Fashion clubs study style at Pittsburgh high schools

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
| Thursday, May 22, 2014, 8:55 p.m.

There are associations where members will definitely talk about what you are wearing.

In fact, it's encouraged.

High-school clubs are favorable ventures for students interested in a style-centered career in a variety of ways, says Stephanie Taylor, department chair of fashion marketing and management and fashion design at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh, Downtown.

“It encourages fashionistas to focus on career paths that pique their interest in the fashion industry before entering college,” Taylor says. “Being around other students who have the same passion is motivating and stimulating. And in addition to learning leadership skills, students also learn to be team players.

In local fashion clubs, students are producing runway shows, designing fashion and making clothes. They host members of Pittsburgh's fashion business community as speakers to discuss the financial side of fashion, along with models and stylists to offer a hands-on approach of what to wear and how to showcase an outfit.

“Fashion clubs and fashion events are a wonderful way to connect with aspiring designers and fashion artisans — to stay abreast with current trends, fashion business, analysts — all the while working on creativity of design and fashion presentations,” says Miyoshi Anderson, executive director of Pittsburgh Fashion Week, who met with the North Allegheny High School club to show them how to “walk” the runway.

“By connecting with those established in the industry, one can be more than prepared to create, network and run a business,” she says.

Students get to show off their creativity through the fashion club, says Diane Senkoski, an adviser with Kathy Higginbotham and Caroline Huber at North Allegheny's 5-year-old club. The club has included members from other schools, such as Pine-Richland, Vincentian and Hampton.

“The students turn their visions into reality,” Senkoski says. “They create a fashion show from start to finish, including the theme, the stage design, the music, the entertainment and promotions. It's enjoyable to watch their creativity in fashion.”

Students lead the meetings and come up with the topics.

North Allegheny had members create pieces that fit into a fairy-tale theme for their March fashion show, which drew 300 people. The fashion show was for charity — to benefit Treasure House Fashions, a boutique that helps women in crisis.

“It's a way to help someone who has had bad times,” says senior Tanvi Kulkarni, who modeled in the show.

Fellow senior Brianna Dela Torre created the outfit Kulkarni wore. “Fashion is art,” Kulkarni says. “We are friends, so it really helped to talk to one another about the outfit and to see it being made.”

Kulkarni says her personal style is based around comfort. “Fashion is about the freedom to wear what you want,” she says, “and not about just following trends.”

Members of the Mt. Lebanon club teamed with Luca Paganico, founder and president of Paganico Designs, a commercial and residential design firm, to create a fashionable workroom at the high school. Paganico, who grew up in Pittsburgh, has been a contestant on HGTV's “Design Star.”

“You need a creative environment to be creative in,” says Fallon King, a senior and co-president and co-founder of the fashion club. “Fashion is about inspiration.”

The club has hosted fashion speakers such as Susan McGalla, a former president from American Eagle. Members participated in DIY projects, such as making headbands and necklaces. Ideas for meetings come from Pinterest, they say.

“With this club, we have tried to get as many opportunities and experiences as we can with people in the industry,” King says. “It's about getting your foot in the door. We hope it continues to thrive. We feel we set a solid foundation. We wish we would have had a fashion club since our freshman year.”

Next year, Mt. Lebanon juniors Anastasia Slavkovic and Zoe Tsamitis will be co-presidents. Slavkovic designed garments for the Youth Invasion fashion show at the Andy Warhol Museum in May. She says it was fun to meet students from other schools who share a passion for fashion.

“Every school should have a fashion club,” Tsamitis says.

Sharon Silver, the club's adviser, agrees.

“This club is a great way to educate the students that there are a lot of careers within the fashion industry,” Silver says. “And designing clothes is only part of it. It helps them explore other areas of the fashion industry. It also offers leadership opportunities. They get to learn about everything from the construction of a design to the business side of fashion.”

At The Ellis School, Liliane Kelly, Kate and Allie Foster and Brittany Ellis are members of the Nordstrom Fashion Board, as well as members of the school fashion club.

“Fashion isn't vain,” says Kelly, a senior from Forest Hills. “It's a way to present yourself.”

Adding an accessory such as a scarf is one way to express your fashion personality, says Allie Foster, a junior at Ellis from Marshall.

“I love scarves and wear them all year long,” Foster says. “They add a little color to an outfit. Fashion is who you are. It reflects who you are. It's an avenue of expression.”

Her younger sister Kate is a freshman. She says fashion imitates art and she enjoys perusing fashion magazines and books for inspiration. Fashion models are also interesting to read and learn about, Kate Foster says.

Ellis, a junior from Edgewood, is a fan of Vogue's Diana Vreeland. She was one of three high-school students across the country selected to be a blogger for Nordstrom.

“Fashion is so much fun,” Ellis says. “It's fun to find out about the history of a garment, such as where it comes from and how it is made.

“There is a difference between high fashion and what you actually wear,” she says. “I love to read fashion books, and I am always open to learning about fashion.”

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at or 412-320-7889.

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