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Academy students Monique Manaloto ’19 and MacKenzie Baker ’20 were recently awarded a YMA Fashion Scholarship by the YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund. Winners received $5000 toward educational expenses and career-building opporunities, as well as a subsidized trip to the the FSF Awards Gala in New York City.
Scholarship competitors were required to submit a case study exploring how technology and design could be combined to keep retail shopping relevant and competitive. MacKenzie's case study focused on technology and analytics, while Monique focused on design and product development. Of the 227 scholarship recipients, there were four USC winners, two of which were from the Academy.
Here, Monique gives her firsthand account of award night in NYC...
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When I got the notification, I squealed and called my parents immediately – I couldn’t believe that I was lucky enough to win alongside three others from USC. I scrolled down the email to see Mac’s name as well and felt extremely proud of us. Since we were not coming from a fashion school or major, I felt especially proud of our ability to carry the Academy’s ethos of intersecting design, technology, and business to the YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund (FSF) and succeed.
All scholars were invited to New York City to partake in back-to-back events, mixers, and an awards gala. So in a few weeks’ time, Mac and I touched down on the east coast. With our suitcases bulky from our coats and noses numb from the cold, we headed to Times Square, prepared for the events to come.
The first day consisted of an afternoon exploring the city and watching snow fall gently onto the growing piles of slush along the sidewalks. The evening came quickly and soon we found ourselves in our first mixer surrounded by other very well-dressed scholars.
Mac and I split up so we could meet new people.
I was so impressed by the diversity of talent and interests everyone had within fashion. There was Tara Efobi, who told me about her beauty/fashion YouTube channel; Kaitlyn Uythoven, who fervently discussed textile sustainability with me; Peivand Mirzaie, who already had two collections under her belt; Oli Carrillo, who created a line inspired by the Jurassic World movie. I even ran into my friend Sarah Wright, who I had met at another fashion industry event in LA back in September, and we expressed our excitement for where fashion was going. Everyone I met was ambitious, highly passionate, and self-assured -- all strong qualities that inspire me to become more fearless in pursuing what I love.
The mixer ended with a panel of FSF alumni relaying their experiences in the fashion industry after winning the scholarship. Each of their stories gave insight on the many opportunities and connections the YMA has within the industry to help us succeed as we apply for jobs. Of course, we still have to work very hard to attain our personal goals, but it was reassuring to feel additional support from such a unique organization.
Day two was the big one -- the career fair.
Brands such as Adidas, Ralph Lauren, Levi’s, Kohl’s had booths with recruiters who were eager to meet us and review our work. I felt a mixture of intimidation and nervousness as I waited to speak with these recruiters, but I also felt confident because I knew my background was quite different from everyone else’s. Mac and I have dabbled in areas other than our specialties and we noticed that we could communicate with different kinds of people with relative ease. We didn’t have to be the biggest fashionistas in the room; instead, we had strong opinions on a variety of topics and fields that interested us and found value in speaking to a diverse crowd.
After the career fair, Mac and I changed out of our work outfits and into our dresses and heels for the awards gala that night. At 7pm, the scholars gathered together in a large ballroom full of industry leaders and had dinner as awards were presented to those who made substantial contributions to the industry over the past year. After an entire day in heels, Mac and I retired to our room, happy from the fancy dinner and we quickly fell asleep.
On our last day in New York, I reflected on the flurry of events I’d just experienced and felt a deep sense of hope for the future of the fashion industry. Every scholar I met works extra hard to get exactly what they want and seeks to be the best version of themselves. They excel in many areas beyond fashion and their unapologetic passion is inspiring. Also, most of these scholars were women. Although this industry has no problem with leading female figures and hiring women, I feel excited and empowered knowing that it is women driving new technologies, designs, business models, and concepts forward in this field. Currently, the fashion industry is undergoing an experimental, transitional phase. Wearables, lab-grown leather, e-commerce, and better sustainability efforts are just a few ways in which the industry is changing as it approaches a new age. As there were so many female scholars at the event, I know that female leadership in fashion is not only going to continue but also going to transform in what it means to the rest of the world. Our relationship with clothes as tools of utility and expression continues to evolve as we change our shopping patterns, clothing interests, and even our daily needs. As a result, the power, capability and intelligence of female leaders in this field will have a significant impact on not only the future of fashion but the future of female leadership.
About YMA FSF
The YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund is a premier educational fashion non-profit in the US. For over 80 years, the FSF has worked to advance the fashion industry by offering scholarships and programs to fashion students in both business and design.