Inspired by the cherry blossoms on Michigan State University’s campus in spring, MSU senior Kate Blaszkiewicz created an elaborate, one-of-a-kind gown made out of paper, which earned her a trip to New York Fashion Week.
The trip was made possible through University of New York Fashion Week, a unique academic enrichment program offered by Collegiate Licensing Company, MSU’s exclusive trademark licensing agency, and IMG, the official organizer and operator of New York Fashion Week: The Shows.
The 2023 UofNYFW program brought 30 students from 18 universities to New York City Feb. 10-12 for a behind-the-scenes look at the fashion industry during one of the most exciting fashion weeks in the world. Students networked with fashion industry professionals and attended runway shows, panel discussions and educational industry events.
“The whole experience was completely surreal,” said Blaszkiewicz, who has a double major in Management and Apparel and Textile Design. “I’m still blown away that I got to experience it. I feel so lucky.”
During this one-of-a-kind educational experience, students attended a runway show with Korean designer Son Jung Wan, had an exclusive look at the new line by Tiffany Brown Design, gained special access to the Ella Emhoff Likes to Knit! pop-up showroom, and participated in a Q&A with IMG representatives. They also received a backstage tour of the production and execution of a fashion show at Spring Studios, the central hub of New York Fashion Week: The Shows.
“It is always exciting to provide a group of bright college students the chance to interact and learn from some of the best designers and experts in the world of fashion at NYFW: The Shows,” said Leslie Russo, President of IMG’s Fashion Events and Properties. “This collaboration with CLC and the participating universities aligns with our mission to deliver opportunities for future leaders in the industry and support the development of new perspectives in the ever-evolving fashion business.”
For Blaszkiewicz, the Tiffany Brown fashion show was the most inspiring.
“Her fashion show was my favorite experience from the entire weekend,” Blaszkiewicz said. “I love designing for fashion shows. The whole organized chaos and the adrenaline is my favorite feeling of all time. So, getting to see a professional one was completely surreal.”
In addition to these unique New York Fashion Week experiences, the students also spent the day at the athletic fashion brand and collegiate licensee Champion where they learned firsthand how the Champion clothing line is developed and merchandised.
“Our goal for the UofNYFW college program is to deliver innovative experiences and once-in-a-lifetime learning opportunities to students at our partner institutions, which adds tremendous value to the participating universities beyond our traditional role of brand licensing,” said Cory Moss, CEO of CLC. “Since the inception of this unique program, we have been honored to help inspire and influence many talented students on their path to a career in the fashion industry.”
This is the 10th year for the UofNYFW program. Blaszkiewicz was chosen as this year’s MSU student representative after submitting the winning design in a competition for Apparel and Textile Design students that was coordinated by Rebecca Schuiling, ATD faculty member, and Erika Austin, Director of Licensing at MSU.
“ATD is thrilled to showcase the innovative, thoughtful and creative output of our ATD students through this annual competition,” Schuiling said. “We are so proud of Kate, and grateful to Erika Austin and MSU Licensing for providing funding, and UofNYFW and IMG for coordinating this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
For the ATD competition, participants were asked to design an outfit reflecting the MSU Spartan brand using non-traditional fabric.
“One of the most beautiful parts of campus is Beaumont Tower in the spring and summertime. I love the pink blossom trees, so I took that and ran with it,” Blaszkiewicz said. “I created the dress inspired by the cherry blossom trees at Beaumont Tower and, although I took inspiration from the trees, I also wanted the garment to represent our campus community, all the relationships I formed, and how much I’ve matured as a person.”
While Blaszkiewicz has matured, her love of fashion has remained the same, starting from a very young age.
“I have been into fashion my entire life,” she said. “I was not one of those kids who let my mom pick out what I was going to wear. Once I figured out what clothing was, I always wanted to pick out my own outfits. I lived my life in princess dresses and learned to sew when I was 9. Both of my grandmas played a huge role in that. I also started a knitting club in fourth grade.”
However, when Blaszkiewicz first enrolled at MSU, she chose to major in Management because she wasn’t sure if a career in fashion would support her. It was a class assignment, which required her to reach out to Broad College of Business graduates, that convinced her otherwise. For the assignment, Blaszkiewicz interviewed two women with business careers. They both asked her about her interests and Blaszkiewicz talked with them about fashion.
“Both stopped me halfway through the calls and told me: ‘You love this. You need to seriously consider switching your career and pursuing fashion,’” Blaszkiewicz said. “That was a mental shift. I finally decided to add fashion as a major.”
Although Blaszkiewicz was conflicted about which major to pursue, her decision to attend MSU was an easy one.
“I grew up in an MSU family. We’re very much a green and white family. So, it had always been in my mind, but what drew me to Michigan State was the culture. It seemed friendly and collaborative,” Blaszkiewicz said. “I didn’t want to be in an environment where people were less friendly, or more competitive against each other. It was important for me to be where people were supportive, and that’s ultimately what made my decision.”
Blaszkiewicz now hopes to return to New York City for a summer internship to gain as much experience as she can to set herself up for success. The UofNYFW opportunity was one of those experiences and Blaszkiewicz wishes to thank everyone who made it possible.
“A huge thank you to MSU and the people at University of New York Fashion Week. They were so incredible, encouraging, accommodating and supportive throughout the entire experience. I feel so fortunate,” Blaszkiewicz said. “If there is an opportunity, you’re not sure about or if there’s a leap you’ve been putting off taking — do it. I know that is such overdone advice, but that has been something that this trip has proved to me. Be brave, reach out to people, pursue opportunities and take the jump because that’s what changed everything for me.”
This story originally appeared on the College of Arts and Letters website.