Monday, April 24th, 2017

Premier area fashion, merchandising schools attract the best, brightest to the industry

 

By SUSAN CONDON LOVE

 

Anna Schumm, 21, has been interested in fashion and design for as long as she can remember. The Ursuline College junior, originally from Findlay, is majoring in the college’s prestigious Fashion Design and Merchandising program and couldn’t be happier with the opportunities the school is offering for a future in an often-tough industry.

“I love the small class sizes and the hands-on approach,” said Ms. Schumm. “I’ve learned CAD (Computer Assisted Design), worked with 3-D printers and learned how to integrate all those elements to create such things as jewelry and fashion.”

“I love it here,” she shared.

Ms. Schumm is one of thousands of students in Northeast Ohio taking advantage of the area’s highly ranked fashion and fashion merchandising schools. In addition to Ursuline, there is also Kent State University’s highly touted School of Fashion Design and Merchandising, and the Virginia Marti College of Art and Design, located in Lakewood.

The schools are filling the need for qualified artists and employees of an industry that touches each household in America. “The fashion industry is a global industry, where fashion designers, manufacturers, merchandisers, and retailers from all over the world collaborate to design, manufacture, and sell clothing, shoes, and accessories,” according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “The industry is characterized by short product life cycles, erratic consumer demand, an abundance of product variety, and complex supply chains.”

In its most recent report, labor statistics report that American households annually spent 3.5 percent of income on clothing, shoes and accessories. Those who create the clothes and accessories represent hundreds of thousands of jobs – both in retail and creating the items being sold.

Kent State and Ursuline both are continually working to keep their fashion and merchandising curriculum technically up-to-date, as well as expanding student opportunities for “real-world” experiences here, in New York City’s fashion district, and abroad.

Currently, there are about 2,000 enrolled in Kent State’s Fashion Design and Merchandising school. Unique offerings, according to KSU, include the school’s TechStyleLAB, its fashion library, the Kent State University Museum of fashion, and opportunities to study away at the school’s NYC Student, the Kent State Florence (Italy) program, the Paris American Academy, and its exchange program with Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

“Kent State is unique in that it made its ‘study away’ program a requirement for graduation,” shared Dr. Kim Hahn, Associate Director and Associate Professor of KSU’s fashion school. “We have a studio in New York City and a campus in Florence. Already, 80 percent of our juniors are studying away,” she said.

KSU’s fashion and merchandising students benefit from the real-world experience, Dr. Hahn shared. “They have participated both in New York City’s Fashion Week, as well as Fashion Week in Paris,” she said.

Kent State’s textile laboratory, as well as such equipment as a laser cutter, a digital embroidery machine, and pattern digitizer “greatly help the students,” said Dr. Hahn. “They are able to experiment with design on CAD (Computer Assisted Design) programs and make them come true with the 3-D printer.” The laser cutter “enables them to cut leather and all different types of fabrics,” she said.

“Technology is the biggest change I’ve seen in the last 10 years,” Dr. Hahn shared. “There’s still learning, but now they can draw with a computer, create a pattern, and print it out. It’s really a huge benefit.”

In addition to the equipment available to students, Kent State is also home to a costume/clothing museum with items dating from 1900 all the way to the 1980s and present. “Students are able to learn about and see the evolution of design. We have five or six exhibitions, including one on sustainable design.”

At Ursuline, students currently may take advantage of a new course in CAD and 3-D printing, said Dr. Connie Korosec, professor, curator and chair of the Fashion Design and Merchandising program. “Students who want to work in the fashion industry might believe it is limited to editor, designer, buyer, stylist, visual display or photographer,” she shared. “However, the fashion industry has significantly evolved over the last 10 years. 3-D printing is huge in the industry.”

Dr. Korosec added, “Ursuline implemented this new (CAD and 3-D printing) course this past fall of 2016. Students are gaining experience with this new class opportunity.” In addition, “Ursuline fashion faculty is in the talking stages on offering courses in fashion journalism and fashion communications.”

“Fashion designers need to have knowledge of textiles and fabrics, which fabrics light weight or heavy weight work best for a design. The ability to sketch ideas for future designs connecting with sewing, pattern making and drafting skills. Fashion merchandisers need to have knowledge of color and have visual ideas. Knowledge on how to do research for a project should not be underestimated.”

“At Ursuline we take our students to New York City, Chicago, Atlanta, Toronto, and Dallas to the merchandising marts to see exactly how the business of selling fashion works,” Dr. Korosec shared. “Students need to travel to different areas of the country because fashion is different in each city and you need to know geographical areas and what people are wearing.”

Dr. Korosec advises students to “do as many academic internships as they can fit into their schedule because it CAN lead to employment.” Currently, the most popular jobs for Ursuline graduates include regional visual display, retail store manager, product development and branding.

Outside of the classroom, Ursuline offers its fashion students opportunities to costume a local play for fashion design students. In addition, merchandising students learn all about fashion show production by producing local fashion shows.

“Ursuline participates in trips to foreign countries,” Dr. Korosec said. “Most recently, our students traveled to Malawi, Africa to an 800-student school, Nanthomba Primary School, which was built by the charity Hope, Educate, Love and Protect (HELP) Malawi and the people of Malawi. Founded by Jillian and Scott Wolstein of Chagrin Falls, the nonprofit organization provides services and programs in health and education to children of poverty-stricken African regions. This opportunity was made possible by the Wolstein family H.E.L.P. Malawi at their school. Our students learned another culture while helping students to learn to sew.”

“I hope to open my own business,” shared Ursuline student Ms. Schumm, a community involved consignment shop for unique designs. “I already have a logo, business cards and a strategic business plan.” Schumm even has a name for her future business: Razi.

“That’s the initials of all my siblings and myself,” she said.

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