Fashion 101 with Professor Igel!

March 10, 2010
“Welcome, girls, to your first day of class. You can call me Deesh or, better still, DJ Daisy Deesh.” This is what I felt like saying when two high school students from the High School of Art & Design, Xiaowen Niu and Evelyn Lucero, joined me on May 26th for a day of creativity, DIY projects and lessons about the fashion industry from yours truly. The Junior Achievement of New York (JA New York), Fashion Fantasy Game (FFG), The High School of Art & Design and LIM College joined forces to create a business education program that teaches students how to use social media to their advantage, not only in business, but also in life. Xiaowen and Evelyn were the grand prize winners. The grand prize: An apprenticeship with yours truly for the day. FFG had the High School students from Art & Design develop an online fashion design studio and store. These young entrepreneurs had to create a market strategy and then promote and sell their goods to customers coming from both the online FFG community and offline. Students were judged on the creativity and mass appeal of their designs, and on their profit margins. I spent an afternoon with the winners,, Xiaowen and Evelyn, and let me tell you... they were scary good. First, they showed me their winning projects on FFG. I was blown away by how thorough and creative both projects were. Next, we came up with a DIY project. I had the girls create mood boards using magazines, colored pencils, markers, fabric swatches, etc. Mood boards are an important inspirational tool to help you translate your internal creativity onto something external. After that, the girls took their mood boards and began designing their t-shirts (which, I must say, were fabulous and very close to their original ideas).

We closed the afternoon with a Q&A where the girls asked me questions about how I got started, what I’ve learned from the industry and my plans for the future. I asked the girls what they learned that day, and here are a couple of their replies:

Xiaowen: “To be in this business, I’ve learned that it’s not easy. But talking to you today gave me more confidence and my goal is to be like you.

Evelyn: “Today was really awesome, I learned a lot. I really liked creating the mood boards, creating a look and then designing it with the t-shirt. It was an incredibly great experience and I would recommend it if you want to really learn about the fashion industry.

It was such an incredible honor for me to serve as the “grand prize” mentor for these budding entrepreneurs. It is always a pleasure to work with FFG. Their CEO, Nancy Ganz, is a visionary and I love collaborating with her like I did last year (check out the article here). This day was very special for me. When I was 16, my mother took me to a lecture given by Elsa Klensch about fashion. I was so inspired by that lecture and that woman, that I asked her for a summer internship after the lecture ended. I interned for Elsa that summer and she has been an idol and mentor of mine ever since. I hope I could inspire these girls the way Elsa inspired me. Something tells me, however, that these young guns don’t need much extra inspiration from me. Expect to see big things from Xiaowen and Evelyn in the near future.

Finally, a massive, well deserved shout out must go to Janeen Johnson, the wonderful teacher who accompanied Evelyn and Xiaowen to my office. Teachers are the real mentors and clearly Janeen is doing a great job.