It was just the first week, but the fashion design students already had hands on deck.
Eyes were fixated upon laptops with illustrations. Designs on paper filled tables, adorned with swatches of fabrics that students were constantly mixing and matching. Amongst the puncturing noises of sewing and the occasional typing, the room is almost devoid of social butterfly chatter, instead replaced with the type of murmur typical in office cubicles. In other words, it was crunch time.
On Friday, the more advanced fashion students arrived on their first day back at 9 a.m., but were prepared to work until 4:10. It’s no EMT course, but to hit the ground running with a major deadline takes a lot of discipline.
“Sometimes I feel like I don’t have enough time to do everything I’d want,” said fashion major Thalia Prado of her prior fashion classes.
“Time goes by really fast,” added Colleen Poteet, a fashion instructor at PCC. “It doesn’t feel like six hours when you’re having fun.”
The connected R416-R418 classrooms host Fashion 130, a fashion workshop class headed by Sunny Cannon, fashion instructor and co-chair of the Fashion Department. The workshop helps students expand their portfolios by pushing them to create their own fashion line. It’s a creative free-for-all that calls for each student to design and produce three different looks by the end of the 16-week course.
“The design process had to be drawn already,” said Prado. “We basically came ready to work.”
At the end of the semester, the students are able to keep their own projects, many of which become a stepping-stone portfolio maker into the real world.
“We’re making it all for the picture,” joked Prado, to which Lauren Ward, also a fashion major, quickly chimes, “and for the instruction.”
Most recently, PGM-Pro Inc., a manufacturing company based in Baldwin Park, donated 24 dress forms to the school. For those unacquainted with the tools of the trade, in the fashion world, the dress form is the canvas of the artist. It’s a three-dimensional model of a torso that students will use as their own personal models.
The company has an educational program that supports local schools by donating a dress form if schools apply.
“I kept telling myself that I needed to apply, but something always came up,” said Cannon. “We got so busy.”
According to Hollie Luttrell, also co-chair of the Fashion Department, PGM-Pro was still seeking applicants, which ultimately led to Cannon finally applying to the educational sponsorship program.
“I told them, ‘this is what we have,’” Cannon said as she pointed at a torn dress form from 1994. “We’re very grateful.”
A look at the old dress forms shows that her approach was too humble. The back of R416, for instance, holds a graveyard of broken dress forms from years gone by. Prior to the donation, students were also sharing models dating back in the 60s. Because of that, the wear and tear was beginning to show as the fabrics on the dress forms were starting to peel off. Collapsible shoulders, a feature common in dress forms, wouldn’t budge either.
Some former fashion students were inspired to take action.
“One term, several exceptional students were awarded surprise scholarships,” said Cannon. “These students were so grateful that they decided to pool some of their scholarship money together and do some additional fund raising to purchase and donate new industrial irons to the department to replace broken equipment.”
The average dress form will run at almost $400, Lutrell said. Models with legs, however, are a little pricier at $800 to $900. And with budget cuts being a recurring theme in almost every community college, Cannon jumped at the chance for even just three dress forms. Ultimately, 24 new PGM-Pro dress forms with a collective value of about $10,000 were loaded into a truck and shipped to PCC.
“PCC’s fashion design department is very well known,” said Andrea Quintana of PGM-Pro. “It’s a very good department with a good student base. We wanted to help broaden it.”
According to Cannon, the dress forms are already being put to good used not only for the fashion workshop, but for draping, pattern making, fashion design, and sometimes even illustration courses.
“There are enough new dress forms for everyone to use in each class,” said Cannon. “Students often come in on their own time to finish their projects. With the new dress form donation, there are more than enough forms for students to work independently without disrupting the class.”
“It’s difficult nowadays with the economy and budget cuts,” said Quintana. “If we’re able to provide help, we do our best as a company to provide what we can.”
Ironically, PGM-Pro was excited about PCC applying for the sponsorship program – so much, that they moved their application from the educational sponsorship program, which provides up to three dress forms, to the “give back” program, which offers more.
“By them applying and accepting [the dress forms], it not only helps us, but it helps the fashion industry,” said Quintana. “I’ve been trying, and trying, and trying, to get PCC to join, and was surprised that finally Sunny had applied.”
With fashion workshop being the capstone class which meshes all other fashion classes together, students are letting their creativity know no boundaries.
By noon, the class had turned into a budding community. They discussed their different projects over lunch. Ward, for instance, is putting together a line of historical costumes. Loucine Tahmasian was aiming for eveningwear, emphasizing dresses, pencil skirts, and jackets. Ruben Guzman had already figured out the colors and materials for his line inspired from New York fashion, while Leslie Galvan was planning for the contemporary red carpet-ready design.
“I was inspired by the riot girl look but I didn’t want it to be so obvious it was punk,” Prado shared about her line of contemporary, punk music inspired clothing. “I designed it as if the punk girl had to grow up.”
“So, like, she’s growing up from Hot Topic?” Guzman asked her.
“No, my girl is not a Hot Topic girl,” Prado replied. “She was a thrift store shopper. She’s a DIY girl.”