," he said. "And, personally, I think smaller is better. Just make sure the world is networked for where you want to go."

Julian left home for the big city lights of New York 22 years ago, but he still feels connected to his hometown. "Clairton is still home to my family," said Julian. "So I guess, in a way, it will always be home to me. Although, it's certainly a very different place than it was in the '70s."

Clairton is your typical Western Pennsylvania steel town. In years past, if you lived there, chances were you'd graduate from high school and get a job at a local steel mill or at the Clairton Coke works. Julian's father worked for the U.S. Steel as an electrician for most of his life.But by 1980, when Julian graduated from St. Elizabeth's High School in Pleasant Hills, a steady job in the mill was no longer a guarantee. "Jobs were scarce," said Julian. "The laid-off mill workers were seeking new career options, and many were also trying to earn degrees and land white-collar jobs. Entry-level jobs were hard to find."

Julian decided his best option would be to further his education and compete for financial support at some of the better colleges in Pittsburgh. Fortunately, he received a scholarship from RMU in downtown Pittsburgh, where he pursued a bachelor's degree in marketing. "I was intrigued with marketing at the time," said Julian, "which seemed to embody communications, promotions and so much more. Of course, I also wanted to acquire a higher degree, and the scholarship afforded me the chance to attend a good school like Robert Morris."

It wasn't until he took a part-time job at Proving Ground - a men's specialty chain in the Century III Mall - that Julian first became interested in style.

As a senior, Julian secured an internship with Preview magazine, a local lifestyle magazine that covered women, business and fashion in Pittsburgh. Located in Oakland, it was an unpaid internship that offered no credits, and it actually cost Julian $20 a day in transportation and parking. But Julian didn't mind; he knew that he was investing in his career. "At the time, I was getting some experience working for the Minuteman newspaper at Robert Morris," said Julian, "but I knew it wouldn't be enough to get me a position at one of the large Pittsburgh marketing firms. The internship at Preview gave me the extra experience I needed." During the internship, he did anything they asked him to do, from researching articles to answering phones to proofreading galleys.

In the summer of 1984, Julian took his first official job at Gucci in One Oxford Centre as assistant store manager, and in 1985, he was offered a position at the K. Barchetti Shops, once located in downtown Pittsburgh. At the time, owner Katherine Barchetti was the premier retailer in the city and the key anchor for One Oxford Centre. "She was definitely the big game in town during the '80s," said Julian, who remembers Barchetti as extremely business oriented. For her, "no" simply was not an option. "Her business always came first," he said. "I always had to wrap up the day with her, no matter what time it was." Although working for her was a challenge at times, it was she who taught Julian the ins and outs of marketing. "I learned a lot from her," he said. "Sometimes I still operate under that same mindset."

Julian maintained his internship at Preview during this time, which helped him secure an invitation to the Men's Fashion Association Press Preview in Atlanta. Although the trip was another out-of-pocket expense, he knew it would be a valuable experience that would enable him to meet various influential industry contacts.

Once again, the investment paid off. A year after the event, a representative of the Men's Fashion Association contacted Julian for an interview at their Madison Avenue offices. He paid for the plane ticket himself, and flew to New York and back on a Sunday - his only day off.

One week later, the company phoned him offering him the position of assistant fashion director. "I didn't believe it until I received the official job offer in the mail," said Julian. The next thing he knew, Julian was off to NYC. "The plane landed, I brought my three suitcases to the office, and worked until 6 p.m. that night."

Julian stayed with the Men's Fashion Association for eight years until 1994, when he took a position with Fallon Worldwide - an international advertising agency - as a trend analyst. There, he worked with such blue-chip clients such as Nordstrom, Lee Jeans, Starbucks, United Airlines, Citibank and BMW. Eleven years later, he was hired by McCann Erickson, where he still is today.

Moving to New York City was definitely the right move for Julian, career-wise. But one sunny Tuesday morning changed his life, and his perspective, forever.

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Julian was just getting ready to leave his apartment in Battery Park, across the street from the World Trade Center, when he heard on the radio that a plane had just crashed into the North Tower. Julian couldn't believe what he was seeing outside his apartment window. "It looked like the tornado scene from The Wizard of Oz," he said. "Random objects, dust and debris were just flying around everywhere. It was chaos."

Julian waited until the second tower fell before deciding to leave his apartment. Around 11:30 a.m., he boarded a Coast Guard boat on the Hudson River and eventually worked his way to a friend's house in New Jersey.

The events of that day changed Julian's perspective forever. "The main thing I learned is that today is the day - you have to make it the best and fullest that you can." He also realized that his life was unbalanced - too much time and energy was dedicated to his work.

From that day forward, Julian has tried to reduce his pace and change his overall approach to life. "Today, besides being more economical and sensible about the travel, I try to live life with ease and enjoyment."

(Note: As of April 1, Julian has left McCann Erickson and formed the Tom Julian Group (, also based in New York City. This new business enterprise combines global vision and strategy to create branding solutions for a variety of fortune 500 clients.)

Across the Pond
Patrick Swan is another former RMU student who went on to be a major player in the world of fashion. Today, he works in London as a professional image consultant, providing expert cosmetic and style advice to celebrities, corporate groups and various other clients.

Swan recognized early on that, in order to be successful in fashion, he'd also have to understand the business side of the industry. That's what led him to RMU in the early 1970s. "If you wanted to learn about business," said Swan, "Robert Morris was the place to be. And it still is."

Eventually, Swan made his way to New York City, where he worked on photo shoots of up-and-coming models. One of his first clients was a young, then still unknown, Madonna, who was doing the photo shoot for her first album cover.

Later, Swan moved to London where, in 1997, he was hired as a hair and makeup expert on BBC's Style Challenge - a feel-good show that treated two sets of guests to an on-air makeover. Since then, he has appeared on other fashion-themed programs such as BBC's The Clothes Show, She's Gotta Have It, Choices Looking Extra Good, and Living Style's Stylefile; ITV's LKToday (a Regis & Kelly-type show) and Living's Body Beautiful. He even starred in a Head & Shoulders ad as a celebrity hairdresser.

Today, Swan does professional styling, hair and make-up for celebrity clients and high-profile projects, and he works on celebrity shoots, album covers and other fashion projects in both New York and London. For the fashion hopeless, Swan offers personal style consultations and personal shopping services.

Swan is most proud of his work with special-needs individuals, especially those who have battled or who are battling cancer. "I had a family member with breast cancer," said Swan, "so it's a subject that's very close to my heart." Currently, he runs a workshop at the London Haven, a breast cancer charity, where he helps to demystify the realities of hair loss and skin conditions.

Swan lives in London, England, with his wife, Sarah. Learn more about him at