LO high school students earn fashion design scholarships
Lake Oswego High students Dieter Vlasich and Charlie Ryan recently took a major step forward in their careers in fashion design.
Each won a scholarship contest and $2,000 worth of fashion design classes at Portland Fashion Institute, a leading apparel design and sewing school located in Northeast Portland.
This education will build the young men's skills and help them create a portfolio that could land entry into a prestigious fashion design university.
"Normally we choose only one winner each year," said PFI Director Sharon Blair. "But both of these applicants were so strong we had to choose both."
Vlasich and Ryan said they learned about the scholarship program from their AP Art teacher, Amy Burnham, who encouraged them to apply after seeing their fashion design sketches.
Both young men admit they knew nothing about sewing when they started sketching fashions, but had a sincere interest in clothes and fashion.
Ryan said he started drawing fashion while sidelined by a broken femur from lacrosse.
"I asked for a sewing machine for Christmas (last year)," Ryan said. "I taught myself to sew by watching YouTube videos."
He said a family friend taught him how to thread his sewing machine, and then he taught himself how to construct clothing by cutting apart old clothes. "I had to rip seams out and then start again," Ryan said.
For his application to PFI, Ryan designed a line of sportswear called Spacesuit for the Streets, which features what he saw was missing from menswear: An updated angle on the traditional T-shirt, hoodie and sweatpants that every teen wears.
Vlasich's grandmother taught him to sew, but he also relied on YouTube videos, and in his early fashions used a hot glue gun to connect the fabrics of his fashions. His first outfit was created as a project for his AP Psychology class.
"There was lots of trial and error and alternative methods, like the use of a hot glue gun," he said.
For the scholarship application he presented an oversized angular suit he calls a "reaction to the toxicity of modern society."
"I wanted something fierce, aggressive and empowered," he said. His colors and silhouette reflect current trends and reminded PFI's judges of high fashion designers Yves St. Laurent and Comme des Garcons.
Vlasich, a senior, will begin his studies at PFI with intensity Jan. 7, with the goal of completing a portfolio to submit at the Fashion Programme at Central Saint Martins at the University of the Arts London by Jan. 31.
Ryan will be able to take a more relaxed pace. He plans on applying at Parsons School of Fashion or Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City.
All three schools are internationally recognized colleges for fashion design. Their alumni include designers Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Marc Jacobs, Zac Posen and Stella McCartney. Such schools required portfolios as part of a very competitive admissions process.
Both Ryan and Vlasich say they get inspiration from viewing other designers' Instagram pages, and love combining outfit pieces.
"I get my best ideas right before I go to sleep," Ryan said.
Vlasich says he visits apparel stores like he would an art gallery.
Blair says more than 6,000 people have studied at PFI since it opened in 2010. While most students come to PFI for a class or two, those interested in a career have gone on to start their own clothings line, to work for one of the area's many apparel companies or to gain entry into one of the top schools in New York, London or Paris.
Lake Oswegan Joan Robbins, a graduate of PFI, was named Best Emerging Designer at the Portland Art and Fashion Awards in 2018, for her line Alton Oak.
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