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June 01, 2019
There's been so much talk about STEM in the last few years (which has been amazing, don't get me wrong!) I was one of very few women in my graduating class of over 400 in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Michigan. Women are definitely underrepresented in the STEM fields, but after talking with a few friends lately, I wanted to write about how STEM is part of fashion design as well - two things that most people don't think go hand-in-hand, but they very much do.
There seems to be a disconnect that you either "are" or "are not" a girl that is interested in STEM based careers, and there's also a huge stigma that fashion careers are very artsy and only for creative types. While it is rare for a person to be both, there are careers in fashion that are perfect for you no matter where your personality lies. There are extremely technical positions (sewing machine repair person, working with CAD, production coordination) and there are extremely creative positions (design, marketing, sample making, fabric and textile design, fashion drawing, etc.) . Being that Hawthorne is a small business, I feel lucky that I get a pretty good mix of it all. I don't have any formal training in fashion and I'm entirely self-taught, but I feel like my background in engineering has given me the ability to understand the core foundations of patterning and design work.
Below I've outlined a few different areas where STEM careers can be found in fashion. If you're a girl that loves both and is wondering where you might fit in, keep reading!
Super interested in science? You could be a textile designer, merging chemistry to make the next generation of anti-bacterial sports fabrics. You could develop fabric that has protective capabilities that work in sports capacities to protect the wearer from sudden impacts and falls.
Love math? Thats great! There are people in the industry that forecast how many units you need to order to meet sales demands for every week of the year. You could be a marker maker that determines how many garments can be made from one roll of fabric given the dimensions. Measurements need to be taken of models and grading rules need to be determined (how much an item changes in each direction for each size of each style).
Love Computers? So many more fashion houses use CAD these days. After patterns are produced they are put into the computer program and manipulated. CAD can simplify everything from basic patterns to full production runs of a garment. Most manufacturers have websites that need to be kept current. Even knowledge of coding websites comes in handy.
Are you more artistic? Fashion companies also use photographers, graphic designers, textile designers, fashion illustrators, and more.
Interested in learning more? Why not sign up for a hands-on class this summer. Sewing is a great pastime for everyone, and starting kids early is a great way to introduce them to the fashion world (which, I promise, is an essential skill to have if you do anything in fashion). Even if they don't go into fashion, having the ability to sew is never a wasted skill. Here are some classes I found in the West Michigan Area:
The Common Thread Studio, Children's Beginner Class: Age 8 and Up
Gall Sewing on Plainfield has lots of classes including a summer kids camp. See their available classes here.
Field's Fabrics has many classes available, and a lot of summer classes for kids. See the Jenison Store class listings here. Classes appear to be $10 for a 2-hour class.
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