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Los Angeles tour gives students an inspiring, real-life look at apparel careers

On their 2018 Los Angeles study tour, WSU apparel students pose for a group photo in front of Guess headquarters.
On their 2018 Los Angeles study tour, WSU apparel students meet in front of Guess headquarters.

Aspiring apparel professionals from Washington State University got an insider’s look at the Los Angeles clothing industry in their spring study tour, becoming inspired to make their own mark.

This year, sixteen students from WSU’s Department of Apparel, Design, Merchandising and Textiles (AMDT) flew to Los Angeles, where they visited more than a dozen companies, from Hot Topic and Guess to the mills and showrooms powering the industry.

“We want our students to know what careers are really like,” says Vicki McCracken, AMDT department chair. “Our spring tour gives them a chance to meet leaders, entrepreneurs, and alumni who were just like them. They hear their stories and learn how they can succeed.”

“This trip definitely puts a new light on what I want to do at WSU,” said junior Ashlin Hansen. “I’ve done a lot in class, but there’s so much more to learn now and in the future.”

At Antex Knitting Mill, students experienced the entire supply chain, from raw material to finished clothes.

Students see fabric unrolling on a factory tour.
Touring students saw raw fabric turned to finished clothing at Antex Knitting Mill.

“Every step was something they’ve learned about at WSU—but now, they saw their lessons come to life,” said Shanna Hiscock, AMDT Academic Coordinator.

Later, at denim manufacturer New Fashion Products, students met CEO Bobby Ahn, a former WSU AMDT advisory board member, who showed them his factory. Getting an inside look at how jeans are made, students watched as laser beams quickly stressed denim into rugged, eye-catching clothing.

“Owners and managers were happy to share how every piece of the puzzle comes together,” Hiscock said. “The entire process, from the first order for fabric to when FedEx picks up the box for delivery, unfolded around us while we were there.”

A group photo in the room at Fashion Mart.
WSU students pause for a group photo at the Los Angeles Fashion Mart.

Every stop incorporated a valuable lesson. At DIFF Eyewear, students learned how the company successfully grew from a small startup to a major designer by smart use of a philanthropic philosophy and social media. At Hot Topic, students met Ashley Eckstein, founder of Her Universe, a line of Star Wars, Marvel and Doctor Who-licensed women’s clothing and accessories.

During the visit, students sat down for dinner with Anthony Melo, a 2015 AMDT graduate and now an independent designer in Los Angeles. They also chatted with Addy Forte, a 2017 alumna working at clothing producer New Fashion Products.

“Everyone was willing to listen and help you succeed,” said Hansen, an aspiring clothing stylist.

“I now know a lot more about the companies I’d like to work for, and what it’s really like to make connections and work in the apparel industry,” she added. “After seeing all of this, I’d like to move to L.A. and pursue my career here.”