Style is a universal language that speaks volumes. More than just a way of dress, fashion can be harnessed to break barriers, open dialogue, and form new ideas about the world around us. At the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), The SCAD School of Fashion exemplifies this notion, offering an array of cutting-edge undergraduate and graduate programs.
Consistently ranked as a top fashion university, The SCAD School of Fashion has the first graduate-level Luxury and Fashion Management program in the U.S., the largest Jewelry and Fibers programs in the U.S., the first Business of Beauty and Fragrance program in the U.S., and the first M.F.A. in Accessory Design in the world. Through hyper-focused classes taught by skilled professors, and mentorships by industry leaders, students clearly see a path into the industry beyond today.
“The innovative facilities our students have access to are unparalleled both in-person and online,” said Michael Fink, Dean of The SCAD School of Fashion. “We are introducing an entire suite of new minor programs of study this upcoming year, including our CLO-3D labs. Faculty not only lead internationally acclaimed programs of study, but also offer an incredible amount of workshops, help sessions, and extended learning opportunities outside the classroom,”
Undergraduates in Accessory Design learn the processes required to produce their own collections alongside traditional methods and modern skills. From sewing and looming to computer-aided design, students hone their personal aesthetic in both 2-D to 3-D formats, transforming a concept to reality. Through the university’s innovation studio SCADpro, students are able to collaborate with brands they’re interested in designing for—like Chanel and Reebok.
SCAD seniors showcase their creations in front of a juried panel. This body of work demonstrates each student’s expertise and vision beyond the classroom. Typically, that event is held for the public and anchored by a fashion show, but this year amid COVID-19, it was presented a bit differently. Students were challenged to reassess their role as designers and speak of their work in the reality of the current pandemic.
“Our students were able to refocus their design ideologies,” said Fink. “We asked them to investigate questions like ‘What do you do when there is no supply chain available? What do you do when there are no stores buying anything? What would you do differently, if anything, with the materials you are using?’ and ‘What design problems are you solving that benefit the consumer and the general population?’ The presentations to the jury became more action oriented with regard to industry problem-solving, as opposed to making the collection.”
Before the Coronavirus pandemic, SCAD offered 23 degree programs through SCAD virtual and eLearning for students around the world. But with the health crisis impacting in-person education around the world, SCAD made several changes to offer the majority of fashion classes through virtual learning.
“We are utilizing this real-time scenario as a learning experience for students and faculty. New challenges require new thinking and solutions. President Paula Wallace founded SCAD to be the leader in art and design innovation. That’s what we do!” said Fink.
SCAD President and Founder Paula Wallace created SCADamp—a professional presentation studio centered around students’ stories. Through verbal, visual, and interpersonal communication, SCADamp elevates the university as a leader in higher education and industry, and advances its mission to prepare students for creative professions.
“I created SCADamp when speaking with industry leaders about what skills they most wanted in new hires. We asked some of our top alumni employers (Target, Anthropologie, Ralph Lauren, Gensler, Google), ‘What do you most need in new hires?’ They didn’t say, ‘More design knowledge.’ Our Bees already have that. They said, ‘Better presentation skills.’ That insight led us to create SCADamp—a studio designed to create grads with superior presenting skills for any scenario,” said Wallace.
“SCAD students are future marketing directors, buyers, designers, art directors, design managers, copywriters, city planners, entrepreneurs, and inventors,” Wallace continued. “For SCAD Bees, pitching is life, and SCADamp prepares every grad to win the pitch and wow any audience, from Zoom to boardroom.”
After graduating, many students have gone on to design for top-tier fashion and accessory brands around the globe, like Chanel, Celine, Thom Browne, Ralph Lauren, and Diane von Furstenberg, Alexander Wang, and Proenza Schouler. Others flourish as entrepreneurs and establish their own brand, like Argent, Omondi, AUDRA, and Christopher John Rogers.
As an 18-year-old freshman at SCAD, Audra Noyes, the designer and founder of AUDRA, first imagined studying art therapy, not initially realizing the vast opportunities for careers within the fashion industry. “Obviously, things changed quite a bit during those four years! Though I departed from pursuing art therapy, my passion for the therapeutic approach—rooted in empathy, compassion, and deep human connection—has been applied into my work now informing how I connect with my customers and my collaborators through my brand, AUDRA,” she said.
Noyes took the advice of her older sister and focused on sewing and pattern-making, igniting her passion for craft and cut, and for the technical side of the creative process.
“SCAD challenged and shaped my creative voice and industry skill sets, specifically in collection research, illustration, and collection presentation. Specifically, the technical skills from pattern drafting to sewing were instrumental in furthering my opportunities once I entered into the fashion industry. I had the skill sets to be able to effectively and efficiently demonstrate my creative ideas and therefore add worth to the designs teams I joined,” said Noyes.
That teamwork first began at Ralph Lauren, where Noyes was an intern. And during her last year, her work with industry leaders continued, as she participated in the Style Lab Mentorship with Zac Posen before presenting her final collection—all inspired by a journal of a woman traveling Europe in the 1930s.
After, Noyes moved to Paris to pursue internships under two more influential houses—Lanvin and John Galliano. “I recall my first day as an intern at Lanvin we were asked to mockup collar ideas in organza. As a result of having the foundation technical skillsets I learned at SCAD, I could quickly focus on my creative vision and efficiently bring those ideas to life.”
“At SCAD, I said ‘yes’ to every extra project or competition. During my internships, I stayed late and helped with all the extra tasks. And now as a business owner, I am agile and have the humility to evolve in order to be successful and effective. Those experiences of saying ‘yes’—even when it wasn’t my ideal position or desired project—all impacted me and set me up for success. The industry, though alluring and invigorating, is competitive and takes passion, long hours, humility, and commitment,” she said.
Today, AUDRA balances design and business. Noyes’ process of consciously creating centers around the importance of knowing where, whom, and how garments are being made. After importing fabrics from small-batch family-owned mills in Europe and Japan, each ongoing step of manufacturing is done entirely in America at female-owned factories. This allows the brand to deliver limited runs of high-quality, thoughtful clothing.
Her Spring/Summer 2020 collection is informed by the duality of peace and chaos, inspired by images of Japanese gardens, the artwork of Pu Xinyu, and a Walt Whitman quote about growing slowly. Effortless T-Shirt cocktail dresses and fresh monotone suiting separates contrast with the chaos found in the painterly windowpane prints and ombre fringe on hemlines.
“I am continually referencing the strong women in my life, whether customers or my family, their stories, their feedback, and their journeys,” Noyes said. “In order to effectively design for them, as well as guide our sales and marketing strategy, I have identified five customer personas that I feel best encompasses this community of women around my brand. The real winners, the silhouettes that stay in the collection for seasons and years, are pieces that can be worn by all of these personas and in many different aspects of their life.”
Another graduate of note is the Louisiana-born, Brooklyn-based fashion designer Christopher John Rogers. During his time at SCAD, he focused on collaboration, noting it was an integral part of his undergraduate career.
“Cross-pollination between disciplines was critical to my success. Having to work with Marketing, Fibers, Photography, and Graphic Design majors allowed me to see my work in many different ways, and how to apply my aesthetic to different projects,” Rogers said. “I learned more about printmaking and development in my Textiles course, and I applied that learning to the work that I developed for my senior collection. Working with prints is something that’s become a signature of the brand, and now I collaborate with a good friend, Morgan F. Hill, on the prints for our collections.”
After graduation, Rogers created a capsule eponymous collection, which expanded on his thesis work. The collection showed his ambitions of being an independent designer and creative, and immediately caught the attention of many people in the industry. After making made-to-order pieces from his studio since 2016, he first showed at New York Fashion week in 2018. Since, his small team of four has developed two more bodies of work, which are now sold online exclusively via Net-A-Porter.
In 2019, John Rogers won the prestigious CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund award, propelling him into a supportive community of mentors and resources. While his design talent earned him the final prize, it was his progressive values and inclusive outlook that gained him such acclaim.
More than just a fashion collection, John Rogers’ work is meant to grab attention, amalgamate times and places with feelings and memories, and call upon authenticity with personal style. The women who wear his designs—like Michelle Obama, Lizzo, Rihanna, and Cardi B.—are more than socially and culturally aware of politics, education, and the arts; they’re at the forefront.
“We’re all about taking up space and encouraging our customers to be the most themselves through the work,” said John Rogers. “We create high-impact looks that can be easily broken down into distinctive garments that allow people to expand the vernacular for how they define who they are. We’re about all types of people identifying with our message and try to reflect that in who we choose to collaborate and work with.”
Chapter 1 — Noteworthy
The SCAD School of Fashion prepare students for success in the fashion industry beyond today.
Through classes, mentorships, and out-of-classroom program, SCAD students learn vital skills and techniques to succeed at houses like Chanel and Lanvin.
Recently, SCAD launched the professional presentation studio SCADamp to prepare students for creative professions.