Greensburg artist transforms into clothing designer
Haley Chopich wanted to be involved in the arts ever since she was a little girl.
But until she took a class in the Greensburg Salem School District a few years ago, she was uncertain about where to use her talents.
For a middle school course, Chopich formed a pretend company, designed a logo, set up a business plan and made T-shirts decorated with a withered rose.
She discovered she wanted to used her skills designing clothing.
“It kind of all came together,” said Chopich, 22. “Fashion was a way to profit off of art and not be a starving artist.
“It really went, somehow, from a T-shirt to, “I want to know about fashion,'” she added.
Last month, she graduated from the internationally known Parsons The New School for Design in New York City.
The fashion school in Manhattan has become better known through the Lifetime TV show “Project Runway,” which had been filmed at the school. Tim Gunn, who appears on the show and a Los Angeles spin-off, “Project Runway: Under the Gunn,” formerly served as an associate dean and chairman of fashion at Parsons.
“It's a great show to show the creative process,” Chopich said. “But it gives the viewers the idea that all fashion results from (one designer's efforts). Fashion is a team process.”
Chopich applied to the fashion school after graduating in 2010 from Greensburg Salem, where she designed garments for her senior project. To graduate, Greensburg Salem 12th-graders must do a senior project focused on their career ambitions.
“I did a mini-collection of five looks, and I took all the photos myself,” Chopich recalled. “I sewed all the garments myself at Greensburg Salem.”
Fellow students modeled her designs.
For her admission application to Parsons, she forwarded her grades, a list of her extracurricular activities and other information typically sent by students with post-high school education ambitions.
In addition, she turned in images of her artwork, including a landscape painted in watercolors.
“It's really good to show the best work you have, but also to show a range,” she said.
For her senior thesis at Parsons, Chopich used an X-ray of a stingray as the inspiration for seven garments. She used such materials as leather, neoprene, bonded nylon foam and mesh in the collection.
She started laughing as she showed a picture of herself, at 5 feet tall, standing next to the 6-foot-tall model who strutted Chopich's thesis collection down the runway.
Chopich graduated from the fashion school on May 21. Earlier in the day she interviewed for a job with The Gap, an American clothing and accessories retailer based in New York.
As she waited to walk forward to receive her Parsons diploma that afternoon, Chopich got a call on her cellphone.
“I was sitting there, and I recognized the New York area code,” she said.
Chopich answered her phone, had some trouble hearing the caller, then learned the person was with The Gap's human resources department. The company wanted to hire her as an assistant technical designer.
“It was like, ‘Oh, my goodness,'” Chopich said. “I was like in a state of happy shock.”
Chopich returned to New York on Monday, after a short visit with her family in Greensburg, to begin working as part of a team creating clothing for The Gap.
“I love New York,” she said. “I absolutely love it.”
Chopich doubts a fashion line will one day bear her name. She explained that starting such an endeavor takes a lot of money and she likes being part of a fashion team.
Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6622 or firstname.lastname@example.org.