These high school students are learning about the fashion industry from every angle


Emily Walpole, a rising junior at Apex Friendship High School, has already learned about the history of fashion and basics of sewing. Dawn Harrison

Remember the old days, when the closest high school kids got to fashion design was learning to sew a button in home economics class?

Students at Apex Friendship High School are learning to sew buttons – and design clothing, construct garments and run a fashion show – in the school’s fashion curriculum. The program kicked off last year, when the school opened, with two levels of fashion courses that offer training in design, construction, marketing, merchandising and event planning, among other avenues. A third course will be added this coming school year.Image result for Emily Walpole, a rising junior at Apex Friendship High School, has already learned about the history of fashion and basics of sewing. Dawn Harrison

“This is definitely a cutting-edge curriculum,” says Dawn Harrison, apparel and textile fashion educator at Apex Friendship. “It’s taking the kids on an industry-based approach – we’re focusing more on the industry. They’ll learn all about the industry, but they’ll also learn life skills like how to hem pants and sew on a button.”

The curriculum goes much deeper than just designing clothes. Harrison incorporates skills from multiple disciplines – from art to science – to show her students the diversity of career paths in the fashion industry.

“We’re not just teaching kids how to be a fashion designer,” she says. “They’re also learning the importance of science to be a chemist to create new textiles or how to be a stylist or fashion photographer – there are many avenues in fashion.”

Students in the classes get hands-on experience, be it designing and creating a fashion collection or even producing their own fashion show, as they did this past spring.

“It was very interesting to see how (a fashion show) actually happens in real life,” says Emily Walpole, a rising junior. “I’ve always been interested in fashion; since I was 10 I would sit down in September and February and watch New York Fashion Week shows streaming on their website. To be behind the scenes – seeing the models going on the runway, doing hair and makeup, making goodie bags and bringing it all together – has been great.”

For fashion-loving students like Walpole, the class teaches the tools needed to turn this passion into a career.

“I got to learn the basics of sewing, and I learned the history of fashion,” she says. “You also really get to see what your future might look like. And it builds your portfolio and gives you the skills to create things at home.”

As the program grows, Harrison hopes to incorporate more technology, such as 3-D printing and the use of electronic elements in garments. She also hopes the class will spark an interest in her students in preserving and reviving the textile heritage of their state.

“Our whole goal is to bring awareness and fashion to this area,” she says. “We want to be a part of that textile revival and get young people involved. We can revive this in North Carolina.”

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