The Art Institute of Philadelphia offers degree programs in design, media arts and culinary arts, but it’s the fashion program that makes the school a powerhouse in the fashion industry.
Current student Imani Ligon has had internships with designers like Oscar de la Renta and Anna Sui thanks to the help of one of her teachers.
“Since it’s a smaller school and a smaller program, it’s easier for the teachers to recognize you and help you grow as a designer,” said Ligon.
Faculty members work very closely with the students so that they can achieve their dreams. Holly Dougherty is the career services advisor for fashion programs at The Art Institute and part of her job is to assist upcoming graduates in getting entry-level jobs.
“We’ve had alumni work in major fashion houses here in Philadelphia and in New York,” said Dougherty. “We’ve also had some go on to have their own fashion lines. They’ve all been extremely successful.”
Once students graduate and begin their careers in whatever field they choose, The Art Institute continues to have a relationship with them. The school tries to puts together an alumni panel for current students once a year.
“The panel allows our students to hear how alumni have utilized their degree in various ways,” said Dougherty, “whether it’s going out and working within the field or starting their own business.”
The continuous communication with alumni and current students is just one of the many things that separate this school as a fashion organization from other schools according to Ligon. The school works hard to support their students and make sure that they are successful come graduation.
Ligon believed that this relationship with the teachers was extremely important because of the large workload students have throughout the year. The school works based on a quarter system which means more work in a less amount of time.
“Most schools do not work in the quarter system,” said Ligon. “We only get 10 weeks and we have to show our projects by the 11th week. Imagine doing that when you have five other projects you’re working on for five different classes. It’s very intense and we get half the amount of time than most schools get.”
By working in a fast-paced environment, students are fully prepared to work in the real world. Students must find a balance between the different assignments for every class they have.
Each fashion design class at The Art Institute has different requirements and it’s up to the students to meet the demands using their knowledge and from previous courses. The collection development class, which students take when they are close to graduation, requires that they make five articles of clothing and three looks. This class builds on the preceding class which only requires three articles of clothing and two looks.
“It’s double the work in the same amount of time,” said Kai Mickens, a current student at The Art Institute.
However, for Mickens, attending The Art Institute is a dream come true so she has no problem working as hard as she can to get her projects done. Regardless of the workload, she uses any little amount of time she has to complete her collection, which at the moment was Asian based featuring Japanese and Chinese style dresses and jackets.
“If you’re as tedious as me, it can take a while,” said Mickens. “I go home after work and I sew. Then, I come to school and I sew and in between both I sew.”
Ligon agreed that although the workload was heavy and can take students a while to finish, it’s not hard to accomplish it with the right mindset. She believed that with the help of the teachers, time management and focus your work could come out good.
“Everyday is a struggle,” said Ligon with a laugh. “It’s not hard. Anybody can do this but it takes someone who really wants to do it, to do well.”
Ligon and Mickens both think that if anyone wanted to pursue a career in fashion, The Art Institute was the school to go to. The work encourages dedication and the faculty members at the school provide the tools needed to make dreams realities.
“This is a career school,” said Ligon. “This school is going to help you get a career. That’s their job.”
– Texts, images and video by Rasmiyyah Hargust and Alexis Byrd.