School of Human Ecology

Meghan McGowan and Kelsey Barajas chat with visiting professor Iris Apfel. 

Photo Credit: Kelsey Barajas | Daily Texan Staff

Iris Apfel, the 93-year-old “Rare Bird of Fashion,” has held many honors to this day: an exhibit dedicated to her style at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, her own line of clothes on the Home Shopping Network, a fashion spread for Italian Vogue and advertising campaigns for Coach and Kate Spade. She has been the face of MAC Cosmetics and is the subject of an Albert Maysles documentary. Apfel is also a visiting professor at UT, a title she holds dear. 

Each year, 15 students dedicated to the fashion industry are chosen for the School of Human Ecology’s UT in NYC course that takes place every May. 

Under the direction of Nancy Prideaux, the program coordinator and a senior lecturer in the Textiles and Apparel Department, selected students thoroughly research industry leaders and events. Then they meet with Apfel in New York City for a number of company visits. This unique opportunity allows students to take their classroom to the heart of the fashion industry and learn from firsthand experience.

The UT in NYC program is unparalleled. While many universities with fashion-related programs take trips to New York City to explore the industry, none are led by an industry icon as notable as Apfel. Apfel opens doors to the likes of J. Crew, Bergdorf Goodman, Kate Spade and Alexis Bittar — retailers, designers, public relations firms and more with a lot of prestige in the industry. 

Students are selected for the program through a competitive application, which includes an interview and faculty recommendations. The program itself seeks to incorporate students from varied backgrounds and experiences to participate in a robust exchange of ideas with each other and industry members.

When Sue Meller, BA ’75 and member of the school advisory council, visited the Met-debuted “Rare Bird of Fashion” exhibit at the Peabody Essex Museum in Boston, she was unaware of the series of events that would unfold. 

During her visit, she commented to a docent that the exhibit would be a wonderful experience for UT students. To her surprise, she received a call from Apfel herself soon after, curious about our school. Apfel felt a true connection to UT, commenting that other schools didn’t seem to be as interested in their students. Notable faculty, including former College of Natural Sciences Dean Mary Ann Rankin and others from the School of Human Ecology, met with Apfel in New York City over dinner in December 2010. Then, with the oversight of Prideaux, the course was born, and the first UT in NYC course occurred five months later.

The trip to New York City is a treasured networking experience for the students, who connect with industry professionals and all textiles-apparel grads in the city at an alumni event at the trip’s culmination. 

Supply chain management senior Meghan McGowan attests to how the trip shaped her career: “It’s invaluable to hear from leading professional influences — hearing their stories and the different experiences they have in their toolbox that got them to where they are today.” 

Apfel’s star power certainly isn’t lost on her students or Prideaux. Merchandising senior Kelsey Cowan Barajas believes visiting professor Apfel has had a huge impact on industry executives because she is “not afraid to be uncompromisingly herself or speak her mind.” 

As the faculty member who has worked with her to develop this program, Prideaux describes it as “‘truly a once in a lifetime experience to be in the presence of a creative genius and most astute businesswoman.’” 

Apfel began her career at Women’s Wear Daily and founded Old World Weavers, a textile mill, with her husband Carl Apfel. The textile mill produces replicas of historical textiles, many of which have been enlisted for the White House.

The UT in NYC course has truly influenced the Textiles-Apparel Program and elevated it to compete with other programs nationally. The University’s experience with Apfel allowed it to become a member of the YMA Fashion Scholarships Fund organization. The camera crew for Albert Maysles’ documentary “Iris” — set to be released April 29 — filmed portions of the first UT in NYC course during the students’ time with Apfel in New York City. 

Apfel will be in Dallas for the launch of her documentary at the USA Film Festival later this month. The documentary has received critically acclaimed reviews and is set for private viewings in New York and other venues. We are fortunate to have the support of a fashion icon with so much wisdom, clout and exuberance under her belt. The guidance of visiting professor Apfel provides students the encouragement and enthusiasm to follow her lead in this competitive industry.

Patel is a business honors, finance and textiles and apparel junior from Sugar Land. 

The School of Human Ecology presented a panel of UT alumni, including Marrisa Duswalt, Beverly Kearney and Garrett Weber-Gale. They discussed the choices and motivation of healthy living.

Photo Credit: Ben Chesnut | Daily Texan Staff

Successful healthy living is a result of choices and motivation, Longhorn alumni said in a panel Thursday.

The School of Human Ecology presented a panel of UT alumni to share personal stories of obstacles, success and choices that lead to healthier lifestyles. The panel consisted of Marissa Duswalt, associate director of policy and events for First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” initiative; Beverly Kearney, head coach for UT women’s track and field and cross country; and Garrett Weber-Gale, two-time Olympic gold medalist swimmer. Tyrrell Flawn, Advisory Council member for the School of Human Ecology, moderated the panel.

Duswalt said her struggle with adolescent obesity inspired her career path as a dietician. The symptomatic conditions she suffered associated with obesity during college triggered her awareness that one in three children suffer from obesity, Duswalt said. She said making small changes over a long period of time helped create a healthier lifestyle.

“Healthy choices on a grand scale seem very, very overwhelming,” Duswalt said. “When pursuing health, the long-term does not happen without the short-term, so every single day, choice by choice, you can decide to do what is better for yourself and those you love.”

Weber-Gale said it is necessary to understand why a healthy lifestyle is important in order to be successful. He said being diagnosed with high blood pressure inspired him to make healthier choices so he could pursue his Olympic goal.

“Everyone’s motivation and goals are different, but when you have passion you can continue to pursue that path and the obstacles will not appear that large,” Weber-Gale said.

The School of Human Ecology presented the panel as part of its centennial celebration.

Meghan Mullaney, public affairs specialist for the School of Human Ecology, said the school will open its doors to the UT community and invite members to participate in the celebration. She said in addition to the panel, the UT Tower will be lit burnt orange Friday evening with “100” on the sides to commemorate the school’s anniversary. Students will walk away with an inspirational message to help others make wise choices in life, Mullaney said.

“Living healthy is essential to happy and healthy families, marriages and relationships,” Mullaney said. 

Printed on Friday, November 9, 2012 as: Choices affect health, alumni say 

School of Human Ecology celebrates 100 years

The University of Texas’ School of Human Ecology is celebrating 100 years of excellence in human development and family sciences, nutritional sciences and textiles and apparel.

Meghan Mullaney, public affairs specialist for the School of Ecology, said the school will be opening its doors to the UT community and invite the public to celebrate it’s centennial anniversary. Mullaney said the UT Tower will be lit burnt orange with “100” on the sides Friday evening in honor of the school’s centennial celebration.

UT welcomed Mary Gearing as the first faculty member to the School of Human Ecology in 1912. Throughout the years the school has undergone changes in the programs, but have maintained the principle of being science based and human focused.

Professor Sheldon Ekland-Olson, Centennial Celebration Committee member, said the school is excited to celebrate its accomplishments with the UT community.

“The centennial celebration for the School of Human Ecology, or for any school or institution, is a once in a lifetime event,” Ekland-Olson said.

Centennial celebrations for the school will continue 8 a.m. Saturday with a tailgate party in the Mary E. Gearing Hall Courtyard.

Backstage volunteers attach a headpiece to a model wearing Rebekah HofferÂ’s collection as part of the Contour fashion show at the Frank Erwin Center Thursday evening.

Photo Credit: Andreina Velazquez | Daily Texan Staff

From psychedelic mushroom-inspired dresses to a “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”-inspired collection, graduating designers showcased their final works at the Frank Erwin Center on Thursday night.

Twenty-three textiles and apparel seniors sent about 120 original designs down the runway at the 13th annual Division of Textiles and Apparel fashion show sponsored by the University Co-Operative Society and in collaboration with the School of Human Ecology. The University Fashion Group organized and produced this year’s fashion show focusing on the theme “Contour.”

Marketing senior Angeli Aguilera, vice president of the University Fashion Group, said the theme of the show was meant for the designers to incorporate lines and shapes in their clothing.

“It was really up to the designers to take the theme and figure out what it meant,” Aguilera said. “Every designer interpreted it a different way into their outfits.”

Judges of the show included local industry professionals who awarded prizes for Best Fashion Collection, Most Innovative Fashion Collection, Most Marketable Fashion Collection, Best Constructed Fashion Collection and Best Evening/Bridal Gown.

Textiles and apparel senior Sofia Maldonado, was the first designer to showcase her collection, “Mercado.” Maldonado said she was inspired by her half-Salvadorian ancestry and the marketplaces in El Salvador where fabrics are sold and made.

“I also have a strong theater background, and one of my most passionate plays that I performed in and designed took place in the 18th and 19th century and was inspired by those silhouettes,” Maldonado said. “Along with that, I incorporated color and natural fabrics and combined with them with the actual market fabrics to make a chic summer line that is marketable and desirable.”

Maldonado said it was a long process for all the designers to complete their collections from the drawing boards to the pattern making and final fittings.

“It’s very time-consuming and you learn that time management is really important,” Maldonado said. “Personally, I’ve had to sacrifice a lot this semester and not see my friends and family, but these other designers are my family and we’ve spent all-nighters trying to figure out problems on our own, but experience is always the best way to learn.”

Karen Bravo, faculty adviser for University Fashion Group, said she wanted the show to impress the estimated 5,000 people in the audience and the people from a national and international scale who watched the live webcast.

“I wanted people to leave here amazed that the school can put on a professional New York Fashion Week production, which I think we gave them,” Bravo said.

Textiles and apparel senior Ashley Trevino, one of the designers, said her collection was inspired by the style of the 1940s and the movie, Casablanca.

“I wanted to update those things with fun colors and luxurious fabrics and make it a lot of fun to see,” Trevino said. “I hope that when somebody sees it, it makes them smile and reminds them of the beach because it is resort wear.”

English junior Tyler Neal, director of public relations for University Fashion Group and male model for senior designer, Albert Zhou, said Zhou’s collection was friendly for all seasons.

“It’s classic menswear with a little twist with a European cut that’s very sophisticated,” Neal said. “I can wear the pants in the summer or in the winter and wear different shirts with it, as well.”