Many professional photographers say the best shots they get are in their backyard. And sometimes there are gems in our back yard that they don’t even know about. One of those is in a small town just north of Oklahoma City. I got acquainted with this jewel about 7 or years ago when asked to judge their clothes for the spring style show, which was like their final exam for the classes. Each student must put on a show – with a collection of clothes, having them all designed and ready to show for the event. I was introduced to the school through one of the profs up there who I immediately noticed had light behind her eyes. The first thought that went through my mind was “I would have sold everything to have had a prof like her when I was in college!” At the time I went to college, sewing, and making clothes were consider a disease – like an STD! Not only did you not want to even talk about sewing, but it might be contagious, so you had to emphatically say, you had no idea how to do that and didn’t even consider doing it. I sorta sat on the outskirts thinking, “But what happens if that’s what you want to learn because that’s what you want to do with your life?” Well, at the time that didn’t matter – it was still a contagious disease.
Today not so much – it’s taken a while to get here, but things do come full circle – and in my own backyard no less. What’s even more fun, is that this school is now getting all the kudos it deserves. The profs who have light behind their eyes at this school have turned out the most spectacular students who are at work and enjoying their jobs in their field of study. Field of study like – teaching flat-pattern design in Paris; working in ateliers in Japan; working for designers in their workrooms in the US. This doesn’t happen overnight, and it doesn’t happen by a rote drill. It’s happening because the school works hard to make sure the students learn all that they need – and often they pull in people from the real world who are out there designing clothes and working as designers to help the students. The profs and staff work diligently on educating not only the skills required to do the jobs in the design world, but also train them on how to get those jobs and work hard to place their students in primo positions.
What’s even more fun is that they have a new building with incredibly advanced design equipment for designing, and plotting out patterns all digitally so that these students graduate with the latest knowledge of their field of study, putting them at a clear advantage in the design business. If you don’t know how this equipment works, it’s not only hard to get a job, but it’s harder to learn on the job.
What’s really fun for me is that I sometimes get to bring my work and get to work in these beautifully-lit rooms along with these creative younger minds. It’s so much fun to see what’s on their mind and what’s happening with them, where their minds are leaning and like being on the cutting edge of fashion. It is so much fun to work in this room with all the bright light and room in the studio. Actually, these machines are at one end of the room with the other half of the room with tables and studio height because the studio is so large!
All of this within a smaller campus that promotes camaraderie within a safe place to learn. Students here get to work on their field of study without distractions that other campuses may have and with the same fervor and many times more than what you would see at a school in a more populous area. With social media and the interwoven aspects of the internet, being in one certain location anymore isn’t as paramount as it used to be.
Apparently I’m not the only one who thinks this, as The Design Housing and Merchandising School at Oklahoma State University has earned accolades. This is not surprising to me as I see almost every aspect of the school, and what so impresses me more than anything else is how the professors and teachers all are not only committed to seeing their students learn the most and the best information they can, but the encouragement and support that these profs give their students. As I said before, I would have paid anything to have gone to a school like this! But at least now I can make sure that this sort of school can continue to excel and offer the best education to future designers and makers of fashion.
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