California State University, Long Beach
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27th Annual Fashion Show Showcases Student Work

Published: May 1, 2015

In Tawny Sherrill’s opinion, the fashion merchandising and design major is one of the most labor intensive programs at CSULB and she wants to make certain prospective students know that.

“Many students think that fashion design is easy and that it’s all about pretty clothes,” said Sherrill, a lecturer in Family and Consumer Sciences’ (FCS) Fashion Merchandising and Design program. “When they find out how much work is involved, the ones with a real passion for it are the ones who stick. The others find another aspect of the industry to pursue.”

On Friday, May 8, beginning at 7 p.m., those who remained in the program will showcase their efforts at the 27th Annual Campus Couture Fashion Show at the Carpenter Center.

Twenty-one seniors in the program will display collections they have been working on throughout the year—six garments from coursework and up to an additional four freestyle pieces. In addition, 23 juniors will have the chance to showcase one design.

Seniors are asked to put together a cohesive collection so when garments appear on the runway they look like they all have a common thought process or aesthetic behind them.

“The key point of the fashion show is to represent what we do here,” said Sherrill, whose been at CSULB for nearly 20 years and involved with the show to some degree for the last 15. “My goal is to get them to construct really great garments they can be proud of. I’m like the gatekeeper and if it’s not up to standards they are not allowed to trot just any old thing out there. This year, I’ve seen more students doing more thoughtful, more subdued garments that are more along the lines of wearable, but fashionable. They’re more along the lines of high fashion without being garish and over-the-top.”

When students come into class with sketches of what they intend to do, it’s her job is to help them construct the garment as well as possible.

“The key is that they learn the skills and that they understand how to translate their idea to an actual functioning garment,” said Sherrill. “The idea is that when they go out into the working world they come with the skills that help understand what’s required of a functional, marketable garment.”

One student who did just that was Walter Mendez, who graduated from CSULB in 2013 and has already launched a highly successful career.

“The program really gave me the skills I needed to properly execute my vision,” said Mendez. “As a designer I had ideas, I had concepts, but the program really taught me the right skills I needed to execute. They taught me what it meant to construct a garment and they taught what it meant to present it in the best way possible.

“The fashion show was an individual turning point for me,” added Mendez. “I realized all these school projects were to propel me to the next step. Where I am today I envisioned being three to five years from now, but I’ve been very blessed to get a jump start on where I want to be. I’d like to have all the students in the program know that fashion and life is what you make of it and the more you give it the more you get back.”

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PHOTO BY SHAYNE SCHROEDER
Tawny Sherrill

“The fashion show opened the door to LA Fashion Week for him (Mendez) since he got to meet and work with Mikey Koffman, who produces one of the important fashion shows for that week,” said Fashion Merchandising and Design program director Suzanne Marshall, who oversees the CSULB show and handles almost everything the day of the event. “Walter worked on his business the whole time he was here. He just was mentioned in US Weekly since Jennifer Lopez was wearing one of his garments so we’re very proud of him and the fact that what he learned in our program had something to do with his success.”

And while Mendez has seen his success in the realm of high-end garments, the sector referred to as “fast fashion” has garnered a large share of the super quick-moving, trendy apparel industry for some time, though things may be moving away from such for a number of reasons, according to Sherrill.

“‘Fast fashion’ came in with the cheaper goods we get from China,” she said. “You have companies that are continually able to produce pieces for less and less. When people buy these clothes, they don’t expect them to last and then they move on to something else. There not even well made enough to pass along.

“One of the things I’m seeing from young people, and it surprises me and I am thrilled to see it, is that they are actually willing to pay a little more if something is made in America,” she added. “And they are a little more interested in better quality things, fewer pieces, so that’s really reassuring to me.”