KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Call it a "pinch me" moment. Samantha Morehead's feet still haven't quite touched the ground after a dream-like experience at New York Fashion Week (NYFW).
"The girl next to me, we were holding hands and tearing up the whole time because it was such a surreal experience," says Morehead, a Western Michigan University marketing student hoping to break into the fashion industry after graduation in April. She can still feel the goosebumps from attending a runway show for London-based fashion house Hardware LDN. "That's when it hits you that you're achieving something you've always wanted to achieve."
Western, through a partnership with its exclusive trademark licensing agency, CLC, and fashion leader IMG, delivered a one-of-a-kind educational experience for Morehead at UofNYFW. This unique academic enrichment program provides future fashion leaders a behind-the-scenes look at the industry, including entry into select runway shows, panel discussions and networking opportunities with industry leaders.
"In elementary school, I literally had a sketchbook on the playground where I would be sketching outfits. That is what I did for fun in elementary school," Morehead remembers.
She daydreamed about the glamorous celebrities who might wear her looks if she were a big-name designer. "All the celebrities you look up to and admire are going to events and you think, 'I want to do that someday.' But I never thought that was actually going to happen. So, when it did actually happen, I couldn't believe I was there. My little 7-year-old self would not believe me. I would be screaming."
Morehead punched her ticket to one of the industry's biggest events by winning Western's inaugural New York Fashion Week Competition. She was whisked away to the Big Apple alongside a select group of college students from across the country for the immersive industry experience, which included a “NYFW: The Talks” panel discussion on sustainability and the current fascination with resale fashion, question-and-answer session with IMG representatives and backstage tour of the production and execution of a fashion show at Spring Studios.
“We were excited to welcome another group of bright college students to ‘NYFW: The Shows’ to interact and learn from some of the best designers and experts in the world of fashion,” says Leslie Russo, president of IMG’s Fashion Events and Properties. “Collaborating with CLC to provide this experience aligns with our mission to deliver opportunities for future leaders in the industry and support the development of new perspectives in the ever-changing fashion business.”
In addition to the unique fashion week experiences, Morehead attended a private breakfast at the home of jewelry designer Kyle Garcia of collegiate jewelry company Kyle Cavan, where students were also joined by company co-founder Elizabeth Shirley for a discussion on starting and building a brand.
"We were able to get their contacts and emails for networking opportunities," says Morehead, who is currently thinking about her next step after graduation. "Getting that experience and having those connections is super vital for someone who wants to work in the industry."
“Our UofNYFW college program delivers innovative experiences and life-changing learning opportunities to students at our partner institutions while adding value beyond the traditional role of brand licensing,” adds Cory Moss, CEO of CLC.
The students also had the opportunity to explore the fashion resale industry through a thrift store outfit design challenge as well as check out the "Dior: Designer of Dreams" exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum of Art—a showcase of Morehead's favorite designer.
"It's very rare for a student to have an experience like this. So having the opportunity was so amazing and was something I never thought would have been a possibility for me," says Morehead, who is also a first-generation college student.
Her family shared her excitement as she sent photos of her fashion week experience through a group chat. They even dug up photos from her childhood playing dress-up as a pint-sized fashionista.
"I've always had an interest in (fashion), so seeing that and then full circle being there in the place I've always wanted to be was just surreal," she says. "It was just really cool to have those experiences, because my parents didn't have that growing up. So it was an amazing experience to be able to know that … I'm making my own path that wasn't there originally for my family."
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