In March of 2016, the Marist fashion department sent an email to every student that was eligible to apply for the YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund scholarship YMA-FSF and encouraging students to spend their summers working on an intricate case study project. Out of the dozens of applications from Marist, this highly competitive scholarship was awarded to eight Marist fashion students—including Alexis Alexander ‘19, Bryn Gorberg ‘17, Julia DiMarzo ‘18, Sarah Katz ‘18 and Maria Stephens ‘19.
The creativity and commitment paid off for these five young designers and merchandisers, as each underwent the case study process, designing a business plan or design collection for a hypothetical business situation—a partnership between Macy’s department stores and major e-commerce site Etsy.
The YMA-FSF scholarship provided 237 “enterprising young people” with scholarships, had more than 240 individual and corporate sponsoring donors, and raised over $4,000,000 for the “Future Leaders of Fashion,” in 2017, as according to the official webpage.
The program granted the winners a visit to Manhattan’s Kohl’s design studio, offering them an inside look to their professional design space. After a networking event, small talk and cocktail hours, the winners went to a banquet which featured former NFL player Michael Strahan as a guest speaker and two executives from JC Penney.
The project entailed long hours, coupled with commitment and innate creativity. “You work closely with professors over the summer, constantly emailing back and forth,” said Bryn, a third-time YMA-FSF recipient. “I got to learn through application rather than just taking it [the course] and learning it in class.” Each YMA-FSF scholarship recipient is paired with a mentor who will provide career guidance, industry insights and introductions to networking. “I was interested to see what they’ve done and how they can help me figure out what I want to do,” said Maria Stephens.
Applicants were encouraged to model their projects with inspiration from Macy’s Herald Square, Manhattan location on their millennial floor, as they were given the target market of their peers and were pushed to appeal to their most familiar demographic. However, through the project’s applications to both design and business concepts, the winners explain their experience with being removed from their comfortable niches in the industry thus far.
“I looked into design interchangeable FitBit bracelets that used leather and other materials to make it look a little more everyday-wearable,” said Bryn, as her project centered around millennials’ interest in technology and fitness.
Bryn, a senior fashion design student, having grown up in Northern California and moving to New Jersey, reveals her experience in fashion education thus far, as a senior finishing up her final semester’s collection. Having interned with Kohl’s this past summer, she gained a post-graduation position that she will be starting with come June. As a Division I cross country and track runner, she reveals her interest in designing active wear.
Her interest in activewear, as shown in her YMA-FSF application, has infiltrated into her senior collection. “I am using athletic fabrics and making them fashionable—It is a new kind of innovative for me, and I am really enjoying it,” she said. “I want to create wearable technology pieces, like the FitBit, but integrate it into clothing and fabrics.”
Julia DiMarzo, fashion merchandising major with minors in graphic design and music, works as an intern at Elizabeth Boutique, a local clothing store where she began her work in the fashion merchandising world. “It made me put a lot more effort into shopping locally, I’ve gotten to see a lot of different sides of the business,” she said.“I worked on a line of home goods, and I got to design comforters, rugs or lamps,” said Julia, utilizing Etsy’s diverse product selection inspiration to push herself beyond the realm of clothing.
Julia’s experience within the arts continues with her involvement in Singers on campus, as well as singing lead vocals for a local band on her weekends, as she lives in Poughkeepsie and commutes to Marist. “I think it is possible to do a lot of different things in a lot of different areas without necessarily being overwhelmed,” she said, further explaining her desire to utilize her graphic design interest to work in fashion magazine production.
Alexis Alexander is a sophomore fashion design major with a desire to recycle her experience in the design world through all of her endeavors in the industry thus far. “I did a recycled denim capsule collection for juniors to incorporate the handmade aspect of Etsy,” she explained.
Working as the assistant to her sewing teacher, she gives back to her design community in her small town of Roseland, New Jersey by teaching young students how to use sewing machines and begin churning their minds as designers. “I am currently interested in creating women's sportswear, but that could change—I might want to go into couture because I do love the technical sewing, and that is a lot of handwork,” she said, emphasizing her personal connection with design craft and detail.
During her senior year in high school, Alexis worked with her teachers to start up at fashion program and portfolio-prep class, taking effect following her own graduation. “I tried to think, ‘what would I want if I could go back?’” she said, showcasing her desire to recycle everything she receives from her own passion. “I’m happy that they’ll be more prepared than I was.”
The desire to give back within the fashion industry is extended with the work of Sarah, junior fashion design major from outside Boston, Massachusetts, as she is working to contribute the industry-wide sustainability efforts with her design skill and worldly mindfulness.
“I made a handbag collection that was about cultural appropriation,” Sarah explained, describing each of her bag designs with unique patterns and weavings. “Fashion designers are usually taking all of these inspirations from different cultures that are really beautiful and inspiring, but a lot of the time they are taking direct symbols from other cultures and using them as their own.”
Sarah emphasized her application’s collection aim to utilize inspiration from cultures around the world without taking directly from them, and having workers from other countries make the garments or handbags and directly gain profit from their work. “We would be using their resources but helping their economy and workers,” she said, as her collection used Indonesian inspiration through different weavings of bags.
“The Etsy customer is super into things that feel one of a kind and giving back, where Macy’s is more commercial which is where the fun prints come from,” said Sarah, continuing with her desire to continue to immerse herself in mindful fashion throughout her career. “I definitely want to work for a company that is aware of their production and their effect on the environment.. I would like to work for a company that has a stance.”
Maria Stephens is a sophomore fashion merchandising major from Chicago, IL who indulged in the design world for her application project, crafting her own clothing line called “Endeavor.”
“Macy’s Herald Square location below section is supposed to be targeted toward millennials—there was a selfie wall, an embroidery station where you could decorate your own jeans, which is cool, but over the top,” Maria said, striving to ground genuinity within her project. “I wanted to make something a little bit more grown up and put-together for younger people.”
The scholarship journey showed recipients the important intersections between the design and merchandising industries, pushing them to utilize their particular case study to delve deeper into the industry and outside of their typical reference frames. “Winning this has opened my eyes to the possibilities of what’s out there,” Maria continued.