Fashion Academia

In the midst of finishing my Master’s thesis and keeping up with coursework, I have been looking at Academic positions currently available in the field of Apparel/ Fashion/ Textiles. This is a snapshot of the positions currently available and posted in the International Textile and Apparel Association website:

Positions currently available through ITAA, Feb 2014
Positions currently available through ITAA, Feb 2014

Compared to other fields, this is a long list of openings in academia, which is great. I have been looking for openings in California, and was excited to see an opening in Cal-Poly Pomona and San Francisco State a few weeks ago. Now that I know there have been openings in both Northern and Southern California, I am hoping that a position related to Sustainable Fashion will be available someday.

I am currently waiting to hear whether I’ve been accepted into Cornell’s Apparel Design Ph.D. program. I was very excited to learn that I was accepted into the Master’s program, and time has flown since March 2012. In my doctoral research, I hope to continue my research that links agriculture with fashion and explore economic development opportunities with fiber farm Community-Supported-Agriculture. I also hope to apply participatory action research methods that I am currently learning about.

Fashion design is strongly rooted in my Salvadorean family background. I developed an interest in fashion during my childhood while I watched my ‘mamita,’ grandmother, sew clothing for my twin sister and I. We drew hundreds of fashion designs during our teen years. They can be seen here and here.

We went to UC Davis together to study fashion design, and my sister branched off as she developed an interested in textile science and chemistry. We were also lucky enough to be accepted into Cornell’s Fiber Science & Apparel Design graduate programs. We are first-generation Salvadorean-American and the first in our family to pursue higher degrees in this field.

As a freshman at UC Davis I thought a Bachelor’s degree was the highest degree I could get, but then I learned about the various possibilities with an M.F.A., M.A., and Ph.D. Ever since I was a freshman at UC Davis, I hoped to be eligible to apply to Cornell’s Ph.D. program in Apparel Design. Being in the UC Davis McNair Scholars Program, a federal grad prep program for minority students interested in pursuing Ph.Ds, gave me the confidence to conduct research in Fashion Design, and apply to Cornell. The Ph.D. program is one of few in the field, and offers students opportunities to explore interdisciplinary fields of interest. In my case, for my M.A. I chose to combine agriculture, sustainable fashion, and consumer studies. For my Ph.D., I hope to combine sustainable fashion with agroecosystem, economic and community development thinking.

Above all, whether I only get a Masters of Arts, or ultimately obtain a Doctoral degree, I am excited that I will be able to teach other students in the future. I hope to extend my excitement and knowledge about the culture of fiber arts, apparel/textile value chains, and show how clothing and textiles strongly depend on the resilience of rural communities where fiber farms exist.

I also hope that fellow students of diverse backgrounds will also feel inspired to pursue fashion design, and not see it as a ‘dead end’ with few economic opportunities – that’s the fashion industry. A part of fashion academia stimulates critical thinking about the current fashion system including social inequities, environmental degradation, and issues with only thinking about bottom line profits. Learning about the ‘other side’ of the fashion industry over the past six years has shifted my interest from ‘fashion design’ to become a ‘fashion scholar.’ I feel very happy to be a part of the academic fashion route.

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