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03-06-2005
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Reality Check for New Fashion Grads
Friday, June 03, 2005
Reality Check for New Fashion Grads
By Sharon Edelson

NEW YORK — Ashleigh Verrier, Parsons School of Design, Class of 2004, was one of the lucky few.

Verrier sold about 30 designs that constituted her senior thesis to Saks Fifth Avenue after she was named co-designer of the year at the annual Parsons student fashion show in 2004.

For fall her clothes hung near Marc Jacobs, Balenciaga and Chloe, and Saks ordered more for spring and fall 2005. She's now working on spring 2006 and lining up funding for production costs for future seasons. Verrier is also selling to Nordstrom in San Francisco and Seattle, taking small deliberate steps forward.

"All of us imagine that the goal is to be a designer," Verrier said. "I don't know if I'm part of a trend of students starting their own labels or not wanting an entry-level position. I was raised by parents of the Baby Boom generation. The rearing I received encouraged independence."

As new fashion school graduates hunt for jobs, the goal of becoming a designer is elusive. Some, out of school for a year or more, still search to find a dream job or an "angel" to back their collection.

Students at top institutions such as Parsons and the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles and, to a lesser degree, the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, often have unrealistic expectations and are dismissive of the vast moderate sector of fashion populated by the Gap, J. Crew, Liz Claiborne and Kellwood Corp., college administrators said.

Their desire to be creative stars like FIT graduates Calvin Klein and Carolina Herrera and Parsons alums Donna Karan and Marc Jacobs has some of them rejecting entry-level jobs that could improve their pattern-making, draping and fit techniques. After an education that costs as much as $130,000, as is the case at Parsons, industry professionals said graduates have little idea of what a real design job entails and some still need to master basic skills such as sewing.

Parsons alumna Anna Sui is among those who lament the loss of dedication to training and paying dues.

"What strikes me is that they have a lessened appreciation for the craft behind design," she said. "Everyone wants to be a designer but they don't always understand that they have to also be a pattern-maker, a seamstress, a tailor, etc., to really build a successful business."

Fashion educators like Timothy Gunn, chairman of the fashion design department at Parsons, said some students feel entitled to a design job.

"The pervasive attitude ... is the desire to design right away," he said. "I don't support that idea. It's a commonly held view and it's not realistic. I say, 'You guys should humble yourselves.'"

There are exceptions, of course. Young designers such as Zac Posen, Behnaz Sarafpour and Proenza Schouler's Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez have great talent and succeeded quickly.

Others, like Dave Tillet, decide to put off their dreams rather than settle.

Tillet, who won awards at FIT and was considered a rising star by his professors and peers, works in visual display at Saks Fifth Avenue in Palm Beach, Fla., and designs floral arrangements.

"This is better right now than working at J. Crew or Liz Claiborne," he said. "I relate to high-end merchandise. If I worked in fashion I'd want to design for a high-end company. My real interest is in expensive eveningwear."

Tillet in 2002 designed a mini collection that got some positive feedback from Joan Kaner, fashion director of Neiman Marcus, he said. "They wanted to see more. I ran out of money. I wanted to go out there on my own. It was going to be all or nothing. I even knew what the shopping bag for my collection was going to look like."

Francesca Sterlacci, former chair of FIT's fashion design department and now an associate professor, said 25 percent of students aspire to design under their own name and 50 percent want to work for a directional or cutting-edge company or one with designer price points.

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03-06-2005
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That last guy sound so absurd you need to start somewhere and liz claiborne is a large company and would pay the bills while he can build up his collection. It sounds like a large number of these students need a harsh reality check.

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03-06-2005
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i agree..you're not going to get anywhere in fashion if the only design you're doing is floral.

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03-06-2005
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Agreed. Great article.

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03-06-2005
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There are jobs for everybody in fashion nowadays, with so many mass commercial companies around, but I guess as in any other industry, one rarely starts at the top.

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03-06-2005
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hi heyjude...
that's a really good article...

thx for posting it..

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03-06-2005
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Excellent article. Thanks heyjude for posting this
Great name by the way

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03-06-2005
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Excellent article, thanks for sharing.

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03-06-2005
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Great article, I remember New York Magazine profiling Ashleigh Verrier and other parsons grads...i wouldn't mind starting out at the gap or jcrew

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04-06-2005
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Student Perspective
Parsons Fashion Design student chiming in here:

I'll be a senior in the Fall and it's really scary. The awakening begins then because to make it into the senior benifit show is extremely difficult. There are about 8 womens rtw spots for the entire senior class which has well over 100 students.

In regards to what the article says about students scoffing at the idea of working at moderated prices companies like Gap, Banana, etc., (speaking for myself) I'm worried if I were to start at that level I may never leave. A moderate priced limbo.

*I had this weird analogy to try and explain it all, screw it*

The thing is in plain terms, you feel like you're settling for less and when you're young with a creative vision you don't want to settle. I also think many students feel they make it if only they could get somoene to back them. I myself feel I could sell my clothes and be a success if only I had the money to produce them and a store to stock them.

I'm afraid to defer my dreams for too long because I think that's the first step to disregarding them. I don't want to give myself a chance to imagine I could be working at the Gap. I'd like to maintain the idea that the only way I could truly be happy is to make my mark on the world with my own label, which I attribute to naiveté and arrogance of youth.

I don't want to be a cog in the fashion machine of some company. Atleast not one of those companies. I mean, I'd love to work at McQueen of Balanciga in hopes of being the next Christopher Bailey or Patrick Robinson and go from a faceless designer for a designer label to the face of a luxury brand.

It's all a bit snobbish and arrogant, but I feel any designer (student) regardless of what school (PSD, FIT, Otis, etc.) feels the same way.

Wish me luck guys and if it happens for me, remember to buy my clothes

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04-06-2005
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Morningstar
I don't want to be a cog in the fashion machine of some company. Atleast not one of those companies. I mean, I'd love to work at McQueen of Balanciga in hopes of being the next Christopher Bailey or Patrick Robinson and go from a faceless designer for a designer label to the face of a luxury brand.

It's all a bit snobbish and arrogant, but I feel any designer (student) regardless of what school (PSD, FIT, Otis, etc.) feels the same way.
I agree that a lot of fashion students feel this way, it seems that so many of my fellow students think they're ready for their own label. Personally, I differ. I wouldn't necessarily want to be a "faceless cog", but my goal isn't really to be the "face of a luxury brand."

There is an incredible amount of talent out there, and very much to learn once you leave school.

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04-06-2005
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Meg
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The thing is, working at McQueen, you are still a cog, it's just a more expensive machine (Gucci Group) . I do understand your hesitation because one always has fear of not being able to go after one's dreams but working for a midrange company is a great starting block I think, and a lot of high end brands would appreciate someone working there and not thinking that they were too big to start somewhere. The thing is, you really aren't going to get anywhere with no money and few companies are going to hire someone fresh off the starting blocks. At lot of mid-range companies have been revitalized by fresh talent and I don't think starting at Gap or J.Crew is all that bad and will help you save up money to start your own label.

Luna, what are your thoughts on this as a soon to be FIT grad and also will you be working for the Liz Claiborne?

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04-06-2005
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Quote:
Parsons alumna Anna Sui is among those who lament the loss of dedication to training and paying dues.

"What strikes me is that they have a lessened appreciation for the craft behind design," she said. "Everyone wants to be a designer but they don't always understand that they have to also be a pattern-maker, a seamstress, a tailor, etc., to really build a successful business."
so true
thanks for the article and welcome to tFS heyjude

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04-06-2005
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i was just thinking about that part Lena, as I was sitting here sewing buttons on a blazer. It's not just about 'designing' and being a 'designer' it's about all the things that bring that idea to fruition which are just as important.

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04-06-2005
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of course, craftmanship, ability to explain clearly what one needs to assistants, pattern cutting, good knowledge of fabrics/uses, ability to cut fabric, choose accessories, making the right choices on a practical side of design

it's more than just having a brilliant idea, huge gap between an idea and seeing this idea becoming reality.


Last edited by Lena; 04-06-2005 at 09:15 AM.
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