Fashion student returns from 'life-changing' New York Fashion Week experience with industry connections, renewed runway resolve

Contact: Erin Flynn

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Amid the glitz and glamour of one of the fashion world's biggest events, Western Michigan University fashion design and development student Laura Argentati sees her future flash before her eyes. 

"It was so cool to see it happening in real time, in person, right there," she says.

Argentati represents Western during a visit to Times Square.

The aspiring couture clothing designer earned a behind-the-scenes trip to New York Fashion Week with the U of NYFW program, a one-of-a-kind educational experience hosted by CLC, the nation's leading collegiate fashion company, and IMG, operator of the event. 

Alongside a select group of 26 other college students from 17 other universities nationwide, Argentati was whisked away to the Big Apple in early February for a weekend immersed in the fashion industry.

"This trip was seriously life-changing. I'm so grateful I was able to go, and now I know exactly what I want to do," says Argentati, who hopes to one day run her own clothing brand. "I want to do couture fashion, and my dream would be to pursue runway shows."

Her experience included panel discussions with industry leaders, networking opportunities and entry to a runway show by iconic fashion brand Badgley Mischka.

"We sat down and everybody started noticing famous people start to walk in," Argentati remembers. "I got a ton of videos of the runway and some of the looks; it was all very flowy and bright, lots of evening wear and formal wear, dresses, suits and sequins—lots of sequins."

Argentati also had the opportunity to meet and network with a variety of designers at curated fashion showrooms as well as tour top athletic brand Champion's headquarters to see how a line is developed and merchandised. Her favorite excursion, however, might have been to the iconic Mood Fabrics store.

"It's so cool, just walls and walls of fabric—like the most outlandish fabric you can think of," she says. The timing was also perfect, as she's dreaming up her next project for Western's Merchandising Opportunities and Design Association (MODA) fashion show. 

"After going to Mood, I got a ton of inspiration for the fabrics I want to use (in my own designs). I'm excited to dive back into my spring line for MODA and get back to work, because I'm feeling really inspired."


A close-up photo of hands threading a needle through a bead.

Argentati spent more than 30 hours on bead work for the blouse.

Argentati scored this early career opportunity by winning Western's 2024 New York Fashion Week Competition, which invited members of MODA to create a garment inspired by the new WMU Student Center.

"Instead of taking (my design) in a practical way, looking directly at the building, I did research into the student center to see if I could find any little things that could mean something," she says. "What jumped out at me right away was the repetition of the word 'heart.' It was used to describe the student center and the Gathering Stairs, one of my favorite features. So, I knew I wanted to do something involving a heart."

Incorporating her interest in beading, Argentati created a blouse with an intricate beaded heart design. She also incorporated inspiration from the land the student center is built on, which was historically occupied by the Ojibwe, Odawa and Bodewadmi nations, known as the Three Fires Confederacy. She created a cloak hand-stamped with a thunderbird mark, which represents power, protection and strength in Indigenous cultures. A black skirt lined with gold ribbon represents the building's glass exterior flanked by golden fins.

Laura Argentati holds up her house and skirt that she designed.

Argentati shows off her winning design.

The beadwork alone took her more than 30 hours to complete, but it opened her eyes to a new design technique she hadn't tried much before. It also led to a fruitful conversation at the NYFW showrooms in New York.

"A designer caught my eye because his designs had a bunch of bling on them and applications like beading, and I obviously love beading. So, I knew I needed to talk to him," she says. 

The designer, Muktar Onifade, shared he is from Detroit, not far from Argentati's hometown of South Lyon, so they exchanged contact information. "I showed him the heart that I designed to (win the competition), and he thought it was super cool. He talked to me about African beading techniques, which I would love to learn more about."

"We are proud to help provide this generation of college students the chance to interact and learn from some of the best designers and experts in the world of fashion at NYFW," says Kim Fasting Berg, executive vice president of marketing at WME Fashion.


Still in her second year at Western, Argentati has seen a steep trajectory for success. Just a couple of years ago, she wasn't even sure college was right for her.

"I was thinking about cosmetology school, but my mom told me I needed to at least try college out," she says. "I started scrolling through majors on Western's website and saw fashion design. I was in the dance world growing up with all of the glam and the stage, and I think I've always had a general attraction to that. So, I honestly chose fashion design on a whim."

A year and a half later, she couldn't imagine a better career path.

"It has turned out so great for me," says Argentati. "I was able to hold my own (in New York) because I had a portfolio of work already from what I've done in class and with MODA."

Argentati had the opportunity to network with top designers at New York Fashion Week.

After her U of NYFW experience, Argentati is eager to land a summer internship in the fashion industry and is pursuing leads through the connections she made. She's also thinking ahead to a potential study abroad program in Europe.

"In summer 2025, I really wanted to study abroad in Italy and go to Florence, but after being on this trip, I think I really want to go to Milan and study more design and couture fashion there. Or I could go to Paris, because that is the couture capital of the world," she says. "Honestly, I'm just so eager after this trip to start my career. I have so much inspiration, and seeing other people who are just as passionate about it as I am gives me that extra push to keep going."

Despite her fashionably late arrival to her passion for clothing design, Argentati's experiences at Western helped her stitch a path to success in an industry where she's set up to thrive.

"I want to really emphasize how important this trip was … and how it really did change my whole attitude about fashion," Argentati says. "It was so empowering. It really solidified the fact that this is for me and made me so excited for my future."

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.

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