By Emily Hooper
SMU fashion media students don’t stop following their love of fashion and journalism at graduation. In a highly competitive industry, graduates of the program have found successful careers in the fashion media world.
Fashion, for all of its glamour and media presence, has a veil of mystery about how people break in and work their way up. Some, like Tory Burch, are practically born with an Hermes bracelet on their wrist, while others like Christian Siriano, winner of Project Runway season four, has found fame in through the social media, reality TV craze.
Traditionally, becoming a part of the fashion industry has not been like becoming a doctor or a lawyer – attending a specific school and emerging ready to be employed. However, as the fashion industry becomes more diverse and technical, having a degree in fashion media is giving students a leg-up on the competition.
Graduates and students of the fashion media program at SMU are finding jobs and internships at major fashion, retail and journalism companies such as Neiman Marcus, Marie Claire, Vogue and The New York Times.
“The majority of our graduates are receiving jobs immediately after graduation – some specifically in social media,” said Camille Kraeplin, associate professor of fashion journalism at SMU and creator of the fashion media program. “While the path to success involves a combination of hard work, passion and determination, the fashion media program teaches students the technical and conceptual skills that have become increasingly important in all industries, but especially in the fashion media world.”
The fashion world has embraced social media, creating jobs for young media students with this skill set, while the rapid growth of fashion blogging has added another dimension to traditional fashion media formats, Kraeplin says.
As social media becomes second nature, every fashion-student hopeful knows that in the age of reality TV and Instagram, a successful fashion career is actually within reach for a handful of lucky, hardworking students. Since the premier of Project Runway in 2004, fashion majors are up 45 percent nationwide. This May, just five years since its creation, the fashion media program at SMU will graduate 17 majors and 16 minors. There will be 61 majors and 24 minors enrolled in the program after graduation.
The fashion media program at SMU was created as a response to students’ interest in fashion. The program was designed to fit the students, not for students to fit the program; and Dallas’ profile as a fashion center offers a rich laboratory for fashion media students to sharpen their skills through internships.
SMU’s fashion media program offers classes in journalism and photography, plus options from art, anthropology, theater and public relations. The program equips graduates for careers as writers and public relations practitioners at some of the most competitive companies in the industry. Some graduates have even created their own companies – becoming entrepreneurs in fashion design, technology and media.
Amber Venz, who graduated from SMU in 2008, is an alumna who pioneered her own way in the fashion media world. After starting her own blog, VENZEDITS, in 2010, Venz created rewardStyle, a global monetization solution that is built for digital style publishers. In 2015, rewardStyle publishers drove approximately $500 million in retail sales. Venz has created a company that has redirected the style publishing industry and contributed to the professionalization and financial independence of thousands of publishers worldwide, enabling them to earn meaningful revenue on their digital content, ultimately empowering them to create and grow small businesses into international brands.
(Read more on Amber Venz in Forbes, Success and Women’s Wear Daily)
Elif Kavakci, a graduate of SMU’s master of liberal studies program and a designer by profession, is the founder of Kavakci Couture, a design label of modest couture clothing.
Through her designs, Kavakci has become a pioneer for hijab fashion and an inspiration to Muslim women around the world. Her designs have been worn by the first lady of Turkey, women in parliament and women in the public eye.
“After moving to the United States when I was 12, I appreciated the religious freedoms the country offered, but realized that finding clothes that were conservative yet fashionable was nearly impossible,” said Kavakci. “I wanted to create clothing that looked chic, but still abided by religious dress codes.”
This fall, Elif Kavacki will return to SMU, adding “SMU fashion media adjunct professor” to her long list of fashion achievements.
“I think many people look at fashion only on the surface,” said Kavakci. “The fashion media program helps students realize the depth and theoretical background of fashion – fashion is about so much more than trends.”
Fashion media students leave the program passionate and determined to start their own businesses, write for magazines, manage social media and even develop clothing lines. Their experiences at SMU give them the edge to do this, said Kraeplin.
(Read more on Elif Kavakci at SMU Fashion Media)
Grace Davis Damrill, a 2012 fashion media graduate, has been active in the fashion industry since her freshman year at SMU. Damrill was an intern at Stanley Korshak, Lucky Magazine and FD LUXE, and was the founder and executive director of SMU fashion week. Today, Damrill works as the assistant sales manager of fine apparel for Neiman Marcus.
Shelby Foster, a 2013 fashion media graduate, has worked as both the public relations coordinator and currently as the assistant public relations manager for NorthPark Center – one of the largest shopping centers in the nation.
Students don’t wait until after graduation to begin making their mark on the fashion industry. The program encourages current students to utilize the fertile fashion landscape of Dallas to build their resumes and gain valuable experience through internships and on-campus involvement.
Emily Ward, who will graduate in May 2016 with a double major in journalism and fashion media (and as the department’s “outstanding fashion media student”), interned at D Magazine while pursuing her degree.
“The fashion media major has been the perfect fit for me,” said Ward. “It has given me the technical skills, such as audio and video editing, as well as social media skills, to be successful, while also providing me with a creative outlet.”
Ward is currently the editor of the student run smufashionmedia.com site and is the fashion editor at the SMU Daily Campus newspaper.
India Pougher, a junior fashion media major student, will intern with Marie Claire in New York this summer as a beauty intern.
“Everyone in the fashion media program was incredibly supportive during the process of looking for an internship,” Pougher said. “The fashion media program has helped me hone my skills and the professors have encouraged me to follow my passions.”
Pougher has also interned at PaperCity Magazine and Dallas Market Center. She is currently the Fashion Week fashion show producer for SMU retail club and contributing writer for the SMU Daily Campus newspaper.
“The fashion media program at SMU is perfectly tailored to those who want a career in fashion journalism,” said Kristie Ramirez, editor-in-chief at Modern Luxury Dallas & Dallas Brides. “Through research and reporting techniques, and guidance on how to write for your audience, Professor Kraeplin prepares her students for a real-world work environment.”
(All photos courtesy of Emily Hooper)