It is that time of year. The seniors have not slept in a week in order to build their inspiration boards for their senior collection development critique. I invited my former student, designer and educator Katya Roesle, to lend her two cents, she did not disappoint. I recall Katya’s academic fashion design work being poetic, graceful, highly influenced by historical costume and her time acting and singing in theater. Upon graduating 7 years ago she jumped headlong into a production position for and apparel product manufacturer in Philadelphia where she was responsible for nearly every aspect of production from trend, inspiration, pattern making to costing and sourcing fabric and in general, handling all manner of production nightmares.
Katya is seasoned in both aesthetics and production and is a model designer, the kind of designer I aspire to guide and prepare as an educator. She well-rounded, she is on the pulse of what is happening and who is happening, she is a rigorous researcher, is deeply fond of the history of dress and costume AND she is an expert into how the industry works and how to negotiate it’s complexity as a “creative”.
In critique, Katya offered valuable insight. Regarding assortment planning, she suggesting pairing items in such a way that makes her leaving with many of the pieces, not just one. Katya questioned the students as to where they saw their collection hanging, on the rack next to what kindred designers? In response to target market (the students were vague and obvious…24 to 40, upper east side, she knows what she wants…) she stated “be specific, what does she smell like? What did she eat for breakfast? Prada does the research, Gap knows their customer.” Finally, in regards to concepts of sustainability, she challenged students to push past the “making something out of production scraps” toward “supporting fabric companies that offer incentives that offset carbon footprint”. Her viewpoint re-focused student awareness from college garment studio towards Industry level.
The valuable input Katya offered students regarded several key areas we don’t always touch on in the design/studio side of our merchandising and design department. I suppose a question I have is: why?
Why is merchandising and design still separated in the fashion school? My next few entries will discuss this and provide some ideas for cross-pollination. Merchandisers must know how a garment is constructed and designers must understand costing. Upon graduation, everyone is working together as a team. Integration and application of the two aspects of the industry in our classrooms is essential.