French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent said, “Fashions fade; style is eternal.”
Every year, hundreds of students in Olathe School District’s Fashion Apparel and Interior Design program discover and create their own personal vision of style — one that will last a lifetime, regardless of where their futures take them.
For nearly a quarter of a century, the district has offered a wide array of career technical programs to students. The FAID program is one of nearly two dozen pathways in which students can prepare for high-demand careers.
Barbra Gonzales, the district’s Career and Technical Education coordinator, says the fashion and interior design industry, locally and globally, is growing. When students graduate from Olathe’s FAID program, they are career-focused and prepared for diverse employment opportunities in these fields.
Some of those possibilities include fashion, costume or graphic design, fashion management, teaching and design entrepreneurship.
“In recent years, the Midwest has seen a resurgence in the fashion industry,” said Gonzales, who taught and directed Olathe’s FAID program from 1995 to 2016, before beginning her current role as career and technical education coordinator. “We’ve always seen strong ties to interior design in the Midwest but, recently, the Kansas City fashion scene has changed the face of the fashion side here.”
Gonzales notes that the district currently works closely with Rightfully Sewn, a local organization dedicated to revitalizing Kansas City’s garment design and manufacturing industry, which thrived during the first half of the 20th century. Rightfully Sewn advisory board members provide curriculum and other guidance to help ensure Olathe’s FAID program meets current industry needs.
Offered at all five of the district’s high schools, approximately 100 students are enrolled in the program at each school. After completing introductory classes their first year, students then have the option to focus on the Fashion Apparel pathway, Interior Design or both.
Throughout the four-year curriculum, instructors focus on assigning projects that align with FAID industry practices.
At Olathe Northwest, Jordan Landis’ Apparel Production 2 students are tasked with designing their own clothing line each semester. The students begin the course by creating a vision board of their line, followed by the production of four garments that are showcased in the school’s annual fashion shows.
Though FAID students acquire design and design-related proficiencies, Landis and her fellow FAID instructors also teach students a wide range of other valuable skills through the program. They learn time management through design deadlines, as well as communication and collaboration skills when working on projects with peers, district staff and industry leaders.
FAID students also participate in hands-on learning experiences outside of the school setting.
“Through these experiences, students make connections with industry professionals and really get to see if a career in design is something they want to pursue,” said Landis who has been a FAID instructor for three years.
Though the FAID program prepares students to pursue a career in these industries, Taylor Schwartz, Olathe South FAID instructor, believes the program’s merits go even further.
Schwartz and her fellow instructors encourage students to create beyond the confines of a rubric and push the boundaries in their design work.
“My goal is for students to learn to think outside the box again and just be creative through the different projects and experiences this program offers,” Schwartz said.
“A lot of people think these classes are just another elective, but in reality we’re creating students who are ready for whatever they want to pursue after high school — and who are motivated by more than just a grade.
“We need to help more students grow into this type of mindset and gain these skills they will use for the rest of their lives, whether they go into design or not,” Schwartz said.
Elicia Castillo, one of Landis’ students is an example. A senior at Northwest, Castillo entered the FAID program her freshman year.
“After graduation, I’m pursuing a career in graphic and web design with a minor in apparel,” she said. “Ultimately, when I get older, I want to be an art director for a fashion magazine and work on the design side of it.
“I enjoy how I’m able to express my own style and individuality through the FAID projects. I’m also given real client work and experience, and the projects prepare me for a future career.”
Gonzales says that though career preparation is the goal of the FAID program, the program offers some great side benefits.
“Students get into our classes and don’t want to leave,” she said. “They’d like to be there all day. They’re using their hands, creating and having so much fun doing it.”