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Ready to Take on the World

Jefferson’s Fashion Design Program

“This university has been involved in fashion for over 100 years,” notes Jefferson Fashion Design director Sheila Connelly. “We’re very connected in New York City and have a great, well-respected reputation in the fashion industry.”

Within a year, CEOWORLD Magazine ranked Jefferson Fashion Design No. 24 in the world and No. 6 in the United States. Fashionista placed the program among the top 25 in the world and in the top 10 in the nation. “I really think our approach to curriculum, which is industry-based and industry-focused, is what’s setting us apart and making Jefferson climb in the rankings,” Connelly says.

As a 10-year-old girl, Connelly begged her mom for a Vogue subscription and later worked in the fashion industry for more than 25 years. She has held numerous executive posts, including CEO and chief merchant for Hartstrings Childrenswear, fashion director at Shop NBC, creative director of Pampolina European Childrenswear, and vice president of design and marketing at The Eagle’s Eye.

“Oftentimes, there’s a romanticized idea of what a fashion designer does in industry,” she observes. “It’s not just about going into a room and creating something beautiful. It’s creating something beautiful that’s going to go out into the market and sell.” That means doing customer research and designing within market-driven parameters as well as learning computer-assisted design, merchandizing, and other business skills. “My job is to get students jobs when they graduate by making them industry-ready,” she insists.

Connelly teaches the New York Immersion course, a program she developed to get fashion design and fashion merchandising and management sophomores industry experience through weekly excursions to NYC. Trips include behind-the-scenes experience of fashion shows and visits to boutiques in SoHo, Madison Avenue stores, and various fashion houses and organizations. The immersion class also goes to New York Fashion Week, so there was a solid contingent of Jefferson students in the crowd cheering Keren Espina ’18 when she showed her collection on the runway.

“Our students leave Jefferson confident. They leave here skilled,” Connelly says. “They leave here with a strong portfolio and a solid resume, and ready to take on the world.”