Fashion School Store showcases university talent

Clothes+from+the+school+of+fashion+are+on+display+at+the+Fashion+School+Store+in+Acorn+Alley+II.+The+store+is+now+open+but+will+have+its+grand+opening+ceremony+on+April+18.+Photo+by+Brian+Smith.

Clothes from the school of fashion are on display at the Fashion School Store in Acorn Alley II. The store is now open but will have its grand opening ceremony on April 18. Photo by Brian Smith.

Mary Katherine Garvey

Up the brick stairs of Acorn Alley II, across the platform of sidewalk, is a door to Kent State’s Fashion School Store.

A wall of hand-made textiles turned into pillows, sundresses and bright summer colors overwhelm the room. The counter is in the back, and a table with a sewing machine sits at the heart of the space. There’s some upbeat pop music, but most importantly, students are the employees there to serve their customers.

“We talk to people. I promote customer service,” said Scott Bunner, operations manager. “Not only do we serve, but we need to educate on what is here and why.

“It has really surprised me how that emotional connection is important. People are really interested in knowing. I thought people would just want to shop the boutique. People want to shop the experience.”

He gestures toward the pillows on the left wall and the scarves draped over hooks to the right — Bunner said customers are astonished that students make the Fashion School Store’s textiles. Customers want to know the whole process. Whether they are students, alumni or faculty, customers want to know about the person who created the piece they adore.

Nancy Stanforth, an associate professor of fashion design and merchandising, is also the store’s director. She and Bunner are responsible for coming up with a trend report for each season, as well as what to stock.

Stanforth said their process is different than a normal store. They try to showcase work from students as well as faculty and alumni. She discusses with the producer, the designer or sewing person, about what they might want to make.

Stanforth teaches Fashion Entrepreneurship, the new class that will give students direct involvement with the store. She said the class for the fall will have 25 students. Some will work on marketing, some on merchandise.

“The goal is to understand fashion entrepreneurship and how to run a small business,” Stanforth said. “It takes extraordinary dedication to be a small business owner … We want students to understand the issues so they can make a great decision if they want to be an entrepreneur.”

Christy Salzwedel, senior fashion design major, said she bases her personal style on the ruffled skirts that are popular in Japan. She loves interacting with customers so she can hear what they want firsthand.

“I get to talk to the customers and see what they want,” she said while coaching Bunner on the sewing machine and comparing pictures of her personal ruffled-skirt style to the sundresses she finished earlier that day.

Salzwedel said a woman recently came in the store and asked about plus-sized clothing. Interested by a challenge, Salzwedel was glad to discuss with the potential customer about the Fashion School Store’s stock.

In order to help customers keep up with the collection, Bunner created the Kent State Fashion School Store’s Facebook page. He takes pictures of new items and updates their new creations.

“I forget sometimes how much work it really has been because I’m here every day,” Bunner said as he looked around and marveled. “It really is amazing. I’ve very proud of what we’ve done.”

Contact Mary Katherine Garvey at [email protected].