Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Passion for Styling: My FIT Workshop Experience

Hi there! In one of my latest posts where I gave you guys an update on where I'd been for the past two months or so, and in that post, I mentioned that I was in New York to take a workshop at FIT. I didn't elaborate in that post because I wanted to dedicate a whole, lengthy post to the topic. Something so extraordinary and life-changing deserves its own spotlight.

I'd begged my parents to let me take a workshop at FIT for about two, three years now, but the timing was never right. The first year, we had a month-long trip to Vietnam planned ahead already, the second year, I had to do summer school, and then this year, it finally worked out.

picking the right course

If you're a fashion enthusiast and you've had a chance to take the peek at the list of precollege workshops, you'll know that the list is quite long and overwhelming, but also absolutely incredible. Where else are you going to get the opportunity to work with industry professionals to further your talents and abilities in fashion while still being in high school?

OK, well there's LIM, but that's besides the point. The point is these workshops and courses at FIT are an amazing opportunity that is available for a lot of people aspiring to work in the fashion industry. However, to make the most out of it, you should sit down and take the time to go through all the workshops and courses to decide what you want to take.

First of all, do you want to take a workshop or a course? A workshop is only four days whereas a Summer Live course is 3-weeks long. This might be an easy decision for you (as it was for me) since financials and your budget really pay a big role in that. New York is incredibly expensive, so I opted for the workshop. 

I've heard that some people didn't enjoy past workshops as much because they rushed into the decision of picking which one. While doing a workshop that you didn't think you would've picked before might be a happy accident and ignite some passion in something unexpected, it's really good to plan it out properly to make an informed decision. So take your time, but be aware of the deadlines because there's nothing worse than finding your dream class, only to find out that it's already full.

structure and things to do at lunch

The workshop that I took was called "Passion for Styling" which is pretty self-explanatory, so I'll omit the lengthy explanation to avoid being repetitive. It took course over four days and I had two professors. No one was aware of this until the first day and maybe they won't be repeat it next year since this was apparently the first time this had ever happened, but I think it was really good to have two different professors teach.

Basically what happens is that on the first day, you should get there early at around 9:00 or earlier because the line to check in is actually a lot longer than you'd expect. You'll go through introductions with your classmates and teacher at 9:30 and then you're going to jump right into projects. Keep in mind that you only have four days so expect to get homework and for things to be really fast-paced - that's the only way any work will get done.

Lunch at Epice Cafe
At 12:30, they let you out for an hour lunch and goodness gracious, how I'd missed that hour-long lunch from middle school. What I found in New York is that it's more OK to have lunch by yourself or just be by yourself in general there. You don't get a pitying glance or anything like that, which was nice. The first and last days, I had a salad at the Epice Cafe at 297 7th Ave on the corner of 7th and 27th and it was the best salad I'd ever had. It was so, so good and it's so, so close to FIT, so if you're in the area and like a bit of rabbit food, go check that place out.

I also spent a few of my lunches with friends I'd made from class which was such a fun time, too. This might sound really lame, but there's something so thrilling about being in a big ass city like New York and to be on your own without anyone hovering over you. It's just really nice. I mean, I get to wander around my city all the time, but it's definitely not the same as New York, not in the slightest.

A photo posted by Juliana (@stylegeneris) on

I went to Whole Foods one lunch and had this interesting sushi with this dark-coloured rice that was quite interesting. The next, we went to Cafe Benne and had portbello mushroom sandwiches. I know, I know, sounds kind of lame but it was really delicious. Can we also talk about the cozy decor in that place? Gosh, I would've stayed there forever if I didn't have to go back to class.

Anyway, after lunch, you just power through a lot more work until you're let out at 4:30. That's basically a typical day in the life of a FIT workshop kid.

first impressions

When you go to a fashion school for a workshop, even if it's in high school you know that you have to up your game when it comes to your outfits. I definitely put a lot of effort into styling my outfits for this whole trip, but nothing prepared me for how intimidating it felt to step through those doors and see all these girls dressed to the nines in designer duds and perfectly made-up faces.

It definitely wasn't a warm and fuzzy first welcome, but after we got to know each other, it was a lot better and I felt like I was surrounded by like-minded people. It's no secret that people who live in New York are rich and the people who live close to it and are thinking about sending their kids to schools in New York are pretty darn well-off as well. There's the odd case (like me) who has parents that don't make quite enough to be staying at the Ritz or the Waldorf for a week or more.

That being said and with all the things that I knew about the city before going into the workshop, I was still pretty shocked by the luxuries. I realise that one's personality isn't reflected in the Cartier watch they might be wearing, but if you're planning to take a class at FIT and you're not from around the area, keep in mind that a lot of these kids are loaded. I didn't judge anyone based on that, but what I'm trying to say is that it was kind of a shock.

I think that if you know what you're getting yourself into before heading into it, you'll be more prepared than I was and won't magically become mute in a situation that begs you to take leadership and well, talk. Something came over me during those four days. It was like there was this spell cast over me where I was in awe and intimidated and all that to a point where I crawled back into the little shell that I'd worked so hard to get out of and was immediately this extremely shy kid. The spell kind of lifted halfway through the third day and on the fourth day, but it was definitely a situation that I wasn't prepared for.

I guess that's probably something pretty normal to happen when you're thrown into an environment that you've never encountered before with completely new people that you're not used to being around. One major thing that this experience has taught me is the importance of speaking up and being unafraid to do so in social situations. I think it's also really important to constantly put yourself in situations where you're not in your comfortable so you can get better at tackling them.

day 1 & 2

My first two days were with a stylist with her own showroom where she lets other stylists rent clothing for their shoots. I'm not too sure if I'm supposed to mention professors' names, so I'm just not going to mention it to be safe. The thing about styling is that there's no formal education for it and there are so many different majors that could lead to styling, so in a workshop scenario, it's essential to soak up whatever tidbits the instructors give you so you can get a better sense of the styling world. Renate talked a lot about her own experiences and shared her past work as a stylist so that we don't make the same mistakes as she did.

On the first day, we had to make a mood board for an event that our chose celebrity client is going to. That was just done on white bristol board with pages that we'd ripped out of magazines that we'd brought. Then, we had to create four looks for that event and present them to the class the next day (that was the homework). We also had to create a magazine concept and do a whole shoot that would fit in that magazine. We had the first day to plan it all out with our groups and then we had to shoot, edit, and put together the spread all the next day. To say it was a tight squeeze would be an understatement, but it was good to see how hectic it can get in a typical stylist's world. Here's a peek at our magazine if you guys are at all interested.

day 3 & 4

Days 3 and 4 were spent with the funniest teacher in my life. He has a very sarcastic sense of humour that you're kind of shocked by at first because he is so candid, but you get to appreciate it later on. He's also been working in the industry for a really long time and does all of Macy's windows amongst heaps of other really cool stuff.

Anyway, for those two days, we switched up the groups and made another mood board, however this time, it was for an accessory shoot (handbag or shoes). We had to come up with this whole story and again, had to make another magazine concept that the two photos (one still life of the accessory and props and one shot on the model) would fit in.

We came up with the idea that it could be a lesbian wedding or an androgynous bride and the bride might be wearing these loafers. We had a lot of pinks going on in our mood board, but also a lot of masculine and streamlined silhouettes, so we decided to combine the two and it's something that I'm pretty proud of.

On the last day, Glenn also talked a lot about trend forecasting and it was something that I didn't expect to find so fascinating. I mean, obviously, I knew that I would be interested, but not that interested. I went into this workshop thinking that I had it all planned out - that I'd hopefully make it into the Fashion Design program at FIT and then go into Fabric Styling after getting my Associate's degree, then become a stylist. But after the workshop, I'm starting to consider other routes too like trend forecasting or maybe even product development, who knows?

what i took away

Overall, the workshop was an incredible experience that was pretty life-changing and eye-opening. If you're interested in pursuing fashion and live a 10-hour drive radius away from New York, you should definitely consider taking this workshop. You just get to learn a lot about the industry that you're planning on working in in the future and it's good to be immersed in it, even if it's just for a few days before applying to college or uni. It really opened my eyes to that world, how tough it can be, helped me refuel my fire, and opened me up to new ideas and opportunities that I wouldn't have gotten if I hadn't taken this workshop.

It might say "workshop" and it might only be for four days, but it's an amazing opportunity that's there for you to seize, so if the wallet (and the parents!) allow it, go for it. Being in high school and doing something like this is not only freaking cool - it's incredibly useful, too. It's never too late to change your mind, but it's also never too early to get a head start on something that you're passionate about.

Have you ever taken a workshop like this before? If so, which one? What did you take away from it? Share your story below in a comment and I'll be sure to answer.

Thank you so much for reading!
- J

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