This past summer, 23 students in fashion design and product development, fashion communication and fashion marketing and management completed internships all over the United States and in Europe.
The students gathered in Charters Auditorium over the course of several afternoons to share their experiences with classmates and the faculty and staff who supported their trips — whether to a hometown boutique, a fabric store in France or a design company in Brooklyn.
All the interns worked through unexpected challenges, and some left with job offers, or more clarity about the careers they will pursue after graduation.
Though the students encountered a wide range of settings, a common theme emerged: in addition to learning valuable skills, they often surprised themselves with what they were able to contribute to a company or business, from overhauling a social media marketing strategy to establishing better communication with manufacturers; from revamping a design to creating a new inventory system.
Amelia Nitsch ’20 interned with Karolina Zmarlak, a Polish designer in New York. The two met when Zmarlak visited Stephens as a critic for the 2017 Senior Design Collections. Nitsch started an email correspondence that continued for two years before she accepted an internship offer.
Among other responsibilities, Nitsch performed quality checks and developed relationships with the factories and sourcing businesses in New York’s garment district, learning to communicate past language barriers.
By showing up early and staying late to finish work, she said she became the studio’s main pattern alterations person. She also redesigned the techno jacket, one of Zmarlak’s foundational designs. One of her drawings, she said, got traction with the company’s president.
Nitsch left New York with a job offer that she had to turn down in order to finish her degree at Stephens.
Jac Heath ’20 completed three different internships in one summer, two in New York and one remotely in Jan Jose, California.
She began her internship with New York-based A.Lynn Designs in May 2018, working remotely on public relations and marketing, but dove into product development and design when she moved to the city this past summer. She focused on developing the company’s first pajama line, which is currently in the beginning processes of production. Working closely with company founder and Stephens alumna Andrea Seemayer, Heath sourced fabrics, developed technical drawings, drew specs and created tech packs that were then communicated with factories in China. She also proposed a wovens collection, a first for the company, which is founded in core, knit apparel.
When one of Heath’s promised internships with another company fell through a few days before it was supposed to begin, she sent out several applications and received an offer within 24 hours from FFC New York, a handbag company located in the heart of the garment district. There, she created and updated line sheets, created technical drawings and paper mockups of designs, carried out factory claims, and designed bags for the Resort ’21 collection. Heath said each day would begin with the design assistant asking, “What do you want to learn today?”
At the same time, Heath interned remotely for Paganoonoo, a design company focused on sustainable, upcycled clothing for women over 50. Over the course of the summer, she helped to rebrand the company by performing social media analyses, redirecting online platforms and creating a new website from scratch, teaching herself to read and edit code in the process.
Jillian Turner ’20 interned with Whitney Manney, an independent label in Kansas City, Missouri. Turner worked one-on-one in the studio with Manney every day, learning about the many aspects of running a small business.
Turner organized the studio and created a swatch catalogue to streamline the design process, learned faster methods for some of the production techniques she already knew, and contributed designs to a collaborative Wonder Woman photoshoot.
“It was very fast-paced,” Turner said of the work environment. “But something I noticed about Whitney was that she stayed calm and relaxed regardless of the level of pressure.”
Jessica Gayo ’19 and Joyce Gayo ’19 interned with Claire Loves You, a children’s clothing designer in Lyon, France. Like Turner, the sisters worked one-on-one with the designer, a single mother whose designs are influenced by Japanese and French culture.
“I was surprised by the slower pace of work,” Jessica said. “Our first day, we were given a to-do list and we worked through it as quickly as we could and were finished in a few hours. Claire said, ‘Wait, let’s have tea and talk it through.’
“She would take us on field trips to source fabrics and to visit costume museums. Spending more time to consider and complete tasks made the work and our connection with the employer more meaningful,” Jessica said.
Her internship was focused on marketing. After observing the differences in French marketing tactics, which she said are less forward than American ones, she and Joyce created vision boards and strategies for the boutique’s website and Instagram account. Jessica said all of their suggestions were implemented.
The Gayos also studied abroad as part of their trip, attending class every day and learning about the history and architecture of Lyon. Joyce won a scholarship to explore African influences in France, and made a short documentary about her findings.
Madeline Buasri ’20 interned with Summersalt, a swimwear company based in St. Louis, Missouri. She handled a wide array of responsibilities, including technical design for fittings, line sheets, prototypes, mockups and test sews, and also created a fabric reference library.
Buasri said the work environment was fast-paced and spontaneous. She shared with her classmates an insight from her supervisor that “embracing change means you’re getting closer to the final product.” At the end of the internship, she gave her employer a pitch to work remotely, and continues to work for Summersalt while finishing her degree in fashion design and product development at Stephens.
Darian Julun ’20, a fashion marketing and management major, interned with Maryam Nassir Zadeh in New York for the second summer in a row. For the year in between, she worked 6 a.m. shifts at Lucky’s grocery store to save for rent in New York. While interning, she also worked retail at SiiZU, a sustainable fashion company, and earned extra money by walking dogs and beading sweatshirts.
Julun’s internship duties included managing the showroom at MNZ, organizing purchase orders, reaching out to retailers, making patterns and helping with photo shoots. She also researched new designers to implement into the MNZ collection.
Navé Miller ’20 interned for a family-owned plus-size fashion warehouse in Saint Louis called Sydney’s Closet. She assisted with technical packages, merchandising, alterations and more. She learned on the job how to direct photoshoots and sell to buyers at markets in Atlanta, Nashville and Austin.
Miller valued the connections she made with models, Project Runway contestants and magazine editors. She left her internship with a job offer and the opportunity to travel to China with Sydney’s Closet.
Allex Looper ’20 worked with Krupp Group, a public relations firm in Los Angeles that represents fashion brands. One of her favorite tasks was gathering press clippings of celebrities wearing their clients’ brands. She also devised new gift strategies for Mother Denim, selecting influencers as well as celebrities to receive products, and networked with the stylists of celebrities at events such as a Doc Marten showcase.
Looper also worked at a boutique during her internship, running the store’s social media and designing displays.
She sought out Stephens alumnae living in Los Angeles and said she received a warm welcome.
Emma Walters ’20 was a design intern in the golf wear department at the Dick’s Sporting Goods headquarters near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She assisted with the company’s “sample closet,” a space used to tell the story of a collection, and attended corporate meetings, observing interactions with buyers and merchandisers.
Walters spent the majority of her internship working to differentiate the company’s two lines for women’s golf fashion, and designed a new collection for younger customers.
Career development: "Part of our program's DNA"
Lisa Lenoir, assistant professor of fashion communication, said the internships, which are required for all majors in the fashion program, are essential for career development.
“The timing of internships is mapped to the curriculum, so students have the knowledge they need to do a good job. Some students seek multiple internships over the course of their time at Stephens, building on the program’s interdisciplinary areas of focus.”
Lenoir said the presentation component is important both to the students in the audience — rising juniors looking for ideas about types of internships to look for and how to find them — and for the students presenting.
“By creating a presentation, students find a through-line — a basic theme that will resonate with the audience,” Lenoir said. “This gives them a valuable perspective on their own experience when speaking with future employers.”
"Our students do a fantastic job of taking their knowledge and talent turning it into an opportunity," Lenoir said. "And they’re fearless. I love hearing their stories and what they’ve learned about themselves. The design internship presentations are a part of our program’s DNA.”
Fashioning the Future: 2019 Internships
Mackenzie Allen | Paradise News | St. Petersburg, Florida
Corinne Bobrow-Williams | International Playground | New York, New York
Sara Bryles | Summersalt | Little Rock, Arkansas (remote)
Madeline Buasri | Summersalt | Saint Louis, Missouri
Jessica Gayo | Claire Loves You | Lyon, France
Joyce Gayo | Claire Loves You | Lyon, France
Simone Gregory | Coco and Breezy | New York, New York
Jac Heath | Paganoonoo | San Jose, California | A.Lynn | Brooklyn, New York | FFC NY | New York, New York
Payton Howell | Chromat | New York, New York
Taylor Jones | Enza Costa | Los Angeles, California
Darian Julun | Maryam Nassir Zadeh | New York, New York
Alexis Lee | Clothz Minded | Kansas City, Missouri
Alex Looper | Krupp Group | Los Angeles, California
Navé Miller | Sydney's Closet | Saint Louis, Missouri
Amelia Nitsch | Karolina Zmarlak | New York, New York
Caylea Ray | Stephens College | Columbia, Missouri
Brooke Richardson | Krupp Group | New York, New York
Kendra Sheler | Sorella Boutique | Granger, Indiana
Kelsey Taffner | Agency Showroom | Los Angeles, California
Alissa Taylor | Les Tissus d'Eludie | Lyon, France
Jillian Turner | Whitney Manney | Kansas City, Missouri
Arianna Varner | Weissman Designs for Dance | Saint Louis, Missouri
Emma Walters | Dick's Sporting Goods | Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
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