Though hardly the fashion capital of the world, a crop of students is learning the tricks of the fashion trade in the rolling hills of Appalachia.
Ohio University’s fashion merchandising department is home to more than 100 students pursuing both majors and minors in retail and fashion production design. While the major might seem more business-related, the program is classified under the Patton College of Education and Human Services.
The program teaches students not only about clothes and fittings, but even lesser known features of the business, said Terra Brown, a Fall 2012 graduate and former president of Fashion Associates.
“(In OU’s fashion department) you have the opportunity to learn about every aspect of retail,” Brown said. “The classes focus on buying, merchandising, product development, color theory, etc. It’s nice to know that with my degree I have so many different opportunities and that I could go any way I want to in the retail world.”
Networking is an important aspect of classes because in the ever-changing world of fashion, getting to know your classmates might be just as important as knowing the work of Marc Jacobs, Brown said.
“Ohio University sets you up with so many opportunities to network and you never know when one day you’ll need one of those people by your side,” she said. “The saying ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ unfortunately proves to be very true in such a small business”
The things networking students are required to do include projects with other students, meetings with professionals through the retail associations, including Fashion Associates, and required internships.
“We participate in a mini internship in a store, as well as a full-time internship that I will be completing in the summer,” said Alexandra Hueber, a junior studying retail and fashion production design and current president of Fashion Associates. “They have also required us to take classes that not only build professionalism, but also exposed me to the many paths that are available to me in the industry.”
Athens provides several small boutiques where fashion students can earn their “mini internship,” including Artifacts Gallery, 2 W. State St., and The Other Place, 43 S. Court St.
Though the business is more receipts and calculations than glitter and chiffon on most days, Hueber said she feels fashion is an art.
“I would definitely consider fashion to be an art form or a type of expression,” she said. “Going to a runway show is just like going to an art exhibit. Viewers are there to see other artists’ creations. I also believe that people use fashion every day to express how they want others to perceive them by the way that they dress.”