AMPD and VCT students partner to deliver authentic community materials

by Kandace York
 
When Mariana Mitova started a new fashion styling class this semester, her goals stretched beyond the typical program description.
 
“I really wanted students to get a real-life experience,” Mitova said. She coordinates the University’s apparel merchandise and product design program, which was just named among the nation’s top 50.
 

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Photo by Linda Peralez

Mitova already knew that fashion styling is a fast-growing profession. Although that may be a new term for those outside the fashion world, it is well-known within the field that fashion stylists select clothing and accessories to create a clear “look” for advertising campaigns, music videos, concerts and more. Often fashion stylists work as part of a larger creative team, partnering with fashion designers, photographers and makeup artists.
 
It was that piece – working as part of a larger creative team – that she wanted to incorporate into her class. She networked in the community to set up “contracts” with four local businesses to be her students’ clients. They included Eden Fashion Boutique, Ragazza Boutique, Bowinkles Boutique, Grace Place Recovery Center and Clothes Mentor.
 
Utilizing community businesses offered something that the more common class projects could not. “The fashion industry is agile and dynamic, and at the same time it is complex,” she explained. “No two businesses are the same, and no two projects are the same. This is something we could not have accomplished as a traditional class project.”

To further provide a real-life experience, Mitova consulted a professional celebrity stylist, Sara Paulsen, who is also an alumna of the AMPD program. Even after that professional counsel and the businesses to work with her students, though, she still needed a creative team to develop those fashion skills into finished promotional materials.
 
Meanwhile, a few buildings away from the fashion classrooms and labs in the Eppler complex, Jeff Hall was working with his visual communication technology students and wishing that he had a hands-on project so they could apply their skills to “real-life” materials.
 

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Photo by Zandra Vassar

“I’d always thought it would be interesting to have my students partner with another class,” he said. “We were already working on commercial photography, but we hadn’t done any fashion photography, which was something I thought would help round out their portfolios.”
 
Jerry Schnepp in the University’s Collab Lab brought Hall and Mitova together. What resulted was a “look book” for each community client to showcase their offerings – made possible through the combined efforts of both classes.
 
Mitova’s students analyzed each client’s brand so they could convey that with models, clothing and accessories. Hall’s students set up photo shoots – one in BGSU’s studio, one at the clients’ locations and one outdoors – and provided post-production editing, along with layout and design of the printed materials.
 
“By the time students get to my class, they’ve already had two or three co-op experiences, which was a big help,” Hall said, “because they already knew about meetings and deadlines. But this was a chance for them to take their communication skills to the next level; they had to communicate well with their own classmates, plus the boutique contacts and the AMPD students.”
 
The resulting look books are now complete, bringing together two groups of students that would not typically interact, while enabling them to provide tangible materials for community good.
 
“All the students did good work and learned a substantial amount this semester,” Hall said. “Although individually they may have just one ‘little segment’ of a project, they see now how it all comes together to make something much bigger.”