Graduating Student Ava Armstrong Named Fashion Scholarship Fund Scholar, Presents Research in NYC
By Mary Giuffrida
A plane touched down in New York City on Sunday, April 10 bringing a Wilson College of Textiles student 500 miles closer to achieving her dreams.
The Fashion Scholarship Fund is an education and workforce development nonprofit that awards over $1 million in scholarships each year. Along with their financial award, FSF Scholars receive mentorship, professional development opportunities, networking and access to influential leaders in the fashion industry.
This was the second time Armstrong earned her place as an FSF Scholar through the nonprofit’s Case Study Scholarship, having received one of the scholarships in 2021 as well. The Case Study Scholarship is FSF’s signature program, which challenges students to develop solutions to real issues facing the fashion industry. This year’s supply chain prompt asked students to make a fashion or accessory company more flexible in the face of a global pandemic.
I really want more people from the Wilson College to know about this experience. It’s definitely attainable and so worth it.
“When I saw the prompt, I knew I wanted to do something with 3D printing because I’ve been super interested in how it relates back to sustainability.”
Armstrong had from the time the prompts were released in April until August to submit her topic idea to FSF, then the finalized case study was due in October. The idea for her topic started as 3D printed purses.
“The first thing that came to mind was Chanel, because they’ve already been 3D printing buttons,” Armstrong explains. “But there are a lot of different materials that would still need to be sourced from other places, and what I wanted to do was create a supply chain that was all in the United States.”
Armstrong eventually settled on North American glasses manufacturer Warby Parker. They only ship to the U.S. and Canada, and their glasses frames could be entirely 3D printed.
“If we have everything in the same place as the customers are, that is the ultimate level of on-demand flexibility,” Armstrong says.
Read Armstrong’s Case Study
After choosing her topic, Armstrong started by finding companies using the same model she was attempting to implement.
“A lot of the research I was doing was trying to figure out ‘Is it actually feasible?’” she says. “‘Have people done it before? What are the odds we can transfer this to a bigger company?’”
Armstrong found two different companies 3D printing glasses using selective laser centering on a smaller scale. Her next task was transitioning these companies’ models to work for a much larger and completely domestic company.
“I found myself calling a lot of manufacturers and asking them where they got their materials from,” Armstrong says. “That took me the longest, trying to find a company that made powders in the United States.”
After speaking with countless manufacturers, Armstrong was able to find a company in Texas that made the powders needed to 3D print the glasses. From there she got to work analyzing Warby Parker’s current supply chain and combining all the information into her final case study. She credits her coursework at the Wilson College for giving her the skills she needed to complete the final project.
“In FTM every class has us do group projects together,” Armstrong says. “Having to follow through from start to finish in all of my classes really helped prepare me mentally for this.”
That start to finish mindset paid off once again in December when the FSF judges selected her research to be honored at their annual gala and awarded her a $7,500 scholarship. Just three months later Armstrong was boarding a plane to New York City.
“I’d never been to New York before, and I’d never even traveled by myself before!” Armstrong says. “I was excited and ready to go.”
Armstrong spent the day of the gala with other FSF scholars. They attended a presentation from representatives of Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman and toured Bergdorf’s. Armstrong then toured Levi’s where she was able to see their unreleased collections and learn more about merchandising, marketing and design. All of this led to the main event, the gala at the Glasshouse, where Armstrong was recognized.
“Every scholar had a floor to ceiling banner with their name on it, the school they were from and their case study.” Armstrong says. “Industry professionals would come up and we would give them pitches.”
Along with getting to know industry leaders and professionals Armstrong and the scholars also heard from various speakers and spent time learning from other scholars and their experiences.
“I really want more people from the Wilson College to know about this experience,” Armstrong says. “It’s definitely attainable and so worth it.”
As her time at the Wilson College of Textiles comes to a close, Armstrong looks forward to starting a new chapter. She will be applying the skills she cultivated through her two years as an FSF scholar when she begins her new job this summer as an allocation analyst for Kohl’s.