If you were to walk into a high school anywhere in America and ask, "Who wants to be the next Marc Jacobs?!," hands would fly up with no hesitation. The idea of traveling the globe, befriending celebs, dressing in high end clothing, and a reserved spot front and center at Fashion Week, would make any red blooded teen drop his or her cell phone. But, the fashion industry isn't just about homes in the Hamptons and dressing Julia Roberts for the Oscars. Like anything worthwhile, a place in the fashion spotlight is something you must work for and there are no short cuts to success.
Dawn Bell and her team are instilling this well-worn truth into the lives of teens from across the country through Fashion Camp, a summer intensive designed specifically for style minded kids looking to get their fashionable feet wet.
The unique program, opening its 2014 session on June 9, is one of the only summer camps geared towards those interested in a fashion career but not yet fully immersed in college curriculum.
Bell envisioned Fashion Camp's curriculum to be a survey course designed to give teens a full understanding of the industry, its various sectors, and what it takes to make it.
"We want to spark their passion and streamline their interests so they are ahead of the game," says Bell of the program. "We represent the real fashion industry and the real work that goes into it, but they still have fun!"
I would imagine all parents would want their kids to test drive their chosen careers prior to writing that tuition check or signing on to college loans and that benefit is not lost on Bell and her team. By the end of the program, Bell hopes campers leave with a clearer understanding of what they truly want career wise, whether that be to fully invest in fashion or run away screaming in the opposite direction.
Her approach has been an all-around success thus far and many of her graduates have gone on to intern with David Peck and Chloe Dao, while others have created their own clothing and accessory lines.
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Though all the credit for the program's success falls squarely on the shoulders of Dawn Bell, if you were to ask her, she would say it was the overwhelming support of Houston's fashion elite that made her vision come to fruition. The outpouring of community love has Bell flabbergasted and deeply touched.
"I always saw it as a community endeavor, but didn't expect the amount of support," she says when speaking of the many companies, organizations, and individuals donating their time and talent to the endeavor.
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Of the many supporters, Houston Community College HCC has, through its donation of facilities, equipment, and software, taken the camp to the next level. The college will host a digital illustration seminar taught by HCC instructor Jessica McMahon and campers will be treated to a tour of the HCC fashion archives lead by curator Freddie Saucedo. A guided tour of The Menil's newest exhibit A Thin Wall of Air: Charles James opening this weekend, rounds out the week's fashion history lesson.
In addition to field trips, a bevy of speakers and experts have been invited to address students on subjects ranging from styling, to marketing, to designing. As a final exam of sorts, campers, split into teams of three, will create an accessories collection to be presented to the design team at Elaine Turner Designs during their end of camp visit. Campers will be using premium raw materials donated by Elaine Turner Designs and fashion non-profit Magpies & Peacocks for their creations.
As for next year, Bell has high hopes to expand outreach efforts and, more importantly, scholarships. Newly created fashion business organization Houston Designed, Magpies & Peacocks, and additional individual supporters, served as scholarship donors this year, but Bell wants to provide more for those kids full of passion but lacking in financial support.
"It's taken a while to reach the kids who could benefit, but the word is getting out there."