Scholarship Spotlight: Where Are They Now?

Sydney Halela, a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology, received an Honorable Mention in 2011 for her Liz Claiborne Design Scholarship portfolio. We’ve caught up with Sydney who is now an assistant designer at Daniel Vosovic to hear more about her transition from school to industry.

You’re staying in the CFDA family by working for Daniel Vosovic. What is it like being involved with the CFDA {FASHION INCUBATOR] program?

It’s amazing to be a part of the Incubator program because we are in a position where we have a revolving team of industry mentors, each with their own experiences and skill sets that are tailored around our business needs for each six month period. It is priceless insight and knowledge that I don’t think I would receive at any other job. I feel very lucky to have access to these incredible people.

How did school prepare you for working in the fashion industry?

I went to FIT and what’s great is that they provide you with opportunity to have a well-rounded education. You just have to seek out what interests you. For example, I was very interested in the illustration aspect of design and I loved how a successful illustration could bring your designs to life and sell people on an idea. I applied for a semester in art specialization, where I came out of that four month period with a great portfolio of work. The great thing about FIT is that they stress practicality to students.

What’s it like moving from a school environment where you have the freedom to focus on your own design to working for a brand under the direction of a designer’s vision?

I had a unique situation where I was lucky enough to be introduced to Daniel Vosovic early on through a fellow classmate of mine. It was actually my first internship. The company was extremely small, which was great for me because I received very hands on experience. I think working alongside him, while going to school shaped me as a designer in part. I was able to use what I learned from my internship and apply it to my school work. I’ve always tried to keep a selling mentality at the forefront of my mind when designing. Having the firsthand knowledge of what is really going to sell, and more importantly, what my target customer actually needs from me was an invaluable lesson I learned while interning and going to school. So for me, transitioning from student to assistant designer for Daniel was pretty smooth and painless because he had basically trained me already.

What is a day in the life of Sydney like?

Every day is a little bit different when you’re working for a smaller label. One day I could be sketching side by side with Daniel and working out color stories, and the next I could be in showroom appointments with buyers. I cover a lot of ground and have to be able to do a little bit of everything.

Do you have any mentors who have helped you throughout the transition from school to industry?

While I was in school my mentors were always Daniel and a small close knit group of my fellow classmates. Before Daniel knew I was going to sit him down and demand a job from him, he always made everything a teaching experience and tried his best to prepare me for the real world. And my friends at school were all so different in their own way that I was able to learn something new from them almost every day. We were a great support group for each other.

What is some advice you can give to design students?

I’d tell them that design school is what you make of it. School gives you all the tools but at the end of the day, no one is going to hand you anything in this industry. You’re going to have to fight for what you want.