Fashion Show Highlights Fashion & Textiles

February 1, 2016

Students Fashion Greenfield Wardrobes

Who is a “typical” Greenfield resident?

What would that person wear to express a Greenfield “aesthetic”?

Those questions were answered by students in an intensive January session GCC course on Fundamentals of Fashion & Textiles taught by GCC Business & Information Technology Department Co-Chair Thom Simmons as they prepared their final course project. In a January 22 fashion show, the students presented the clothing line they developed. The five students, teen-aged to middle-aged, had a budget of $300 to assemble outfits that met this aesthetic. They relied on second-hand shops and complemented full outfits with accessories such as hats, scarves, belts, and handbags. After the show all fashions were donated to the GCC Women’s Resource Center.

The students learned there’s more to the fashion and textile industry than shopping for clothes. The course covered the history and characteristics of the fashion, apparel, and textile industries and the textile production process from design concept through retail sales for apparel, home furnishings, industrial fabric, and geotextiles.

The students also experienced the nitty-gritty details of planning and staging a fashion show. GCC Librarian Eric Poulin helped them conduct research to develop the ‘profile’ of the ‘typical’ Greenfield resident: a married woman with a child, age 45-54, homeowner, household income substantially lower than the state ($48,000), concerned with her health and the environment, frequents local business, arts and antiquing opportunities, and attends local music events.

Using this profile, they developed an “aesthetic” – a designer’s point of view – for a clothing line. They chose comfortable clothing, heavy in earth tones, natural fibers and textures, for a variety of activities, including Date Night Out, exercise, working, and casual shopping. They chose a location, a runway design, and worked with GCC’s Facilities and Educational Technology departments and Fitz-Vogt dining services to design changing rooms, chair and table arrangements, a runway backdrop, musical accompaniment, and beverages. They recruited models and gave them a crash course in how to walk the runway. At the fashion show, they displayed “Mood Boards,” personal projects reflecting their personal aesthetics.

Who took the course?

The students, some studying toward degrees and some taking the non-credit option, included a 19-year old student who plans to attend Fashion Institute of Technology as a designer, a business student interested in the business aspects of fashion, an Art and Sociology major concerned with the sociological aspects of fashion, a middle-aged man seeking to launch a line of men’s clothing in western Massachusetts, and a retired GCC employee who is considering turning her craft into a business.

What was it like to take the course?

Simson Musante, 19, from Hatfield is studying toward a Business Administration Transfer degree at GCC. He works part-time as a retail clerk and after graduation plans a career in finance or economics and eventually to be self-employed as an entrepreneur. Simson said, “The fashion course was wonderful, small, Thomas was engaging, and there were interesting individual and group projects. I really enjoyed hearing a local business owner who sells fair trade alpaca clothing talk to us about her business and the challenges/thoughts she’s faced. The best part of the class was the fashion show, collaborating and planning for a common cause. To see everyone’s ideas and research come to life in the models walking down the runway was really something special. If you’re interested in where clothes come from, how the fashion world works, and why it works (financially and historically), you should take this class.”

Gail Tease from Greenfield is in her 50s and a recently retired GCC employee. Gail said, “Since I have loved sewing all of my life I was excited to learn about textile production and the business side of the textile and fashion industry. The class was a great blend of business concepts and opportunities to be very creative. Thom drew on his broad experience in both business and fashion and I could sense his enthusiasm. The class members were very diverse in age and reasons for enrolling, but we gelled as a team to pull off the fashion show under a tight budget and timeline. I am proud of what we did. It was so much fun and our volunteer models were great sports. My message to everyone in our community: Read the GCC course catalog thoroughly – there are some very unique and interesting offerings, and you are never too old.”

How does this course fit into the larger world of fashion?

Simmons said, “The American clothing industry has been decimated in recent decades, and with it, we have lost many mills and garment construction workplaces. However, there is a resurgent niche industry for “American-made” clothing, natural fibers and dyes, locally-made products, and other small businesses. We are seeing this revival right here in the Pioneer Valley, and this course and these students are positioned at the very beginning of this resurgence.”

By Mary McClintock, ’82

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