Scholarships can be a great way to fund your college education, and also afford students the opportunity to explore new ideas and hone their skills. One example is the Eileen Komar West Scholarship sponsored by the Underfashion Club. This Club is a nonprofit group that supports education in order to attract talented individuals to careers in the intimate apparel industry. Scholarships are given on behalf of the Club’s Student-Awards-Internships-Grants (SAIG) Committee to honor the memory of Eileen West.
Participating students are required to submit fully developed concepts, fabric/trim/color research, color illustrations, and technical flats for a 6-8 piece intimate apparel and sleepwear collection. All work is completed independently without faculty direction, meaning students can not seek faculty feedback prior to submission. We spoke to this year’s $15,000 Eileen Komar West Scholarship Winner, McKenzi Migliorini, about her inspiring collection dedicated to her aunt’s battle with breast cancer.
Have you ever designed intimates or loungewear before? Is this a category you enjoy designing?
McKenzi: I have designed intimates and loungewear before. This past summer (2019), I worked at URBN as a design apparel intern for Free People in their Intimates department. I worked heavily with the lounge and body team, which is what led me to take more of a loungewear angle in regard to the scholarship. I enjoy working in intimates and lounge as I feel it is changing in the industry currently. Companies and brands are having to not only see lounge and intimates as an underneath garment for their customer, but also as an outwear one. It is becoming a trend to wear lounge and intimates out of the home and for it to be exposed as a part of the styling of a look. There is such a challenge to perfecting comfort with this category as that is everything our consumer is looking for regardless of their demographic.
Your project focuses on women recovering from breast cancer. What encouraged you take this angle with your project?
McKenzi: At the start of this project, I had an entirely different concept for the first pass-over and submission. After I found out I was chosen by faculty to compete in the scholarship, I found out my aunt’s breast cancer had relapsed while I was studying abroad in Rome. I was on a train to Milan thinking about this news and how I could use my passion for design with a purpose to honor the under-served community that she is a part of: breast cancer fighters, survivors, and thrivers.
Prior to starting this line, I remembered back to the previous battles that my aunt went through as she has just entered her third fight at a stage IV level. The memories of her surgeries and the recovery linked to this disease with the pumps, tubes, incisions, and scarring, all lead me to remember her constant yearning for comfort and even the chill that came with all of the treatments like radiation and chemotherapy. With all of this in mind, as well as knowledge of only one other company who devotes their collection to this target market, I decided to create an adaptive lounge-wear line for these women to feel confident and comfortable in their skin. The collection would be heavily focused on fabrication which eases irritation due to scarring and warmth, as well as adaptable closures for garments to be easily taken on and off.
The concept of the collection was based on angels and faith, as my aunt and I shared a bond based on our deep rooted beliefs. This collection honored her spirit and the energy she had. Unfortunately, she lost her fight, but I am forever grateful to be able to honor her with this scholarship project. I interviewed for the scholarship on the day of her memorial and found out days later, I had received first place. I would not have been able to produce this collection without her and her soulful spirit.
Would you have any words of advice for future students applying for this scholarship?
This scholarship is open to all junior fashion design students at Jefferson. My biggest advice is to put yourself out there and to not be afraid to try a design category that is most likely unknown to you. The biggest take away for me when I completed this scholarship project is design something you are passionate about. Think about what the white spaces are in the fashion design industry and tap into an area in need as it will help set you apart. Most importantly, have fun and don’t be afraid to be your true authentic self. It may make you vulnerable, but it will show a sense of meaning in your work and give your customer a strong understanding of the narrative you are trying to portray.
A $15,000 scholarship is amazing! Where do you see yourself using the money?
The scholarship money is going toward funding my entire senior year at Jefferson. I am dabbling with the idea of attending grad school after I graduate, so it could potentially go to that as well. Overall, this scholarship will help me advance in my long-term goal of designing with a purpose and becoming an adaptive-wear designer, which will allow me to help others as I feel called to do so.
In addition to McKenzi’s scholarship, SAIG also awarded scholarships to the following students for their intimate apparel design submissions:
Kinley Lingenfelter– $10,000 SAIG scholarship
McKenzi Migliorini– $5,000 SAIG scholarhip
Alessandra Filippone– $2,500 SAIG scholarship
Morgan Fitzpatrick– $2,500 SAIG scholarship
Sam Miller– $2,500 SAIG scholarship
Madeline Tumolo– $2,500 SAIG scholarship
Jessica Ware– $2,500 SAIG scholarship
Congratulations to all of the SAIG and Eileen Komar West Scholarship winners on all of your hard work and successes!