Thread Fair

Northeast Ohio's schools of fashion and design have a knack for turning out creative graduates.

The first stitches of some impressive fashion careers are being sewn right here in Northeast Ohio.

And the thread-count is certainly high at Kent State University's Shannon Rodgers and Jerry Silverman School of Fashion Design and Merchandising and Virginia Marti College in Lakewood.

Among the successful Kent graduates is Linda Allard, who received a fine-arts degree from Kent in 1962 and went on to become design director for Ellen Tracy of New York. Virginia Marti's grads include Scott Brooks, owner of John Anthony and Co. (one of the only American Couture houses still in the United States) and !ichael Wilson, owner of Michael !ilson USA fashions in Cleveland.

"There are so many opportunities for fashion and design careers right here in Cleveland," says school founder Virginia Marti Veith. "Graduates don't need to go to New York, Chicago or Los Angeles to be successful in these fields."

But students need to be willing to work hard. At Virginia Marti College, which enrolls 300 to study for degrees in fashion design, fashion merchandising, interior design and graphic design, prospective students must pass an entrance exam, submit a portfolio and complete a personal interview.

Kent's fashion-school students benefit from all the resources of a major public university.

Through KSU's fashion school, students have participated in internship programs with Dana Buchman, Betsey Johnson, Donna Karan, J.Crew, Cynthia Rowley and dozens of other American designers. Partnerships with major retailers — including Sears, the J.C. Penney Co. and Simplicity Pattern Co. — continue to challenge students.

For example, senior fashion student Joshua Hupper recently partnered with local liquid-crystal research-and-development firm AlphaMicron Inc. to create a line of high-fashion jewelry that subtly changes colors in real time. Hupper calls his products "theluxury of change" and now serves as the creative director for AMI. In summer 2003, he completed an internship with New York designer Diane von Furstenberg.

"Our graduates are valued because they are industry ready as far as technology is concerned," says Elizabeth Rhodes, director of Kent's fashion school since 1994. "People in the industry know that our students have the latest skills and can enter the field with the knowledge to tackle any assignments."

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