By: Debbie Willmschen
The Fashion Scholarship Fund (FSF) welcomed 120 students to its class of 2021 FSF Scholars, including two of the Wolfpack’s own: NC State Wilson College of Textiles juniors Ava Armstrong and Deja Herelle. Both students submitted their award-winning projects as part of the annual FSF Case Study Scholarship program, which culminated in a live-streamed, virtual event.
The challenge prompts for the FSF event change each year but typically task students with tackling real-world issues in design and product development, marketing analytics, merchandising and supply chain. Award recipients receive scholarship money, mentorships, internships and job opportunities as well as alumni perks.
Although this year’s process and virtual event were unique for the students, the FSF organization remained committed to helping talented designers find exposure and navigate the system during an unprecedented pandemic. Armstrong and Herelle first learned about the program through regular emails and announcements shared by Jeff Sackaroff, director of Career Services for Wilson College.
“The FSF scholarship is an amazing opportunity for students to showcase their creativity, design and marketing skills, as well as to make important networking connections with employers and hiring managers at many top companies,” Sackaroff said. “I couldn’t be prouder of both Ava and Deja; they represent the high quality of students we have here in the Wilson College.”
Armstrong and Herelle are pursuing their Bachelor of Science degrees in fashion and textile management and fashion and textile design, respectively, in the Department of Textile and Apparel, Technology and Management with a minor in business administration. Their FSF projects reflected their academic pursuits as well as their own specific interests.
Armstrong’s case study considered a product’s entire life cycle. “I presented a merchandising concept that focused on a modern-day Zeitgeist,” Armstrong explained, using a word derived from German philosophy that translates to “spirit of the time.“ She determined this concept was best represented in a product that consumers often purchase where the creator of the product is disconnected from the end result, such as luggage.
Armstrong examined the sustainability of Eagle Creek luggage and posited a campaign to improve the brand’s supply chain awareness for consumers. Her case study—the Where2Next? campaign—highlighted the journey of the luggage before the customer even buys it.
“I knew that I wanted to focus more on the social and ethical side of sustainability, so I chose a project that highlighted supply chain transparency,” Armstrong said. “I wanted to show how extensive yet interconnected our world is and make it personal for the consumer. By bringing in different stories, the entire luggage supply chain becomes more personal for the buyer.”
Herelle’s case study included a design concept that tackled a current social issue: racial injustice. She created a streetwear collection and presented the idea of partnering the line with a well-known brand, Adidas. The concept was that Adidas could then market and sell the product and give a percentage of the proceeds to causes that address racial injustice issues.
“I used resources at the college to create an original textile print for the collection using inspirational photos from demonstrations,” said Herelle. “I took inspiration from protest scenes when choosing the color palette with placement of orange and red to represent the fires, black to represent protesters’ t-shirts as well as police riot gear, and gray to represent the backdrop of the urban landscape. At the time, my thought process for the case study was both to bring awareness to the issues and to provide resources to those affected by these events.”
Herelle also was recognized as a Virgil Abloh Post-Modern Scholar, one of only 20 African American students to receive the inaugural FSF award, which offers additional opportunities such as access to career support services and mentoring.
For both students, the process of creating a case study has proven to be an invaluable learning experience, and they now look forward to discovering future opportunities as FSF Scholars and engaging with their mentors beginning in April.
Armstrong, currently interning with Devmir Legwear Inc. (the maker of Sierra Socks) and working on their digital marketplace, hopes to leverage her new FSF connections to find a summer internship where she can further showcase and develop her merchandising skills.
Herelle plans to work as a design intern with Kohl’s this summer and seeks to work in corporate or design after graduation.
FSF supports the careers of the country’s most promising fashion students from all backgrounds and awards over $1 million each year to help students succeed in all sectors of the industry. New prompts, eligibility requirements and other details for the FSF Case Study Scholarship are released in February each year on the FSF website.