Vanessa Fath is an alumna of Jefferson University and currently in her first semester of the Master of Science in Fashion Design Management Program. Her unique experience with both undergraduate and graduate education at the University has awarded her many opportunities within the fashion industry. Vanessa talked to us a little about her design background and why she decided to come back to Jefferson for her masters degree.
Q: Can you tell us a little about yourself? Where did you grow up and what are some of your interests?
Vanessa: I grew up not too far away in Washington Township, NJ. I am actually currently living there and commuting to Jefferson for my masters classes. It feels a bit weird, but good being back “home” honestly. I lived in East Falls [Philadelphia] for 4 years while I was attending my undergrad classes at Jefferson. I just graduated with my BS in Fashion Design in May 2019. The past 3 summers, I was working or interning in New York City, so there has been a lot of moving around these last few years.
Something really important to me and my design process is integrating quality, sustainability, and beautiful aesthetics all together. Creating more sustainable practices in the fashion industry is something I am really interested in. Leadership is also a really important quality to me. I was Student Body President of the Student Government Association my senior year at Jefferson, so I am always looking to further those skills to set myself up for more opportunities in the future.
Q: What made you want to study fashion and why at Jefferson?
Vanessa: I’ve been interested in fashion my entire life. My grandmother was a professional seamstress, so I learned to sew at 4 years old. As for why Jefferson, that really comes down to the people. Jefferson has a pretty strong reputation in the fashion industry for producing graduates with a well-rounded fashion education. We’re a top recruiting school for a number of companies. Students have an amazing fashion design faculty and program to thank for that. Class sizes are fairly small, so you have the ability to build some really strong faculty relationships. A lot of the faculty end up feeling more like mentors than just professors, and they are really committed to building students professionally and personally. The other students you are studying alongside are also a major factor in what makes the program so great. The small classes also mean you get to know everyone you are graduating with. Now that I’ve graduated and still have personal connections with the faculty and so many of my former classmates, I feel like I have contacts all over the fashion industry.
Q: Can you tell us a little about your undergrad accomplishments and opportunities?
Vanessa: My sophomore year, I received the Excellence in Childrenswear award at the annual fashion show. Junior year, I won the Red Dress Award at the show. My red dress was also shown at the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women annual fashion show, where I won second place and later had my dress displayed in the Macy’s windows in Center City Philadelphia. Senior year, I won Best in Show at the annual fashion show for my womenswear collection. My menswear collection, which I also made my senior year, was one of two Jefferson senior collections shown at an Emerging Designers runway show at New York Fashion Week and was awarded for Excellence in Menswear. I was also featured in a video for GQ discussing the Jefferson Fashion Design Program. In addition to all those fashion accomplishments, I served as Student Body President my senior year, delivered both convocation and commencement speeches for my graduating class, and maintained Dean’s List for my entire college career.
Q: What did you do after graduating with your BS in Fashion design?
Vanessa: While I was still in school, I had two internships with brands under the PVH label. I spent one summer interning for IZOD and another for the Van Heusen line. After I graduated in May, I took a temporary full-time position with PVH as a knitwear designer. I actually turned down a full-time position to come back to Jefferson for my Masters. Now, in addition to my Masters studies, I am also the Graduate Assistant for the New York Immersion class for underclassmen fashion design and merchandising students.
Q: What made you decide to come back for your Masters?
Vanessa: I am very passionate about education. After finishing college, I thought I would be done with classroom environments, but I realized there was still more I wanted to learn. I think education gives me an opportunity to take a chance and push myself forward. I am not afraid of change, which made it a little easier for me to make the decision to come back to school instead of diving straight into the industry. I honestly feel like I am exactly where I need to be right now. Interning and working in the industry gave me some insight into internal mechanisms, but my grad school education is going to bring more meaning and context to it all for me.
Q: What do you hope to do after graduating with your Masters?
Vanessa: That’s a really tough question for me. My answer changes constantly. Ideally, I’d love to own my own company with my sister. She is studying entrepreneurship and has a true appreciation for my aesthetic and creativity. Beyond knowing we want to own some kind of business together, that’s all we have. We are not sure what type of company or what kind of product we’d even want to sell yet, but we know it will somehow involve re-purposed materials, sustainability, and the element of giving back. We are always brainstorming ideas. Otherwise, I would love to work for a luxury fashion house in Europe. I feel like that is probably every fashion designer’s goal, but with the international connections I have established through this University, I think it might actually be attainable if I set my mind to it.
Q: If you could go back and do your undergrad years again, would you do anything differently? Would you have any advice for yourself?
Vanessa: Honestly, I would tell myself to chill-out and relax! I have always been a believer that everything happens for a reason, but I feel like I used to tell myself that more with hope than with confidence. Now, I feel more confident in that phrase. I would also probably tell myself to trust myself and work hard. I know I did work hard during my undergrad, but I think that is always a good thing to remind yourself to make sure you are challenging yourself to move forward.
Q: What do you find most interesting or rewarding about the MS in Fashion Design Management program?
Vanessa: As I said before, things are constantly changing. That’s especially true in the fashion industry. There are so many different types of job opportunities you can harness in the industry. Sustainable fashion and technology are constantly evolving. Even the approach to design is always changing, and there are multiple ways of design thinking. New opportunities are constantly presenting themselves in this industry. I know I would have gained great insight into how the industry works by working in it, but the fashion industry moves at such a rapid pace, it probably would have taken me a few years to really feel like I had a grasp on the entire process. With the MS in Fashion Design Management program, I have three entire semesters devoted specifically to studying the design, merchandising, marketing, and production process and everything involved with it. Industry sponsored and group projects are also great examples of ways I can develop my leadership skills.
Q: What do you hope to learn or gain from your Jefferson MS in Fashion Design Management experience? What are you most looking forward to?
Vanessa: Studying abroad for a semester in Milan is definitely something I’m looking forward to! I studied abroad in Rome for a semester my junior year, so I am really excited to be back in Italy. I love that the MS in Fashion Design Management program has an international element. Spending two semesters studying in Philadelphia gives great insight in the US Fashion Industry, but a semester in Italy also gives us a glimpse into the European industry as well. I feel like I will graduate as a more globally minded designer.