Yvonne Marquette | 4/19/2005 10:28:36 PM
LSU AgCenter 4-H Fashion Board members and the winners of this year’s state 4-H U Fashion Revue enjoyed an educational trip unlike any their predecessors had. They traveled to the birthplace of the American fashion industry, New York, led by Yvonne Marquette, LSU AgCenter state coordinator of the 4-H Textile and Apparel program.
Past excursions normally included Dallas or New Orleans. But this year, Marquette, a veteran New York field-study instructor for LSU college students, chose the Big Apple.
Sara Taylor, fashion board member from Cameron Parish, kept a journal of the trip for the 15 young women and seven adults. The historic journey began Saturday, July 24, when the group boarded a Jet Blue airplane in New Orleans, headed to Kennedy International Airport in Queens and arrived "right smack" in the middle of Manhattan by chartered bus for the start of a "fantastic" six-day program filled with fashion industry appointments, sightseeing, cultural enrichment and "the opportunity for board members to bond."
Taylor said sightseeing was a definite highlight of the trip. The group stayed at Hotel Edison, one block from Times Square, in the heart of the Theatre District, and within walking distance of Rockefeller Center.
"This part of the city is a bevy of non-stop activity and dizzying visual stimulation," Taylor said, adding, "The sea of taxis, gridlock traffic, massive billboards, brilliant neon signs and diverse mix of real New Yorkers and visitors from all over the world contributed to an indescribable energy that kept the group going even when exhausted by the fast pace of the city, speed of the subways and miles of walking."
Sunday morning started with a boat trip around Manhattan. From this perspective the group saw a wealth of historical landmarks, including the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, the Empire State Building, the United Nations, the Brooklyn Bridge and Yankee Stadium. A walking tour of Chinatown, Little Italy and Soho exposed the group to rich ethnic heritages, bargain shopping and upscale retailing.
"By Sunday night, the group was well indoctrinated into city life and ready for their exciting assortment of business appointments starting Monday," Taylor said.
The first industry appointment Marquette arranged for the group was with Cotton Incorporated, a non-profit trade association that performs research and promotes the use of domestic cotton.
"This visit, which included a look at spring ‘05 trends, covered how Cotton Inc. forecasts color, fabric and style directions for its member clients, mainly large companies who request fabric samples, design consultation and technical information for creating apparel collections," Marquette explained. She said the group also learned about Cotton Inc.’s marketing strategies to increase awareness and demand for cotton.
The next stop was Fairchild Publications, the company that publishes popular consumer magazines like "Jane," "Brides" and "W," as well as a host of fashion industry trade publications.
Lynda Johnson, style director for "Children’s Business," discussed career opportunities in the fashion industry and the responsibilities of editors. Marquette said the group learned about photo shoots, internship opportunities and the skills needed to become successful in any career.
For the last Monday appointment, Marquette took the group to Caffeine, an urban men’s sportswear company. Owner Alex That spoke about his love for fashion and his determination to succeed in business in spite of numerous set-backs. Sarah Eloi, an LSU merchandising major interning at Caffeine, assisted with the presentation, which also included a behind-the-scenes look at the design process. Caffeine’s signature look includes graphic imagery created on Apple CAD systems, for its jeans, shirts and T-shirts.
On Monday evening, everyone dressed in their best attire for the Broadway performance of "Rent" at the Nederlander Theatre. The play is among few musicals that have been awarded a Pulitzer Prize for drama and a Tony Award for best musical. After the performance, many in the group got pictures or autographs with some of the cast.
The first appointment Tuesday morning was the much-anticipated visit to the corporate offices of designer Vera Wang. "Vera Wang evening and bridal gowns are highly favored by celebrities for weddings and red-carpet events," Marquette said. The board met with head draper Suzanne Perron, a former 4-H Fashion Revue winner from Ouachita Parish and LSU apparel design graduate. She spoke fondly of the impact the 4-H clothing program had on her training and subsequent career as a technical fashion designer.
Perron recounted that through 4-H she was able to explore creative interests and develop fundamental construction skills. After viewing a video of the spring ’04 collection, the group visited Perron’s design studio, the cutting and sample making rooms and the area where fitting are conducted with Wang. "This inspiring visit made us appreciate the exceptional talent, materials and time required to create the exclusive collection for this one designer’s label," Taylor said.
The next visit of the day was a treat for those who simply love to shop. It was at Macy’s, which is not only one of the largest and most successful retail companies in the world, but also the second most popular tourist attraction in New York City.
The group enjoyed a private tour of the entire store and learned about the strategy of store design, visual merchandising and display, use of color and lifestyle merchandising.
The final appointment of the day was in the showroom of Lucky Brand Jeans, a manufacturer and retailer of jeans and other casual junior apparel.
Marquette said the group learned that Lucky is owned by Liz Claiborne and that the biggest account is The Buckle, a popular mall store around the country. The Lucky representative spoke about new directions in denim fashion, internships and the process of presenting their line to buyers. Before calling it a day, the group took a quick subway ride to the Greenwich Village and explored lower Broadway, Washington Square and the NYU campus.
Wednesday began with a leisurely walk through Central Park to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, "one of New York’s extraordinary treasures," Taylor reported in her book.
Dangerous Liaisons, a special collection of 18th century costumes, furniture and decorative arts, was the featured exhibit. It included priceless garments from the museum’s renowned Costume Institute. Free time was available for exploring other collections in the vast Met complex.
An assortment of activities completed Wednesday afternoon. Part of the group attended a live taping of TRL (Total Request Live) at the MTV studio in Times Square as guests of LSU apparel design graduate Amy Cooper, photo editor for MTV On-Line.
Others had a memorable subway ride to Chinatown with Jeannie Crnkovic, Bossier Parish agent adviser to Fashion Board for last-minute shopping. Several visited trim stores in the garment district. That evening, the entire group ate dinner at Ellen’s Stardust Diner, where they were entertained by singing waiters in a 50s atmosphere. The true die-hards ended the night with dessert at Serendipity, indulging in the restaurant’s famous frozen hot chocolate.
"Our weary but worldly group headed home on Thursday filled with memories of a very special experience," Taylor said.
Iberville 4-H’er Christina Zito expressed the sentiments of many when she wrote, "I loved New York. I didn’t realize there were so many options and opportunities in the fashion industry. The educational appointments were amazing. The entire trip was awesome - appointments, tours and shopping. This experience opened up a whole new culture and way of life to me."
Many of the fashion board enjoyed the chance to get to know each other better as they stayed up late every night in "the city that (‘literally,’ Taylor added) never sleeps."
Coty Cater of Catahoula Parish reflected on the week. "We visited some of the most exciting places in New York, but the people in our group made it even better. It really was a week-long slumber party!"
Sara Taylor from Cameron Parish provided this philosophical summary: ""In New York, I came to realize that the world is mine for the taking, and no dream is ever out of my reach.
"Watching LSU interns and graduates prosper in a city such as New York was very encouraging. I got to live in a new environment for six days, one very different from my small-town life. I came back from the trip more open-minded, accepting and, most important, ambitious. It truly was a trip of a lifetime, and I will never forget it."
The 15 4-H’ers and their parishes included Brandi Bruno-Tangipahoa, Coty Cater-Catahoula, Angel Champagne-Plaquemines, Pamela Collins-Pointe Coupee, Kelly Durbin-Tangipahoa, Kelly Fletcher-Ouachita, Ashley Hinton-Catahoula, Lesley Anne Horst-Lafourche, Kristen Levron-St. John, Anna Munsen-Rapides, Stephanie Richard-Vermilion, Lauren Tanner-West Feliciana, Sara Taylor-Cameron, Tiffany Vidrine-Evangeline and Christina Zito-Iberville.
Adults included Karen Fletcher-Ouachita (leader), Terry Richard-Vermilion (leader), Staci Tanner-West Feliciana (parent), Toni Zito-Iberville (parent), Rhonda Taylor-Cameron (leader), Jeannie Crnkovic-Bossier (faculty) and Yvonne Marquette – state office (faculty).
On the Internet: LSU AgCenter: http://www.lsuagcenter.com/
On the Internet: Louisiana 4-H Web site: http://www.louisiana4h.org
On the Internet: LSU AgCenter: http://www.lsuagcenter.com/Inst/
Source: Yvonne Marquette (225) 578-1703, or firstname.lastname@example.org