NMSU’s fashion program boasts talent

NMSU’s fashion program boasts talent

Aug. 05–LAS CRUCES >> The fashion industry is as competitive as they come, but students from New Mexico State University’s clothing, textiles and fashion merchandising program are putting their most fashionable foot forward and making a name for themselves, as well as putting the university on the industry’s radar.

“I get to marry a love of business and being creative together,” said Sarah Watts, of Los Alamos. Watts is going into her junior year in the program with a major in clothing, textiles and fashion merchandising (CTFM) and a minor in accounting. “I get to learn how to take something from an idea to a product. The program is more hands-on instead of lecture-based and that really appealed to me.”

The program, part of NMSU’s Department of Family and Consumer Sciences in the College of Agricultural, requires courses in accounting, statistics, algebra and chemistry, as well as marketing, management and the design courses.

There are a wide array of careers available to fashion program graduates, from fashion management and fashion buying to quality control and product development, said Dr. Roselyn Smitley, an associate professor who has been with NMSU since 1990.

“After graduation, I hope to find a job in visual merchandising, designing store fronts and organizing the store,” said Jennifer Cerna, of El Paso. Cerna is entering her senior year in the program, and will graduate with her CTFM degree in May 2014.

“I work at Foot Locker and that’s where I got into it. A visual merchandiser from the company came to the store and we got to meet her and she gave us tips on how to set up the store to appeal to customers,” she said.

Cerna participated in a fashion program in high school and soon began sewing her own clothes — a skill she helps teach during an introduction class in the program.

Despite the variety of classes that make up the complex CTFM degree, the fashion program has a high persistence rate at 75 percent.

“We have about 100 majors and a 75 percent persistence rate, which is calculated by students who start out, and who stay in, the major and graduate versus those who change their major or drop out of the program. That’s pretty good,” said Dr. Esther Devall, department head of Family and Consumer Sciences at NMSU.

Students who go through the program experience many facets of the industry, from business and management, to textiles, constructing and designing clothes, art classes and even historic costume classes, said Dr. Melinda Chavez, an associate professor who’s been with NMSU since 2007.

Recently, the program was named one of the top 10 fashion schools in the Southwest by fashion-shcools.org. The university ranked No. 8.

According to NMSU, this is the first year the program has been ranked, and was chosen in a list that includes schools from Texas and Colorado.

Chavez said the ranking can be attributed to the addition of design classes and expansion of the program around 2007 to include fashion design pattern making and accessories classes.

Student Blanca Martinez, of Alamogordo, knows a lot about accessories, as she is working at JC Penny’s over the summer in the jewelry department to gain experience.

“I want to continue to work on my own and design my own things,” she said. “I’m currently working in retail and want to continue to work in retail in an assistant manager or management position.”

Martinez is a senior majoring in CTFM and carrying on traditions set by the women in her family.

“Growing up in middle school, my mom and my aunts were pretty much very handy with clothing and thread. My mom crochets and I love to embroider. I watched everyone have nice things, and make their own things, and I wanted to make my own things too,” she said.

Currently, Martinez said she is making spring and summer clothes, recently completing a summer dress.

“I like more formal pieces,” she said of her style. “I go to a lot of parties, so I like wearing my clothes to them.”

Many students in the program work in local stores, including Maurice’s, Buckle and Old Navy, said Smitley. Some even get to take their talents to large fashion chains.

In 2012, American luxury specialty department store Neiman Marcus in Las Vegas, Nev. picked three NMSU students to fill all three available spots for its management trainee program from hopefuls across the country.

Also, while in the program, student Jamie McClure reached the final five out of 700 entrants in the Adrianna Papell for E! Live from the Red Carpet competition. According to information from the university, the contest winner had their design revealed at the Academy Awards in Los Angeles. At the time she entered the competition, McClure was an intern with Old Navy in Las Cruces.

“We also do community service for city,” said Chavez. “We did a recycling project where students made clothing out of things like surgical masks, coffee filters, and newspaper. They did a great job.”

“(It’s neat) just to meet the people and get to see how creative everyone is,” Cerna said of the main reason she enjoys being part of NMSU’s CTFM program. “I’ve seen it grow a lot and have seen more people become interested.”

“It’s scary at first, but it really pushes you to your maximum limit,” added Martinez. “I think it’s great and it makes us realize we really want to be in this field.”

In the future, Chavez said the program hopes to continue to attract area talent with the addition of new machinery, expanding their historical clothing line and adding more classes.

For more information, email Chavez at mtchavez@nmsu.edu, or Smitley at rosmitle@nmsu.edu.

Matlin Smith may be reached at 575-541-5468.

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