Fashion Academy showcases high school talent

Ashley Renehan, a high school student of this year’s Kent State Fashion School Summer Academy, displays her garment on the runway in Rockwell Hall of the Fashion School on Saturday, June 25, 2016.

Cameron Gorman

Kent State’s Fashion School is a viable choice for high school graduates considering a career in fashion—and it’s easy to see why.

Recognized as one of the top colleges in the United States for fashion design and merchandising, endorsed by the Ohio Board of Regents as a “Center of Excellence,” and a member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, the school is a leader in its field—both in fashion and in innovative programs such as the Summer Fashion School Academy.

The academy, which began two years ago, is a one-week program for high school students from around the country interested in the fashion design and merchandising industry. 

This year, 23 high school students were selected to participate in the academy.

The program includes lessons on fashion from both the design and business aspects, as well as provides students with the opportunity to work individually and in teams on creative projects, according to the program’s Kent State website. 

“We recognized that there was a need and a demand for these experiential learning opportunities for high school students, so we thought, what better way to do that (than) to try to create an academy,” said Marjorie Wachowiak, coordinator of the program. “We sold out in 10 minutes this year.”

The program includes both fashion history and hands-on creations.

“(The goal) is to expose high school students to fashion in general, and all the many facets,” said Robin Vandezande, a professor in the Art Department. “The design, the production, the marketing, topics such as social responsibility, cultural influences, color theory—many of the things that are associated just with fashion.”

Participating students—who have the opportunity to work with university instructors and current undergraduate students—use their time in the program to create a design concept and work through the entire process of its creation, from the drawing board to the runway.

“This particular group (is) very knowledgeable, very engaged,” Vandezande said. “They would arrive here at the building at eight in the morning to have some breakfast, get upstairs by 8:30 a.m., and work until 7 p.m.”

Throughout the week-long program, students worked on an “up cycle” project, where they created new outfits from thrifted clothing, as well as other accessory and garment design programs.

On Saturday, to conclude the academy and showcase all the work of its students, a fashion show was put on to give family and friends a window into the program’s process.

A short video filmed over the course of the week introduced the “behind the scenes” work, including instruction and design, followed by the runway show, in which students presented both simple garments and stylized outfits designed in teams.

The students themselves modeled the apparel.

One of the students, Amber Walker, a senior from Centerville High School in Centerville, Ohio, said her interest in both the fashion industry as well as the Kent State Fashion School itself prompted her to apply to this year’s summer academy.

“(The program this past week) was just really great,” she said. “It was just a really nice experience to just be around people like you and be around people that are a part of the program. They can give you advice and whatnot.”

Like Walker, other students expressed interest in applying for Kent State’s fashion program in the near future.

“I wanted to check out the campus (and) meet other fashion-forward (thinking) people—and I got that,” said Makayla Meese, a high school senior from Glenpool High School in Glenpool, Oklahoma. “I just love fashion, and then just meeting all these great friends (was amazing).”

Ashley Renehan, a junior from Great Valley High School in Malvern, Pennsylvania, expressed similar sentiments.

“We had been researching colleges, and I wasn’t sure which one would be right,” Renehan said. “I ran and I told my mom about it, and here I am … I’m only going to be a junior next year, but when the time comes, I will definitely be applying.”

Tamara Cullen,  an illustration and design instructor in the Fashion School who worked with the academy’s students throughout the program, had only words of praise for the aspiring fashionistas.

“I hope (these students) really do come on board because it’s worth it,” said “From what I’ve seen, they’re ready to go, and (the Fashion School) can’t wait to have them.”

Cameron Gorman is a general assignment reporter, contact her at [email protected].