Style 7 Fashion Students Explain What College Is Like During a Pandemic
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College is full of major life changes, especially for fashion students entering a highly-competitive field full of potential. Whether you’re a, nearing , or just trying to get through the next day of classes, every stage presents a new set of challenges. Throw in a global , and it gets even more complicated.
Fittingly, being in the world of fashion, you learn to be creative, resourceful, and able to adapt to new circumstances. Today’s generation of fashion students are doing that in the traditional sense and the “new normal” caused by the pandemic.
Teen Vogue sat down with fashion students at different points in their academic careers to learn how COVID-19 has been affecting their studies. From social media communities to career changes, here’s how seven fashion students have been dealing with the pandemic.
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Senior in Fashion Design at Fashion Institute of Technology
Teen Vogue: What was a typical day as a fashion student like for you before the pandemic started?
: I usually had a pretty busy schedule. I tried to take a lot of classes, because there are a lot of things I [am] interested in. I also interned during the school year, so I had that real life experience kind of coupled with the classroom learning. I used to dorm before COVID, so I would wake up at 7:30 a.m., get ready for class and head over for my 9 a.m., which was probably a studio lab. So, that would be three or four hours. I would grab lunch somewhere near school, and then go back to the main building for another class. So again, like three or four hours, and then I would go back to the dorms, eat dinner, relax a little bit, and then go back to school to work on projects. I probably get home around midnight, go to sleep, and then wake up the next morning and do kind of the same thing. And then every other day, I would intern, so that would be a little bit of a variation. But I would say in general, my days were pretty full with classes, homework, and internship.
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TV: How did the pandemic affect your daily life as a fashion student?
AK: Since I'm a fashion design major, we depend pretty heavily on the work rooms and the labs and having access to sewing machines and mannequins. So all of a sudden, with everything gone, it was definitely, definitely an adjustment that we had to make… But I think also, just because we didn't have the same equipment that we usually do, we were forced to approach design in a different way and really be resourceful with what we had, and making it work to achieve the same idea. So, I would also see that as an upside is that we do know how to use traditional materials and machines working in the labs, but we also know how to make do with what we have.
TV: How have your goals changed since the pandemic began?
AK: I think I'm having the time during COVID to really slow down and think about what I want in the future. I found myself drawn to activewear specifically. That was also influenced by a virtual internship that I actually had Under Armour. So, [I’m] kind of thinking more about health and wellness in clothes that really support the individual with performance and function versus the avant-garde runway shows. I really found myself gravitating towards something with a bit more of a functional purpose, so I think that was something that it took me taking a step back and really understanding that it was something that I want. So upon graduation, I am going to be exploring the activewear field and hopefully finding a full-time position there.
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Master’s Student in Fashion Photography at University of the Arts, London
TV: How the pandemic impact your career?
: I actually started working one week before the first lock down and then, we all had to work from home. I think that whole dynamic alongside the actual job was just really difficult and I didn't really enjoy it. So, I consciously decided to quit and it was only at that moment [that] I just quickly applied for the fashion photography course and got accepted.
TV: What was it like starting school during the pandemic?
SG: When I started this, lockdown was kind of easing up. We had some lectures and introductions online so virtually. Then, it became hybrid and then, we had to just go online for a few months. We missed out on quite a lot. We missed out on a trip to New York, on a lot of studio sessions, studio time, [and] even collaborating because there was the rule that you couldn't mix large groups of people, or you had to just be with household bubbles. So, it was quite hard to even initiate collaborations and work with new people.
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TV: How did you find inspiration during the pandemic?
SG: I think the pandemic helped me see things in a different light… I was scrolling on my Instagram 24/7 and seeing other photographers accomplish such amazing things. And I used to just have this imposter syndrome, like, ‘Why is it not me? Why am I not doing these things?’ And I had an epiphany that other female creatives of all ethnicities and ages or whatever may also feel the same way. So then, that built that wholewhere I did interviews with them and told them to come as they are just to take pictures of them and hand embroidered quotes on some of the images. It wasn't centered around the pandemic, but the pandemic definitely gave that bubble of creativity.
Freshman in Fashion Design at Parsons School of Design
TV: What has been the biggest challenge for you as a fashion student since the pandemic started?
: My biggest challenge would definitely be staying motivated. It's been really, really difficult having to navigate working towards a degree when the state of where we are in the pandemic is pretty uncertain. It's kind of like, I'm working towards this big goal, but I don't know when life would feel the same. I don't know what's to come. I don't know what's going to happen. I'm just trying to remain safe and healthy. And it's just been a big lesson in keeping my motivation going. It's definitely been pretty challenging but I'm learning to just take things day by day.
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TV: What motivated you during the pandemic?
HL: It would honestly have to be my life and my experiences. Coming from one of the poorest area codes in the Bronx has really shown me how low life can get sometimes. And the fact that I was able to make it out of the really hard experiences that I had to experience at a young age, I use that as motivation. And I honestly just see life as ‘Well, if I can make it through what I did in the past, I can definitely make it through this new challenge.’
TV: Despite the challenges caused by the pandemic, what is something you’re looking forward to this year?
HL: I’m currently looking forward to this trip that I'm taking to Paris… It's my first time and [I'm] looking forward to visiting the Parsons Paris campus and making some connections hopefully. I'm also looking forward to relaunching my business, but in taking a more personalized approach now that I feel as though I've developed my craft a little more since beginning school.
Master’s Student in Fashion Journalism at Central Saint Martins
TV: What was it like going abroad during a pandemic?
: It's more in-person and more lax with the rules of COVID [currently]. Even though it still exists, it kind of doesn't feel like it doesn't exist, which is strange in and of itself as other politics. But, I haven't really found anybody. I don't have any friends here yet. I'm thankfully staying with my family friends that live here. But I haven't been able to find an apartment. It's been genuinely hard to find an apartment, I still don't have one. I've put in so many offers and haven't found anything. And the prices are ridiculous. Not as much as New York, but they're still crazy.
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TV: How did you stay connected during the pandemic?
KT: I have met a lot of people [online] during the pandemic that I probably wouldn't have met if it weren't for the pandemic, because I started getting into Twitter. I started getting into Instagram and meeting all these people online and connected with these people online who shared similar outlooks and ethics and vision for what they want their career to be, where they want to work, how they want to work, [and] all those different things. And I think that if the pandemic wouldn't have happened. I wouldn't have been so active on Twitter. I wouldn't have been so active on Instagram.
TV: Now that things are opening up again, what is something you’re looking forward to in fashion?
KT: I kind of want to see what grows out of [the pandemic] and how brands respond to certain things like politics, climate change, and global warming, and all those different things… I think that, especially with the Black Lives Matter movement, and everything that was going on, I feel like a lot of people just kind of took that pause and it was good to be like, ‘Wait, we have the real ability to see change and execute that change.’ So, I think that's a really big thing for me. There are so many ongoing issues in the last couple years, so definitely, it has to impact fashion somehow.
Senior in Fashion Business Management at Fashion Institute of Technology
TV: What drew you to fashion originally?
: When I was in high school, I kind of didn't really have a thing. I didn't really know what I wanted to do, but I had always loved fashion and I wasn't really into sports or anything. So, I decided to start a fashion blog just for fun just as a way to fill my time. I did that and I loved it. Like I had so much fun. I would write on it. I coded my own website. I would take my outfit photos every single day and post on it. And it was just such a passion of mine. I'm like, ‘I want to keep pursuing this industry.’ So I decided to apply to FIT. I knew I wanted to go to New York for forever.”
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TV: What was your life as a fashion student like before the pandemic?
KB: I lived across the street from my school and basically my whole entire life was consumed by the school… The first couple of months in New York, I worked a bunch of shows at fashion week. I was just trying to get involved with anywhere I could. I was in a bunch of clubs, going to class, and really just trying to immerse myself in every avenue that I could. Because I was just so excited to be in New York and finally be doing what I wanted to do.
TV: How did the pandemic change your college experience?
KB: I kind of started to take a different route and I was like, ‘I'm going to try and do TikTok.’ And I started posting like ‘day in my life as a fashion student’ on TikTok showing my life online and my online classes and stuff like that. And it really took off. I mean, I feel like a lot of people before TikTok didn't really know about fashion school or hadn't really heard of it or didn't know that it was an option for college. And so I was showing my fashion business classes and my textile classes and people were really interested in it. And I just kept on doing that to the point where it's my full-time job now.
Senior in Fashion Design with Marketing at Central Saint Martins
TV: How did the pandemic change your academic plan?
: I was in my placement year when the pandemic started so I was doing internships and I was supposed to go to New York for an internship, but it was actually like, Donald Trump had came on the TV and the next day, I got an email just saying, we don't know what's happening with that. So, actually, I took a year out after I did my placement year.”
TV: Now that you're back, what are you looking forward to as you continue your college career?
JE: I think it's definitely my final collection and just being able to present my work… I'm working with a stylist and he lives in Nigeria. I just feel like before Zoom and stuff, we just would have automatically been like, ‘Oh, we can't really work together,’ but it's been really cool. Just having calls with him for just working and trying to find ways to work together, even though we're not in the same country. Even recently, talking about casting, we were thinking of ways we could have him in the room, but while we also do the casting as well [laughs], but I'm just excited to do my final collection and think of a way to show everyone digitally.
TV: Since you're in your final year, do you know what you want to do after graduation?
JE: I was speaking to my friend the other day and I was like, ‘Because I've just been in London and I've done all of the interning here and all of that, I definitely would love to go work abroad for like a year.’ I definitely would love to work in a fashion house because I feel like in fashion houses, it's also kind of like being in university as well. You learn so much. And then definitely in the future, seeing how the collection goes, I would love to maybe make a few pieces from the collection. Over the lockdown, I actually worked on a bag project just because I needed to do something creative. And that worked really well. I kind of want to maybe start selling bags again, but then also working on my stuff as well. And I've got a few friends who want to make kind of like a ‘zine together. I think I definitely would want to work in a fashion house and then just work on my own personal projects and just continue to develop.
Sophomore in Fashion Business at Istituto Marangoni London
TV: What was it like starting fashion school during the pandemic?
: For me, I had a lot of ups and downs. The pandemic forced me to work very hard and I had a new sense of responsibility to do well. Though my classes were online, I feel like studying again gave me a sense of purpose after the long months in lockdown. It was a lot like a wake-up call. In terms of extracurriculars, it's a bit more difficult. We would have had many more opportunities had it not been for the pandemic. The same goes for careers, it would obviously have been easier without the pandemic, but I do think rules are starting to change and things [will be] mending post-pandemic.
TV: Are there any life lessons you learned during the pandemic?
SH: I learned that things fall in place, even when it seems like nothing will. I also learned to not be caught up in silly things and value the things that make me feel happy.
TV: What advice do you have for young people who are beginning or continuing college in the middle of a pandemic?
SH: I would suggest being open to new possibilities and taking up every opportunity you get. Networking with peers and professors is very important too. And lastly, I would say that it gets better.
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