The School of Fashion’s styling alumni are making names for themselves
By Nina Tabios
The School of Fashion at Academy of Art University defines fashion styling as “creating fashion imagery and outfits based on a concept.” As the only accredited B.F.A. fashion styling degree in the United States, Academy graduates develop to be industry-ready professionals with a keen sartorial eye, business acumen and versatility for a fast-changing market.
According to School of Fashion Associate Director Flore Morton, who established the styling program in 2013, “There was no other university-level styling program to look at, and no books about fashion styling. The foolproof methodology developed over the years to acquire the styling skills and succeed in the industry is very unique, and it works.”
“I based [the program] on my own journey and the feedback I received from industry professionals,” she said. “From there, I established a set of goals for the program to achieve.”
These goals include: developing an industry-standard portfolio that is supported by well-produced imagery; learning all aspects of production and art direction; working independently when booking models, photographers, and makeup artists; diversification in styling skills to handle the range from commercial to editorial; as well as, learning the basics of photography, hair styling, makeup artistry, fashion journalism and marketing.
“At the Academy, we understand it takes a lot of courage for students to pursue their dreams, and also a lot of work,” Morton stated. “It is our responsibility to do everything we can to provide excellence in education, resources, equipment and support along the way to help facilitate their dreams. We are here when they succeed, and we are here when they fail. That’s what we do—support—relentlessly, and with passion.”
Recent fashion styling graduates have moved on to amazing opportunities working side-by-side with some of the most influential designers and stylists in the global market. For those within the New York scene, the names of these Academy alumni, Abby Qi, Yen Nguyen, Katelyn Johnson and Umi Jiang, may soon be familiar.
Abby Qi, 2017 A.A. fashion styling
Taking a cue from Grace Coddington, Abby Qi couldn’t wait to jump head first into the industry. Opting for the A.A. degree, Qi said the Academy equipped her with the tools and life lessons to succeed in the industry, but it also fostered within her the idea of “taste can be crafted and learned.” That, plus maintaining a solid knowledge base and innate curiosity of the industry at large, she said, is merely the starting point of thriving within fashion. Though based in New York, Qi’s vision has already gone global through books, including Blanc Magazine and King Kong Magazine.
Yen Nguyen, 2018 B.F.A. fashion styling
Fresh out of the Academy, Yen Nguyen is just starting to make her mark in New York as an assistant to veteran stylist George Cortina. It was her Academy-made portfolio that helped make that initial impression with Cortina. Inspired by geometric shapes, textures, modern streetwear and the “trickle up movement in fashion,” Nguyen’s sensibilities created opportunities to rub elbows with designers such as Gypsy Sport’s Ben Ellis and Academy alumnus and “Project Runway” finalist Brandon Kee. Her work has been published in Elegant, HUF, Lucy’s deFUZE and Kaltblut.
Katelyn Johnson, 2015 B.F.A. fashion styling
Katelyn Johnson first got in touch with her creative expression as a ballet dancer. After experimenting in photography, Johnson now uses styling to present fashion in images and in life. As a full-time freelance stylist in New York City, Johnson has accumulated an impressive client list since heading eastward after completing her education. Having a relationship with global creative talent agencies, such as Streeters NY and the Wall Group, has linked Johnson with some of the best Manhattan stylists (such as Caroline Newell) and brands like Adidas by Stella McCartney, Rebecca Taylor, Apple, Bare Essentials and Parker NY. As lead stylist, her resume includes photo shoots with i-D Magazine, Paper Magazine, Vogue and more.
Umi Jiang, 2016 B.F.A. fashion styling
Born in Hun Chun, the Jilin province of China, Umi Jiang originally arrived at the Academy to pursue a degree in fashion design. But her passion and excitement for creating compelling visual stories pointed her in the direction of fashion styling. Her editorial, “Perfect/Imperfect,” as seen in the No. 9 issue of 180 Magazine, captures Jiang’s eye for flow and movement, an intense eye for detail that makes dynamic imagery. Since graduating, Jiang has worked for companies BPCM and Acne Studios and has interned for Document Journal and Alastair McKimm, arguably New York’s stylist of the moment.