The fashion industry has discovered that modest dressing, which can be beautiful and stylish, is an interesting niche. But for Orthodox Jewish women, it’s not just a trend that can go or stay—it’s our life. Several enterprising women have developed their own modest fashion brands in recent years. They have been largely self-taught, or opted for courses at secular schools despite an environment that doesn’t always align with their values. A new program will teach fashion design at a high level for frum women who will be well trained to produce quality brands. And we will all benefit from having more styles for our wardrobes.
Starting next month, the Institute for Career Advancement (ICA), a career training school for the frum community, is adding a fashion design program. The 12-month course is divided into three sections: Creative, Technical and Business. Students who complete the course will have the tools to develop their own brand. They will learn how to design, produce and market their work. The course will meet two nights a week, with locations in Brooklyn and Monsey. Lakewood will be added in the near future.
“There is no real platform for creative individuals in our community to learn fashion design professionally without compromising their values,” said Faigy Lezer, who is overseeing the course development. “This is an alternative option to college. Everything is hands-on and goal-oriented. Students who take this intense course could run their own firm.” The course will also prepare students for a variety of creative, technical and business positions in the industry.
Lezer said she reached out to industry professionals to develop the curriculum and teach classes. All are enthusiastic and understand the guidelines of modest dressing they need to follow. One of the women developing the curriculum is the business director of couture brand Elie Saab. She noted that many women buy their designs but then have to take them to their own seamstress to alter. She thinks it’s terrific that more women in the community will be trained to create fashion they can wear.
For 10 months, every Monday will be devoted to the creative side, with instruction on how to design using industry-standard tools, and Wednesday will be devoted to the technical side. Students will be creating their own portfolios as they progress. The last two months will focus on business and marketing. Students will learn how to take their creations to the next level, develop branding and learn production management.
The ICA model includes events so students enjoy coming and bond with each other. There will be speakers and a melave malka to create a warm and professional atmosphere. “We want to transform students into professionals, but they should enjoy the journey,” said Lezer.
Lezer has reached out to companies about internships and jobs for students. While there is no guarantee, there is lots of excitement. “The companies are saying, ‘Wow, we can hire designers who will understand us!’”
Registration is open until November 17 for the program beginning December 5. Lezer said the students coming into the program are seminary grads looking to start a career, and women in their 20s and 30s who always wanted to get into the field but didn’t have an appropriate way to learn. She is also seeing interest from women who are already in the industry but never learned professionally and are excited to enter a program to advance their skill set. There are no prerequisites. “We do our own assessment but if you have the passion, we’ll get you there,” said Lezer.
For more information about the Monsey or Brooklyn program, call ICA at 718-506-0912.
By Bracha Schwartz