From Runway to Retail

Posted on February 27, 2015

THREADS celebrates 10 years with its always-popular fashion show

Chloe Bacot watched What Not To Wear religiously in elementary school and kept a journal of every outfit she wore. Haelee Catchpole has always been intrigued by the business side of style. Rachel Wilson, who faced a family tragedy in high school, responded by sewing costumes in the middle of the night when she couldn’t sleep.

For all three women, fashion is their calling. But nothing has made them realize that more than a student-run organization called THREADS.

Seniors in the Bryan School’s Department of Consumer, Retail, and Apparel Studies (CARS), Rachel serves as president of THREADS, Chloe as vice-president of design, and Haelee as vice-president of retail. The organization brings together students from both tracks of the CARS program – Apparel Design and Retail Studies – and connects them with mentors, outreach experiences, professional networking, and internships that often lead to fulltime positions.

“Because both majors can comingle and build off of each other, THREADS mimics how we will be working in the future,” Haelee says. In other words, students get comprehensive exposure to the industry, from runway to retail.

“Networking and events are our primary focus,” she adds. “We want students to envision their career possibilities.”

One of those events is the THREADS Fashion Show, held on Mar. 21 in the Elm Street Center, downtown. All student designers submitted a design to showcase this year’s theme – “XOXO” in celebration of THREADS’ 10th anniversary. Sophomores, juniors and seniors were also given full creative liberty to design a collection of up to six pieces, selecting the fabrics, the title and the inspiration.

This year’s fashion show included a special guest segment from a veteran and icon of the field. Terry Melville, former VP and Fashion Director for Macy’s, donated fabrics from her mother’s collection and challenged students to develop a design using the fabrics to create a celebrity look. She and two other judges — Freddie Lieba, a fashion stylist who was a guest judge on Project Runway, and Roxanne Lowett, a celebrity photographer and author — award the top designer, Rachel Wilson, with the Betty Creative Award, in honor of Melville’s mother.

“The fashion show is a great way to showcase your work outside of class and build your portfolio,” says Chloe, an Apparel Design major. “It’s exciting to see your pieces walk the runway.”

The preparations are always intensive, not only for the individual student, but for the organization as a whole. It’s worth it, Rachel points out. It’s not uncommon for the show to attract between 500-800 guests and even sell out. This year, attendance 751. Between ticket sales and sponsorships from businesses like VF Jeanswear, DuckHead, Wells Hosiery, Gerbing Heated Apparel and Sisters on Tate, the fashion show is THREAD’s largest fundraiser.

Proceeds from events like the fashion show are invested back into the student organization. For example, each year CARS majors travel to an industry showcase. The Atlanta Apparel Mart, two years ago. This year, Charlotte Fashion Week. The organization also brings industry professionals as guest speakers to campus and attracts recruiters from retail giants like Target, TJ Maxx and Macy’s.

“We’re always catering to our fellow students and helping them find opportunities to grow professionally,” Rachel says, adding that upperclassmen are mentors for younger students and a support system for each other. “We offer resume and portfolio workshops, mock interviews, anything to help prepare them.”

In addition to the fashion show, THREADS sponsors the Retail Strategies Competition for Retail Studies majors, who are more focused on merchandising, marketing, and other business aspects of the field. The competition challenges students to think about current trends in the retail industry; this year, based on a case study she had written, Haelee chose sustainability.

“Students developed their own sustainable line and connected it to a retailer of their choice. Then they had to make a pitch to sell the brand,” she says. The judging panel consisted of Mor Aframain, the creative director of Redress Raleigh, a sustainable clothing line; Terry Meville; and Kayla Stevens, creative director of Gerbing Heated Apparel.

“It’s a great way for students to interact with industry leaders and experience how to put a line together. It’s how I got connected to VF Jeanswear for my internship.” Haelee has also interned in the leather division at Randa Accessories in Chicago, providing retail forecasting.

Chloe says that participation in THREADS leads to a wealth of internship opportunities. She’s interned at Peter Millar in Cary, The Sanctuary Resort on Kiawah Island and Alice and Olivia in New York City, where she worked with the vice president of design, creating patterns and helping develop future apparel lines. When Duckhead relocated to Greensboro, Rachel was hired for an internship that led to part-time employment. She helped the company launch two brands and was also put in charge of t-shirt design.

“This is why I wanted to be a leader for THREADS,” Haelee says. “It opens doors to so many opportunities.”

“THREADS saved me,” Rachel adds. “It took me out of feeling alone and really connected me. That’s my main goal as president: To make sure students know about the organization, not only to help the growth of THREADS, but of themselves individually.”


by Andrea Crossley Spencer





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