New York Fashion, Taught On Seattle Turf

Budding fashion designers learn from the pros at the Ballard-based New York Fashion Academy.

Students at The New York Fashion Academy (NYFA) in Ballard come from all walks of life. However, an overwhelming number of these individuals have been educated and formerly employed as engineers, nurses, computer programmers, architects and so on. They have spent years working for successful companies and climbing corporate ladders, but all have ultimately made the decision to pursue fashion design for various reasons.

Photo: Michael Cline

You might wonder how individuals with non-fashion-related backgrounds are able to achieve success as designers. Thankfully, NYFA offers entry-level courses to teach inexperienced students the fundamentals, such as sewing and creating patterns. This way, even the greenest designers can enroll in the program. All that is required from these newcomers is a healthy dose of ambition.

NYFA was founded in 1979 by Terry Horlamus, a professionally trained designer who received her education in New York. Her goal: to create an environment in which students could learn about New York-style high fashion, and master the skills necessary for success within the industry. The effectiveness of NYFA’s education can be attributed in part to the small-class sizes, which enable instructors to treat every student as an individual.

Another hallmark of NYFA is its dynamic, comprehensive curriculum. “If somebody wanted to work in the fashion industry at a professional level,” claimed Dr. Robert E. Whaley, Provost at NYFA, “they can come into [NYFA] and master all of the skills required of somebody who is an entry level employee.”

“We are absolutely current with what people out there are asking for,” he added. “The goal is to put [students] out there who know how to do it all.”

Photo: WyattOrr

Make no mistake, though, this is not Project Runway, and you won’t hear Tim Gunn shouting, “make it work!” as he jaunts from room to room.

Instead, students are encouraged to develop their own style as they design, produce and market their apparel. The goal for students at NYFA is to demonstrate mastery in the skills they are taught.

At the end of the road, graduates are awarded with a Certificate Program of Mastery in Fashion Design and Construction to aid them as they embark on their newly discovered career path.

Historically, NYFA students have excelled in the fashion industry by displaying talents and techniques learned at the school — and earning an array of design awards in the process.

Most recently, honors bestowed on NYFA alumni have included: first place in the Seattle Fashion Week Comcast Student Design Competition; grand prize winners in the inaugural 2009 Vancouver, BC Fashion Week International Design Competition; first place winners in the 2008 and 2009 Red Dress Project Runway Design Competition; and five out of the five first place wins in the 2008 Seamless In Seattle Design Competition.

NYFA alumni are also finding success at the workplace. Some go on to make a name for themselves at retail stores such as Nordstrom, Eddie Bauer, Levi Strauss & Company, Adidas and other well known companies. Other graduates strike out independently and create their own lines. NYFA-educated fashion trailblazers have included Molly Gwendolyn, Jesica Milton, Malia Peoples (owner and designer of Lady Konnyaku) and Kimberlee Iblings (owner and designer for Deco Modiste) and Liise Wyatt and Karly Orr (co-founders of WyattOrr).

To learn more about the New York Fashion Academy, please visit their official school Web site.