Sewing Up Careers in Fashion
Raquel Medina always dreamed of being a fashion designer. Kenta Tanaka traveled from Japan to pursue his ambition of crafting running shoes. And while Kevin Fernando’s design for his future would lead elsewhere, he knew where he wanted to begin. They all did: the Fashion Design and Merchandising program at Santa Monica College.
SMC’s annual LA Mode runway show—which was held this June at Santa Monica High School’s Barnum Hall—offers just one reason why students travel from around the world to study in the program. Each year, LA Mode not only lets blossoming designers exhibit their creative wares, but also enables students to gain merchandising experience by helping assemble and market a very complex production.
LA Mode demonstrates SMC program’s high standards, but those connections enable students to benefit from contact with noted designers and manufacturers—and even bestselling authors and filmmakers—who come to campus to share their knowledge and perspectives.
Raquel says SMC helped bring her dreams closer to reality by offering topflight training but as “an affordable place to go to.” The small class sizes are another benefit, she adds. “I’ve been able to get a lot of experience I wouldn’t have gotten at bigger schools,” she says. “And the students here form tight bonds. Instead of being in competition, we’re good friends who help each other grow.”
“Fashion is a business. Next to entertainment, it’s the second highest employment sector in Los Angeles. So it’s important that our classes meet industry standards, and that we develop and maintain industry connections”
– Lorrie Ivas, SMC Professor
Convenient scheduling was also a factor for the Corona, California, resident. “My commute’s about 90 minutes each way,” she explains. “SMC offers the classes I needed on two days, while other schools required four days a week.”
Other students travel from much farther away. “We have people from around the world who come specifically to attend SMC,” observes Raquel. “We have people from Sweden, Iran, Algeria, Mexico, Honduras, and Nicaragua. We have such a well-rounded sense of the world—and it makes our program so rich.”
Kenta Tanaka, who won SMC’s Global Citizenship President’s Award this spring, can vouch for the global attraction. Originally from Yamanashi, Japan, he moved to Tokyo to study industrial design before deciding that Southern California—and SMC—would be a better place to pursue his goals. Ultimately, he wants to design shoes for Nike, so he needed to find his feet (pun intended) in fashion.
Raquel and Kenta both say they appreciate the faculty’s supportive mentorship—and professional expertise. “Their industry experience really helps,” says Raquel. “I’ve learned something new from each of my teachers. And because they’re all so diverse in their backgrounds, you get a full picture of the fashion profession.”
Under the direction of Photography & Fashion Department Chair Ford Lowcock, Lorrie Ivas and her fellow professors are continually adding details to that picture to further benefit students. For example, merchandising students now take an accounting class so they know how a business actually runs and can keep a ledger.
SMC’s interdisciplinary Fashion Design and Merchandising program not only provides students with thorough training, but also the flexibility of figuring which aspects of fashion best fit their interests as they design their future. The results are anything but basic as these budding fashionistas tailor their futures to fulfill their professional goals and passions.