For some would-be fashion designers, graduating from design school is challenge enough. Seeing their work on the retail racks is a long-range goal. But this summer, long before commencement, third-year design students at Otis/Parsons School of Design will realize that goal.
As part of the fashion department's critics' program, juniors in the four-year fashion-design program were challenged to create moderately priced clothing that could be marketed in a Southern California department store. Unlike most design-school projects, however, this was no simulation.
The students' work was evaluated by Lorraine Neria, designer for Christina Maxx, a Los Angeles-based junior sportswear manufacturer, and 12 sketches were chosen to be made into sample merchandise.
When the samples are ready, Pam Sally, junior sportswear buyer for Nordstrom's Southern California stores, will place orders and sell the clothes as part of a special fall promotion in the Brass Plum departments in Los Angeles and Orange County stores. In addition, students whose designs are selected for production will be awarded prizes ranging from $150 to $500.
But the real payoff comes when students see their work actually being sold, said Rosemary Brantley, chairman of the Otis/Parsons fashion-design department.
"The kids are designing the kinds of clothes that students wear--clothes that they are familiar with and can identify with. These are clothes they understand."
Working with fall fabrics supplied by Christina Maxx, the young designers have created junior sportswear in tartan-plaid cottons, sweat shirting, primary-tone cotton knits and white cotton shirting. Detailed with embroidered badges, patterned ribbons, leather and wide, elastic waist treatments, the clothing will be judged by the Nordstrom buyer in the same way as other junior sportswear collections--for salability and wearability.
"Junior fashion is 'fast fashion,' " Brantley explained. "It's here today and gone tomorrow, so the students have to pull fashion trends right out of the air. They're watching their design dreams become a reality."
The concept for this joint student-manufacturer-retailer effort was developed by Brantley and Cody Kondo, Los Angeles regional manager for Nordstrom. After attending last year's Critics' Award Fashion Show, an annual fund-raising program featuring student designs, Kondo said he was inspired to find a way to "reward the hard work these kids put out. The clothes I saw were innovative and exciting. The audience responded well to them. I was impressed both that the designs were not only creative, but quality oriented too."
The is the first time a department store has worked with Otis/Parsons to actually produce and merchandise student designs, but Brantley said she plans to encourage more combined efforts within the Southern California fashion world. And, as Nordstrom's Kondo noted: "These kinds of projects provide design students with practical experience in seeing their designs go from imagination to production."