NEW YORK—Packed with fashion icons, up-and-coming designers and celebrities, New York Fashion Week's (NYFW) spring and fall showcases are some of the industry's biggest, most exclusive events. And for the second time in less than a year, Western Michigan University sent a student there for a one-of-a-kind educational experience behind the scenes.
"It was really crazy to be there!" says Grace Stibich, a product design student from Troy, Michigan, who dreams of designing shoes or outdoor gear. She earned the opportunity through Western's inaugural New York Fashion Week Competition, hosted by the Office of Marketing and Strategic Communications, in 2021.
Preparing to graduate in spring 2023, Stibich can't imagine a better way to kick off her final year at Western.
"It was very inspiring. I'm already thinking about how I want to set up my future line for the MODA (Merchandising Opportunities and Design Association) spring show, what I want to do for my senior thesis and things like that, thinking about how extravagant and how camp I want to be with them."
Alongside future fashion leaders from just 15 universities across the country, Stibich participated in UofNYFW—a partnership between CLC, the nation's leading collegiate license company, and IMG, operator of NYFW: The Shows. Students were treated to an inside look at the fashion industry, including getting a seat at select runway shows and panel discussions as well as scoring networking opportunities with industry leaders.
"Our goal for the UofNYFW college program is to deliver innovative experiences and once-in-a-lifetime learning opportunities to students at our partner institutions, which adds tremendous value to the participating universities beyond our traditional role of brand licensing,” says Corey Moss, CEO of CLC. "Since the inception of this unique program, we have been honored to help inspire and influence many talented students on their path to a career in the fashion industry."
"It is always exciting to provide a group of bright college students the chance to interact and learn from some of the best designers and experts in the world of fashion at NYFW: The Shows," adds Leslie Russo, president of IMG's Fashion Events and Properties. "This collaboration with CLC and the participating universities aligns with our mission to deliver opportunities for future leaders in the industry and support the development of new perspectives in the ever-evolving fashion business."
Before hitting the big shows, Stibich and other students toured the headquarters of athletic apparel company Champion, getting a firsthand look at how a clothing line is developed and merchandised as well as meeting with professionals and getting a sneak peek at the brand's future lines. The group also had the opportunity to customize a garment at the flagship store.
"It was really nice to see a day in the life of (of a designer), because not all of us really know what the industry is like," Stibich says.
The VIP treatment continued at NYFW, where Stibich and her UofNYFW cohort attended a runway show with top Korean designer Son Jung Wan as well as a show presented by NewLeaper, the unique incubator for new designers and fashion business start-ups. The students also attended a NYFW: The Talks session on “Mindfulness in Fashion” with model Hilary Rhoda; singer-songwriter Bianca Quiñones; Christa Janine, wellness professional; and others to discuss mental health in the fashion industry.
"We learned about keeping yourself in check when things get busy and stressful and making sure you're prioritizing yourself since this is such a demanding industry," Stibich says.
Additionally, students participated in a Q&A with representatives from IMG as well as a backstage tour of the production and execution of a fashion show at Spring Studios, the central hub of NYFW: The Shows.
Stibich says the experience confirmed her passion for the fashion industry and solidified her design goals.
"I think WMU definitely has prepared me and given me the structure and discipline to be able to face such a demanding industry," she says. She also made some contacts that could help her land a job, including an industrial designer who creates patterns and designs for the Champion brand.
Western's 2021 fashion competition invited members of MODA to design three to five looks for collegiate apparel, conveying what it means to be a Bronco.
For her entry, Stibich drew on her love of vintage style to create five unique garments.
"It was like tailgate apparel with a vintage twist," she recalls. Her favorite design involved sewing water soluble thread into different patterns on a shirt, allowing the customer to cut the top to their own style. "There were different lines for neck lines and crop marks. And then you put it in through the wash and the water soluble threat will dissolve and you're left with your garment, so it was kind of my product design brain put to work."
NYFW has two events—one in spring and one in fall—and two of Western's aspiring fashion designers earned trips to each of the events. Marketing student Samantha Morehead won first place and a trip to NYFW in February 2022, while Stibich earned the opportunity to rub elbows with fashion's brightest at the fall event in September.
Western's Office of Marketing and Strategic Communications plans to hold another fashion contest to send a student to UofNYFW in February 2023.
For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.