March 1, 2006 | By: Carol Lea Spence

Twice a year, top designers gather in New York City to reveal their latest collections at Olympus Fashion Week. The invitation-only shows attract journalists, buyers, celebrities and socialites – and this year, University of Kentucky students.

The 23 merchandising, apparel and textiles undergraduate students from the UK College of Agriculture were led by Professor Elizabeth Easter of the School of Human Environmental Sciences and two leaders on the unique, behind-the-scenes tour of the fashion industry.

“The primary purpose is to expose the students to the fashion industry and how the fashion industry works from the concept of the designer to a manufacturing site or showroom,” said Easter. 

Along the way students met with publicity and merchandising experts. A visit to Glamour magazine gave them insight into the promotional aspect of the fashion industry. Students also had the opportunity to go to DKNY’s anchor store where they learned about designer Donna Karon’s philosophy and how her product was merchandised to target a specific type of customer.

“They also are required to shop the New York market,” said Easter. “They had to shop Fifth Avenue, which tends to be the anchor stores for most of the major department stores, and look at the New York store versus what they might see in Louisville or Lexington. It’s a totally different setup than you would see here.”

Not only was the trip an opportunity to see how the fashion industry works, she said, but the students were introduced to other career opportunities they might not be exposed to in the classroom. In many cases, their questions to industry professionals eventually centered on the subject of the career ladders they climbed. 

Attending the fashion shows was the main reason many of the students enrolled in the class, said Easter. By working through a tour company, Cover New York, she arranged for her students to attend the very popular shows of Sass & Bide and Tracy Reese, as well as gave them the opportunity to work behind the scenes at shows for Y & Kei and Atil Kritoglu.

Designers took time to tour the venues with the students, pointing out items of interest. The UK students had the same opportunities as the students from the Fashion Institute of Technology and Parsons The New School for Design, both internationally known New York-based design schools.

“I thought this would be a neat experience, but I didn’t realize how great an experience it was going to be and how lucky we were that we were getting to go to these fashion shows,” said sophomore Deena Cotterill.

Graduate student Kasey Doty, one of the three leaders of the group, said it was an eye-opening experience. “I think just to know that fashion isn’t all glamour. It’s a business; only our product happens to be clothing.”

The five-day trip to New York City left a big impression on Cotterill. “I feel very fortunate and very lucky that I got to participate. I know if I’d gone on my own I would never have gotten to see anything like that,” she said. “I could have gone to a play or gone to eat in some good restaurants, but as far as getting into the different companies to visit the showrooms and go to the fashion shows, it never would have happened.”

The School of Human Environmental Sciences tries to include in its curriculum a trip to New York and an international tour once every three semesters.


Elizabeth Easter, (859) 257-7777