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Fashion Alumni

Erin Crilly ’15

Photo of Erin CrillyFor Erin Crilly ’15, change is good. After working for Ralph Lauren and hitting a career plateau, Crilly decided she wanted an opportunity to work for a  growing company, and thus landed as a production assistant for Calvin Klein and Karl Lagerfeld handbags and accessories in New York City.

The change came at a good time for the fashion design and merchandising major. “I believe that learning is very important regardless of what point of your career you are in,” Crilly said. “When you start becoming bored or feeling as if you are doing the same ‘copy & paste’ tasks day after day, that is when anyone should take the opportunity to further themselves.”

With a to-do list that never seems to get any smaller, urgent matters that always come up, and the challenge of working with many different personalities, Crilly says she enjoys the constant challenges her current position provides.

At Albright, she enjoyed the small college environment. In fact, Crilly chose Albright College because it is a small liberal arts college. “Albright affords you the opportunity to see what other fields are about. A small liberal arts college makes you work 10 times harder to reach your goals. I owe Albright a big thank you for my courage and determination in the work world,” Crilly said.

While attending Albright, Crilly took advantage of the fashion program’s many trips to NYC to visit various fashion companies, offering a great experience  and a fun day outside of class.

Her advice to current and future students is to never think you’re not capable of a position or do not have the experience needed. “Does anyone really have all the required experience many jobs look for? Put yourself out there and take on whatever challenge is put in front of you – you’ll become a whiz in no time,” she said. “Also, be realistic about finding a job. Many people expect to have these great jobs with huge salaries. Take the jobs at the bottom of the totem pole and work your way up – it’s the only way anyone learns!”

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Caroline Vazzana ’14

Photo of Caroline VazzanaCaroline Vazzana ’14 has always had a flair for the fabulous. Her eye for fashion and trendy sense of style has led her to the fashion industry as an editor, celebrity stylist, creative consultant, and social influencer. The native New Yorker, who has always dreamt of shedding light on the industry for future fashionistas, is also the founder of the fashion blog Making it in Manhattan.

As a student at Albright, Vazzana took advantage of the wide variety of fashion courses that were offered. “Those courses ultimately helped me decide what I wanted to pursue,” she said. “At Albright, you’re given the opportunity to collaborate with students in so many different majors, which really prepared me for what working in the real world would be like.”

In the real world, Vazzana wears a different hat every day, both literally and figuratively. “One day I might be interviewing a designer for Making it in Manhattan, and another day I could be styling a cover shoot for a print magazine,” she said. “No two days are ever the same and the possibilities are really endless.”

Vazzana has fond memories of Albright, crediting her involvement in many different activities. “I wanted to go to a non-traditional fashion school so I could engage myself in a variety of different things. Not only was I the president of Club Vogue, an active member of the fashion department, and co-planned the annual fashion show my junior year, but I was also the captain of the cross-country and track and field teams. I think the diversity of my background really prepared me for my future.”

She also credits her professors with preparing her for a career in the fashion industry. “The professors were so encouraging of all of my ideas and really pushed and encouraged me every single step of the way,” she said.

To current and future students, Vazzana advises to never give up and to be nice to everyone. “Networking is the key to success,” she said. “Dream BIG! No goal is too out of reach and nothing is impossible. With hard work, determination, and a really good attitude, you can achieve anything.”

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Erin Van Osten ’12

photo of Erin Van OstenAriel, Jasmine, Cinderella, Snow White … these names are familiar to every child who dreams of being a Disney princess. But behind every Disney princess product is a team of professionals like Erin Van Osten ’12, design manager at Jakks Pacific in Los Angeles. Van Osten oversees the design of princess costumes including dresses, shoes, wands and tiaras.

“I never thought I would be working at a toy company,” she said. “Who doesn’t remember that one special toy they received as a child? I’d like to think in some small way I’m providing that same special memory to children throughout the country and world.”

Van Osten loves the fun, creative atmosphere that she gets to work in every day. “We are constantly having brainstorming sessions and bouncing ideas off of each other, regardless of what team you are on.”

She chose Albright because of the costume design major, and has fond memories of working on the costumes for theatre productions in the costume shop. “I learned so much and really enjoyed seeing the productions and characters come to life with the costumes we created,” she said. Van Osten also enjoyed seeing her outfit walk the runway at the annual Fashion Showcase in 2011. “I worked really hard on that project,” she said. “It was very satisfying seeing it come down the runway and how everyone in the audience reacted to it.”

Van Osten’s advice to current and future students is to absorb and take in as much as you can, and learn how to communicate with people in person and over email. “Know construction, whether you think you are going into design, merchandising, or any other fashion career. It will help you no matter what,”  she said. “Work hard and be passionate about your job. It goes a long way and people will notice.”

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Jaleesa Lewis ’11

photo of Jaleesa LewsSome people crack under pressure, and then there’s Jaleesa Lewis ’11. The fashion design and merchandising major welcomes problems and troubleshooting at her job as buying operations at Urban Outfitters.

“There’s always some problem to troubleshoot at my job. I’m constantly learning new ways to resolve issues, which challenges me. It’s important to me to feel challenged in my position, which I feel, facilitates growth,” Lewis said.

As the “go-to” person for insuring merchandise gets to the Distribution Center and then to the appropriate stores for the Urban Renewal Brand and Intimates categories, Lewis sites organization as vital to success. “Being organized is key! Without having a system for all your responsibilities, things can easily fall by the wayside. I’m responsible for a little of everything, from the logistics point of view of the business and a lot of situations are time sensitive,” she said. “Business acumen is also important. It’s great to be efficient at one thing, but even better to know a little about everything and how different roles/teams work together toward the same business goal.”

Lewis chose Albright because of the teacher to student ratio, and the liberal arts program. She said Albright exceeded her expectations with the resources available and the education offered.

“Unlike bigger schools, where it may be more difficult to have relationships with the faculty, students at Albright are lucky to have these working relationships in order to gain advice for resumes, letters of recommendations and networking opportunities. I really appreciated learning how to network and build relationships early on, since I utilize those skills daily,” she added.

Her advice to current and future students is to network. “The relationships that you build in college can help you in the real world, and the skill set that it takes to build relationships will help on any team for your future career.”

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Ehrin Kelley ’09

(Originally published in the Albright Reporter)

Photo of Ehrin Kelly '09Ehrin Kelley ’09 had dreamed of becoming the next Donna Karan or Diane von Fürstenberg ever since she was a little girl, when she and her twin sister, Tarah (Kelley) Van Deursen ’09, would spend endless hours dressing up their Barbie dolls.

There was just one hitch.

“I wanted to be a fashion designer, and I wanted to create clothes. But when I was at Albright, I realized, Wow, I don’t like to sew, and I’m not really good at it,” she says, laughing.

That realization pushed Kelley to think outside of the canvas and create a custom-fitted career. Now, as an associate textile designer at Target, she’s able to combine her passion for fashion and her exceptional drawing ability.

“It’s the perfect combination,” says Kelley. “I use painting and drawing to create artwork on clothing without having to sew or manufacture clothes. I sometimes think, ‘I get to draw something today, and it’s going to end up in stores.’ It’s surreal.”

Kelley became interested in textile design while completing an independent project in weaving during her senior year. It reminded her, she says, of the fashion illustrations she often painted as a child.

“I was always interested in clothes, and I loved shopping and looking at different outfits. I always had that creative side to me,” she says. “The [fashion] program opened up a lot of opportunities for me. I learned that I can’t sew clothes, but then I found out about textile design and using materials that I hadn’t thought of before. The overall experience was great.”

Kelley earned a bachelor’s degree in fashion design with a co-major in studio art and went on to study at Philadelphia University, where she earned a master’s degree in textile design. While there, Kelley landed a 10-week summer internship at Target’s corporate headquarters in Minneapolis.

“I was on the boys’ [clothing] team. My project was researching and creating a line for Target.com,” she says. “It gave me a preview of what it would be like to have a career in textile design.”

Kelley, who was offered a full-time position following her internship, is currently part of the design team working on girls’ clothing. “I work on any prints and patterns for garments, dresses, tunics. For example, I’ll create the flower that goes on a T-shirt,” she says.

Originally from Chambersburg, Pa., Kelley says she’s settling into adulthood in Minneapolis. She recently returned from a trip to Paris, one of the fashion capitals of the world, and is already sketching new ideas inspired by the city. In five years, she would like to cross off two more dreams from her wish list: Move to New York City, and start a business creating prints and selling artwork.

“Right now, I’m happy where I am. I’m constantly learning and growing, and I’m taking advantage of every opportunity at Target,” she says. “If you’re passionate about what you do and you’re persistent, you can definitely succeed.”

–Kristin Boyd

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Kyle Bredbenner ’09

For Kyle Bredbenner, ’09, being flexible and embracing change is par for the course in the fashion industry. His career path had him switch from east to west coast, when he accepted a job as visual merchandising manager at Swarovski in the greater Los Angeles area, and he loves the culture of the company.

“It’s nice to be a part of a company that is concerned with more than just the bottom line,” Bredbenner said. “Swarovski cares about the health and well-being of their employees and they care about the world as a whole and the impact that we all make on it.”

To get to this destination, Kyle has learned a few career lessons along the way. “Focus on creative problem solving and don’t be afraid to take risks and try something new. If you fail, learn from the experience to help you succeed the next time. The great thing about fashion is that tomorrow is another day to try something new,” he said.

Bredbenner credits Albright College for preparing him for the real working world.  “Albright helped me to understand that every challenge is an opportunity to be creative – I’m able to take a well-rounded approach to solving everyday problems by looking at the problem from different angles to come up with the best solution,” he said.

He has fond memories of the fashion program, including the projects that translated into real life. “Sometimes I reflect on projects that I completed at Albright and think ‘what did I learn from that experience that will help me make a more informed decision in this real scenario?’,” Bredbenner said.

Offering advice to current and future students, Bredbenner said, “It doesn’t matter if you take the highway or the backroads to get to your destination, as long as you get there. Don’t be afraid to find the different path to get to where you want to be; sometimes the most unlikely steps will get you where you want and help you learn new things along the journey.”

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Aly Dudek ’08

(Originally published as “In Her Shoes” in the Albright Reporter)

Photo of Aly Dudek '08Silk, orange and purple polka dot pumps with purple bows.

Aly Dudek’s senior seminar project was to create a pair of shoes from scratch. Using material typically used for a man’s dressy necktie, she set her creativity in motion. Although the experience is what catapulted Dudek into a career in shoe design, she says of her creation, “My shoes were a little outrageous in color and design. Looking back, they were a little too gaudy for my liking.”

Gaudy or not, those pumps were just the beginning for Aly Dudek ’08, product developer and footwear designer for 3Dee International in Orange County, Calif. Dudek, who says she has a passion for buying shoes and herself owns more than 100 pairs, designs and does product development for a variety of women’s footwear brands including Olsenboye, Steve Madden Retail and Steve Madden Wholesale. Olsenboye is a new line of junior shoes that premiered this spring at JCPenney, says Dudek.

Following graduation from Albright, the fashion design and merchandising major headed out west to attend the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) in Los Angeles, where she earned a degree in product development in 2009. A footwear design internship at BCBG Max Azria provided her the opportunity to create trend and collection boards for buyers, and an internship at her current employer 3Dee International taught her how to sketch, create line sheets for different brand divisions, conduct trend research and create theme boards for upcoming seasons.

Dudek was the first intern ever hired full-time at 3Dee International. “The importance of hands-on experience is hard to put into words,” Dudek says. “I know my experience made an impact on my boss’ decision to hire me.”

Today, Dudek frequently travels to shoe shows in both New York and Las Vegas, and to China where she sends her sketches and spec sheets so that samples can be made. Where ever she travels, Dudek is in her creative element.

“Ornament and vamp treatments are really popular in shoe trends this season,” says Dudek. “Bows, flowers, spiked studs and sequins are just some of the popular shoe treatments that are selling really well in stores today.

“Wooden platform bottoms and cut out wedges are also making big leaps and will continue to do so within the upcoming seasons,” she adds. But Dudek favors designing platform shoes and boots over other styles.

“Platform shoes carry so much attitude,” she says. “Boots are also really fun because there are endless possibilities between shaft heights, varying silhouettes, and the enormous amount of surface area to add ornamentation and other unique details.”

Her biggest challenge, she says, is designing for the customer rather than for herself. “Everyone wants to design shoes that they would love to wear, but if it’s not good for my customer and it won’t sell well in their stores then I can’t make the samples.”

As for future plans, “I might want to dive into a brand that is more highend,” she says. “I’ve also thought about doing freelance to give myself a more flexible schedule.”

Whatever direction she takes, shoes will almost certainly be a part of it. Take note, Carrie Bradshaw!

–Jennifer Post Stoudt; Jaleesa Lewis ’11 also contributed to this story

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Erica Jones ’07

photo of Erica Jones

Erica Jones ’07 has always had a passion for apparel and clothing design, but was very opposed to a big city like New York City. Having graduated from Albright College, the Reading area was the ideal location to strike out on her own. In 2016, she founded GoBe Design, an athletic apparel consulting and design company which provides services to the world’s premiere athletes, teams, and apparel manufacturers, as well as for athleisure brands for yoga and warm-up wear.

“Being my own boss gives me the ability to be flexible,” Jones says. “I get to spend time with my kids, and really grow in other areas that I need to work on. I also get to learn new skills that I would have otherwise never had the opportunity had I stayed at my full-time job.”

Jones credits her Albright liberal arts education with helping her to think outside the box. “Albright was encouraging in ways that allowed me to step out of my comfort zone. The Fashion Department helped me learn the technical side of my skills,” she says.

Jones advises current and future students to own their mistakes and live with integrity. “Take mistakes as opportunities to grow – they are not failures, as long as you keep going and keep doing your best. And always be kind – don’t think you know everything,” she says.

“While in college, experience as much as you can and do things that take you out of your comfort zone,” she recommends. “Go to Experience Events, keep an open mind, meet new people and have fun!”

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Julianne Cleaver ’01

(Originally published as “The Dream. The Vision. The Plan” by Dorothy Hoerr ’93 in the Albright Reporter)

Cleaver photo“My shop is basically for people who like to have fun dressing,” says Julianne Cleaver ’01, standing amid racks of trendy gauze shirts and sequined ball gowns in her West Reading fashion boutique, Bella Jules. A bell jingles at the door, a customer enters, and the store greeter, Cleaver’s Yorkshire terrier/poodle Kailie, pops her head up over the counter. The customer explains that she is going to a black tie affair. “I have dressy earrings,” she says as she pats Kailie’s tiny head, “But I wonder if you have something kind of different—something funky.”

A pair of rhinestone hoop earrings in a display on the wall catch her eye. “These are cool and fun,” she says.

From behind the counter, Cleaver produces another pair for consideration while the customer describes the dress she’ll be wearing.

“I really like those,” Cleaver says of the hoops, as the woman holds up both pair at the curvy art deco mirror on the wall. If the customer gets the sense that Cleaver is envisioning the dress with the earrings, she is probably right. Julianne Cleaver is definitely a woman of vision.

Bella Jules is the result of that vision, a dream Cleaver has had for as long as she can remember. “I’ve always wanted to open my own store,” she says. But Cleaver knew that she had to get there in stages, and she knew exactly what those stages would be.

The first step was to get some work experience, so in her final semester as a visual/apparel merchandising major at Albright, she took two internships with fashion and fabric designers in New York. For anyone else, those internships might never have happened. But when Cleaver’s search for an affordable apartment in the city came up empty, she refused to give up. “I lived in a living room,” she says. “A friend found it in the classifieds.” For $900 a month, a woman in New York allowed Cleaver to make her living room into a bedroom for one semester.

After graduation, Cleaver’s experience at the New York firms helped her to land a job as a buyer for Boscov’s. Although she started in petite clothing, she spent most of her four years at Boscov’s buying merchandise for the gift and toy departments, including fittingly, dress up sets for little girls. “Boscov’s was a great learning experience,” she says, “I learned how to interact with vendors, what discounts I could ask for.” But even more important, Cleaver says that her experience at Boscov’s helped to develop her confidence. “Working at Boscov’s, I thought—I could do this for myself.”

By the time she was ready to take that step, Cleaver had already done her homework – literally. In a small business marketing class during her junior year at Albright, she had been assigned to write a business plan. While this might have been an academic exercise for other students, for Cleaver it was the foundation of her goal. “I really wanted to do it,” she says of writing the plan. It was this business plan, with minor adjustments, that went on to secure the funding for Cleaver to open Bella Jules in March 2005.

Every inch of the boutique at 700 Penn Avenue is Cleaver’s own design, the pink walls accented with mauve circles and stripes, which she painted herself. From the front room, with its mix of shirts, jeans, and a jewelry display in the corner, an archway leads into a middle room, where floor-to-ceiling shelves hold a display of colorful bags. A right turn sends shoppers through a hallway, lined with a display of sweaters, into the back room. Cleaver says she knew she didn’t want to be in a mall but had in mind something more upscale and “boutique-y.”

“Working at Boscov’s, I thought—I could do this for myself.”

She knows what she wants in the clothes she carries as well. “I don’t do conservative clothing,” she says of the style in her shop. While she carries a range of clothing for teens through seniors, she checks fashion magazines regularly to make sure she’s on trend. When asked how she knows what to buy for the store, she asserts, “It’s just my eye. I’m 27, so I can identify with the younger crowd.” In buying for older shoppers, Cleaver asks herself, “Could I see my mom in this?”

Last fall, Cleaver took on more than a new fashion season. She began a new academic year as well. In addition to speaking at Reading Area Community College and local high schools, she’s back at Albright, teaching the senior seminar for visual/apparel merchandising majors. “I was never one for public speaking,” Cleaver says. But nonetheless, she describes the experience as rewarding. A few of her students have visited the boutique on their own, and Cleaver says she may hold a class there in the future to help the students benefit from her real-life experience.

“Opening your own business is a big risk,” Cleaver says. “It’s more than just buying pretty things.” Julianne Cleaver knows that, to succeed in business, you need a solid plan. She credits Albright with giving her that.

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Rose Q. Jamieson ’63

(Originally published as “From the Pillbox to the Turban” by Kelyn Stump in the Albright Reporter)

Photo of fashionable hatAs a woman who wears many hats, Rose Quigley Jamieson ’63 was a natural to write a book about hat fashion.

The author of High Fashion Hats, 1950-1980, Jamieson was born four months before the attack on Pearl Harbor. During the war, the government required the fashion industry to save fabric in order to maximize the materials available for the war effort. But when the conflict ended and the limits on fabric lifted, it became a heyday for fashion. In sixth grade, Jamieson says, she remembers picking out something to wear for Easter. She immediately fell in love with a Christian Dior hat, which marked the dawn of a new fashion era for her.

“Hats were independent works of art with people hand-beading and hand-sewing sequins and feathers to create art,” explains Jamieson.

While she spent 30 years teaching at Centenary College in Hackettstown, N.J., fashion is in her blood. Her grandmother was a dressmaker and tailor who beaded her own jewelry and added accents to hats. She grew up with a fashionable family, idolized Queen Elizabeth and her matching hat and dress ensembles, and has enjoyed searching for vintage hats while antiquing with her husband, Paul.

It seemed only fitting for the home economics major to pen a book about fashion. In fact, she began collecting photos and researching the history of hats 25 years ago while studying for a master’s degree in education at East Stroudsburg University. Many years later, when Jamieson was ready to compile her research, she consulted friend and English teacher Joanne Deardorff for help. Deardorff served as photographer and formatted the text to the publisher’s standards, while Jamieson did all of the writing.

“I would sit at the sofa and set it up like the cockpit of an airplane, and surround myself with books for three-hour intervals,” Jamieson says of her writing process. “I would use a lapboard and pillow, and handwrite everything in cursive.”

Finally, the original manuscript, which detailed hats from 1840 through 1980, was complete. The duo submitted more than 50 pictures to Schiffer Publishing, including many photos of Jamieson’s family members wearing hats. One of her favorite photos, she says, is a 1962 shot of her sister sporting a tall-crowned, wide-brimmed leopard print hat and matching purse.

With so much content, however, the book had to be cut into two sections. Section two, hats of the 1950s to 1980s, was what was ultimately published in 2007.

“My courses (at Albright) really helped me to write my book,” Jamieson says. From chemistry class, where she got an overview in organic chemistry, to textiles, where she learned about the composition of man-made materials, to her sewing and fashion courses, she credits much of the book’s success to her Albright education.

Her passions don’t stop at fashion though. In addition to authoring the book, Jamieson has immersed herself in languages, learning Spanish, German and Italian, and she created and implemented one of the first child development programs at Warren Hills Regional School in Washington, N.J. Which hat will she wear next?

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