Each year, prior to its show at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, the Academy of Art University organizes in New York, a daylong fashion workshop for its fashion students. Those taking part travel from all over the U.S. on their own dime for this opportunity and the chance to see the AAU show at the Lincoln Center. For the majority of these students, it is their first real look into New-York Fashion Week. Many are on the first leg of their adventure into the fashion world, still working hard to make their way through the Academy’s undergraduate program.
This is also an exclusive opportunity. Tickets to the AAU show are limited. To weed out those students who are less serious, the AAU asks each student to compose an essay explaining why they deserve to partake and go to New York.
Hannah McCarthy, Fashion Merchandising Major from Fort Collins, Colorado for example, explained her prowess of the industry and how she believes geo textiles are the most innovative thing happening in fashion. Many describe and explain their “fashion for passion” and their dreams of taking the fashion industry by storm ever since childhood.
For Hannah as for a selected few others, the work they put into writing this essay paid off. This year those students had the chance to tour the New York showroom of Li & Fung. Li & Fung is one of the largest trading companies in the world.
Founded in 1906 and with its head quarters in Hong Kong, Li & Fung manages supply chains across several countries and manufacturers. It specializes in ‘time-sensitive consumer product’ with apparel representing two third of its turn-over.
The AAU students met first thing in the morning, Starbucks in hand, at Li & Fung USA’s men’s division headquarters and eagerly headed upstairs. Li & Fung USA Creative Director, Anthony Caputo soon joined the students in a mood board filled room, eagerly sharing his knowledge of the world of licensing and his own career experiences. From the development cycle to marketing and branding, the students engaged with Anthony in this enthralling discussion of the ins and outs of Li & Fung USA. They also looked closely at the design ideas for some of Li & Fung USA’s recent new business pitches and partnerships choosing Sperry as an example.
After a long but exciting morning touring the New York men’s division showroom at Li & Fung USA, fashion merchandising, design and journalism students all regrouped at the Hudson Hotel. The witty and talented Gladys Perint Palmer, Executive Director at the AAU School of Fashion, joined them to give a fashion illustration demo.
Gladys began her presentation by asking the students who liked to draw. Surprisingly, amongst such a talented group of students, a few spoke up in opposition, clarifying that they didn’t like to draw because they didn’t know how.
Like every good teacher and mentor, Gladys quickly responded in disagreement. “Everyone can learn to draw,” Gladys told the students. “And everyone should learn to draw. Drawing teaches you not just to look but to see.”
Gladys continued to encourage the students by showing some of her own drawings of different designers’ collections over the years – Jean Paul Gaultier, Valentino, La Croix, Dior and Elie Saab to name a few.
The students gazed at the drawings in amazement and adoration as if they were witnessing each garment in person. Especially impressive was the way Gladys used different mediums and colors such as glitter and ink to give her drawings texture and make them come alive.
After regaling the students with unimaginable stories of her career and her personal relationships with designers from all over the world, she even gave a short demo of her artistic abilities, creating fashion illustrations from a handful of students who volunteered to pose as models.
Later that evening, the students all made their way to the Lincoln Center for the AAU show . Beneath the dim lights of the Lincoln Center’s Theatre, the students looked excited and slightly nervous, unaware of what to expect once the lights went out and eagerly keeping an eye on the front row in an attempt to scout fashion stars and other celebrities.
Once those lights did go out, the students realized the true fashion stars were the AAU graduates who presented their collections on the runway that night. From the slouchy 80s-inspired styles of BFA alum Didvik Kuang to the architecturally structured dresses by MFA Fashion alum Vicken Derderian, these designs inspired. They gave proof point that years of hard work as a fashion student do finally pay off. They showed the glory that is Fashion Week – the glory that is New York City, the opportunities that it holds.
Following the show these aspirations of living in New York City and succeeding in the fashion industry hung from the lips of the students as they exited the Lincoln Center.
“I definitely want to be in New York in the long run,” said Lauren Isabella, Fashion Design Major from New Jersey in awe. “It just feels right whenever I come here.”