Securing first big break in fashion is tough. The popularity of the industry, the specialized nature of the roles and bi–coastal concentration of openings in the U.S. can all be barriers to entry. Fortunately, the nonprofit Fashion Scholarship Fund (FSF) has been helping fashion students break into the business for the past 80 years.
The FSF works directly with the country’s most talented young students from diverse backgrounds and awards over $1 million each year in scholarships, giving young fashion talent the support they need to succeed in all sectors of the industry — from design and merchandising to marketing analytics and supply chain management. Along with monetary assistance, FSF supports its recipients with a wide range of internship, career, mentorship, networking and professional development opportunities.
Levi Strauss & Co. is honored to be a corporate sponsor of the fund and help aspiring designers, merchants, and future fashion entrepreneurs launch their careers in the fashion industry. We believe the future of fashion requires these collaborative partnerships to ensure equitable opportunity and a diverse, creative talent pool reflective of our consumers.
For almost two decades, LS&Co. has hired FSF interns, bringing their creativity, business savvy and diversity of thought to our products and our processes. We caught up with a few of our current FSF employees to learn how the nonprofit organization helped kick start their careers.
Marisela Gonzalez Gianestra graduated from the Academy of Art University as a designer and works on the Global Women’s Bottoms team. She shared her story.
“I found my first internship via the FSF network, giving me the opportunity to move to New York and work for Kenneth Cole as their Accessories Intern. I won their summer intern competition where I designed a handbag. That win turned into a job offer. I unfortunately had to turn it down as I was moving to Paris that fall to continue school, but they gave me the opportunity to contract for them as Freelance Handbag Designer while I finished my studies.”
Cornell graduate and senior merchant for Levi’s® U.S. & Canada Sydney Connor discovered the FSF as a design/retail management major her junior year in college. Her FSF experience continues to resonate years after leaving the classroom.
“I participated and was a scholar in both junior and senior years and found the experience invaluable. Researching and building the case study was the closest experience I had in college to what I actually do in my merchandising career now. It took all of the various elements I had learned in an academic setting (consumer research, SWOT analysis, trend spotting) and brought it all together in a practical, meaningful way.”
Operations Analyst Javier Uriegas, a two-time FSF scholarship recipient, shared the long-term benefits of the organization.
“I have tapped into their alumni network many times for internships, interviews, job positions, and networking in general. The scholars are supported through mentorship and career opportunities provided by the organization. During my time as a scholar, I have also created good relationships with the heads of the organization including Peter Arnold who has served as a mentor many times throughout my time in college and after.”
Paving the way for future fashion careers continues. The FSF recently announced its class of 2022 scholarship recipients, and LS&Co. had the opportunity to host some of them in our New York showroom. Our partnership not only opens the door for those seeking opportunities in fashion but fosters diversity and inclusion in the fashion industry.
Twenty-three students of academic promise in the class are of Black, African American and African descent and are recipients of the Virgil Abloh “Post-Modern” Scholarship grants from FSF. The scholarships were established by Virgil himself with the goal of supporting equity and inclusion in the fashion industry. We’re proud to provide the financial support for this scholarship and the opportunity to diversify the fashion industry’s talent pool.