A lot of people think fashion design is easy, but little do people know the amount of sleepless nights these students have. Jenna Dickinson, senior design student, said “I slept in my car in McCann one-time last year because I was scared to drive home without having slept for almost 6 days.” The commitment these students make often interferes with their college social life, but the outcome they are getting with the Fashion Design Program at Marist is preparing them well for their future as designers.
Dickinson felt that the workload given for a fashion design student has been overwhelming since day one, but balance is key. She realized early on that no single assignment can really be completed in under 4-5 hours, so she sets blocks of time to be in the studio and blocks of time to work on her portfolio, other classes and then time to take care of herself and socialize with friends. Now that she is a senior she spends a majority of her days and nights in the studio. She describes the studio as being a second home for her. “In a way, the life in the design studio at Marist is very similar to the show Project Runway with Tim Gun, sometimes we even sleep in the studio.”
Dickinson admits to having a “love-hate relationship” with being a fashion design student. She said she is learning so much, more than she ever expected to. “I never thought I could feel so prepared to start my own business as I do now and that’s a pretty exhilarating feeling.” Her least favorite aspect of fashion design is how tedious and challenging the assignments truly are. “I was not prepared or really aware of the time commitment it takes to be in this major, so I started living an unhealthy sleepless lifestyle which was pretty miserable.” However, now after almost four years, she said she has pretty much got the time management part figured out. But another thing with fashion design that she dislikes is “how there is no right answer like there is in math or science… design is extremely opinion-based and getting criticized for your work is not always easy.”
Juan Olivera-Silvera, fashion faculty member as well as the internship coordinator and Marist in Manhattan Director, said there are about 80 fashion design students. Silvera explained that fashion design students who are serious about a design career typically stick with the program as long as they have the skills for the field and the grades required. The Fashion Design Program requires a certain level of excellence to complete the full four years. Some students may be required to switch if the grades are not kept at the expected level to succeed.
When asked if he thinks the fashion design students are required to do too much work, Silvera said, “No, their work load is in line with what is expected from a Fashion BFA today. Having myself graduated from an institution where the course load was 45 hours a week, I do not think the current work load requires unusually excessive work.” He then explained that based on data presented at the Fashion Educator Summit hosted by the Council of Fashion Designers of America this year in New York City, for 19 of the top fashion schools in the United States, one of the biggest problem fashion design graduates face is acclimating to the heavy amount of work and hours typical for the field. “Marist Fashion program combined with liberal arts education may be a better preparation for entry level jobs than other lighter programs,” said Silvera.
Renee Pedigo, Marist fashion design alumni and last year’s winner for best collection at the Silver Needle Fashion Show, has continued her journey in fashion design post-graduation. Pedigo is currently working at Macy’s as a design assistant. When asked if she thought the Fashion Design Program at Marist required too much of the students, she said, “I think the program asks a lot of students but it would be wrong of them not to because then they wouldn’t be preparing the student properly for the industry.” She explained how the program is “very rigorous and challenging” and that fashion design students must be committed to work around the clock in order to deliver amazing final collections.
Her favorite part about the program was the chance for her to develop and test her creative abilities. She said that she was encouraged to push boundaries and challenge herself, which helped her define who she was as a designer. Her least favorite part of the program was the level of commitment and time that she had to sacrifice. When asked what her greatest challenge was in fashion design she explained how time management and purely not having enough hours in the day was her hardest challenge. She said she struggled with keeping a healthy balance between work and personal life.
“I considered switching majors every semester and some semesters even daily but I was determined and dedicated to pursuing my passion,” Pedigo said. As an underclassman she was very active in the Marist community but as time went on she had to cut back and focus on fashion design. She said she had a very limited social life at Marist because of fashion design, but she knew she had priorities and had to balance herself.
She believes that the fashion design program asks for more work out of students than any other major at Marist, which is what she thinks makes it one of the toughest programs. “Most people are ignorant about what fashion designers actually do, how much work fashion designers actually do and how much work it takes to produce collections and portfolios. I think the more others can be educated about the work level fashion design students have, the more respect and understanding that can come out of it.”
“My number one tip to a student going into fashion design would be to listen to your intuition and follow that,” said Pedigo, “It’s not a secret that the fashion design program is very hard so I think the best thing a student can do for themselves is to be true to who they are.”