Monday, March 23, 2009

College Life

Confessions Of A Recessionista
Move over high fashion, recessionistas are on the rise.
By Adriana Lorenzo

New York City is considered one of the fashion capitals of the world. But looking good in the city has its price, and with the current recession the price tags are looking heftier than ever. The fashion industry has always been seen as a place where only the strong survive. But recently, even top names in the industry have suffered.

Saks Fifth Avenue is laying off people, Macy’s is shutting down stores, New York Fashion Week scaled back with many designers opting out, and LA Fashion Week disappeared completely. In this survival of the fashionably fittest, where even the most luxury names are suffering, how do aspiring fashion students even stand a chance?

Enter the recessionistas, those style mavens who still manage to make a fashion statement while staying on a tight budget during hard times.

College students in general across the country are struggling with debt, expensive textbooks and finding cheap meals. On top of this, fashion students are expected to purchase materials for endless school projects and dress a certain way, following trends to make impressions and get ahead in the industry.

“It is definitely not easy being a fashion student,” says Cristina Nuñez, a sophomore fashion merchandising major at the Fashion Institute of Technology. “Being a college student is expensive in general. But going to school in New York City is incredibly expensive.”

Nunez moved from Miami, Fla. to pursue her lifelong passion for the fashion industry. Nuñez was well aware of the more than $5,000 a semester tuition for FIT, that did not include housing. But she didn’t realize how much of a struggle pursuing her dreams would truly be.

Cristina Nunez found this bargain
outfit for a class assignment

Many of Nuñez’s peers share in her sentiments. James Murphy, also a sophomore at FIT, recalls joking with his family and friends about how as an aspiring fashion student he would likely be poor the rest of his life.

“Now that I am actually living and working in this industry, I realize how hard it is going to be to make it big and have money,” Murphy said. “I have to really balance my budget in order to have enough to buy clothes, materials for my projects, and oh yeah, occasionally eat.”

Various classes at FIT contain major projects such as creating life-size window displays, designing a seasonal clothing line, and as student Drew Tyndall recalls, “putting on a fashion show in class.”

The "A+" projects are typically the most detailed and creative, and likely required the most money spent on supplies. “My group decided to produce an Alice in Wonderland themed show,” Tyndall said. “We split the costs of the show’s programs, invitations, favors and the actual outfits on display. But it still ended up being pretty costly.”

In an effort to save money, students often get creative when making purchases for their school assignments, or even for their everyday wardrobe. For one of her class assignments, Nuñez was asked to dress up as a well-known style icon. She chose to dress as singer Katy Perry, and to stay within her budget, she found all the items for her costume at discount stores.

“I go to vintage shops or flea markets whenever I can and find great deals,” Nuñez said. “I also make my own clothes sometimes and hair accessories. Mixing and matching is also a big part of expanding my wardrobe.” Her entire costume cost under $20 and she got an A.

Despite the grim presence of a slumping economy in the usual glitzy world of fashion, most fashion students are not worried about their futures in the industry. Many believe that the key to their futures is making connections early on through internships or part-time jobs.

“The industry is extremely competitive as is, even without the current economic crisis,” Murphy said. “I have already interned for a top designer and worked my butt off for various fashion weeks. I am confident the hard work I put in now will pay off when I am actually hunting for a job.”

During these tough economic times, fashion lovers and college students alike can take pointers from these FIT students when looking toward the future. They are a prime example that one does not always have to have a large disposable income to look and feel good.

“Everyone is suffering right now, and all industries are hurt by this recession,” Tyndall said. “I am confident everything will turn around though, and in the mean time we can just find the best ways to be fabulous on a budget.”

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