A passion for fashion

A design created on the back of a jean jacket.

By combining her two passions
– fashion and teaching – Gayle Vinyard is reaching out to nearly
100 Gilroy High School students aching to be the fashion world’s
next big thing.
By combining her two passions – fashion and teaching – Gayle Vinyard is reaching out to nearly 100 Gilroy High School students aching to be the fashion world’s next big thing.

“I think they’ll go far,” said Vinyard, the creator and teacher of Fashion Design and History, a new class offered at GHS this year. “I’m just having a ball. This is a dream come true.”

With shows such as “Project Runway,” “The Cut” and “What Not to Wear” taking over the airwaves, and other high schools introducing classes for the fashion savvy, the time was ripe to bring a similar class to GHS, students said. From fashion design and illustration to sewing and pattern-making, the students learn the ropes of the fashion industry during the yearlong class.

Populated almost exclusively by girls, the class offers a female counterpart to more traditional classes like auto shop and woodworking, which tend to draw more male students. Each of the class’s sections quickly filled up with about 30 students per class.

“This is a girls’ class,” Jazmine DeLeon, 18, said.

Even though some students, such as DeLeon, enrolled in Vinyard’s class just for fun, they’ve picked up valuable artistic skills along the way.

“Fashion is art,” DeLeon said. “I’ve actually learned a lot.”

Others are using the class as a springboard for launching what they hope will be a successful career in the fashion industry.

Mariah Salazar, 17, hopes to transfer to the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising after getting her general requirements out of the way at Gavilan College. Wearing a pair of black ankle boots and dark skinny jeans, her hair pulled back into a messy ponytail, Salazar jotted down a few sketches during a rare moment of downtime. Although she owns a sewing machine – a hand-me-down from her grandmother – Salazar said she was learning how to use it in Vinyard’s class. Starting simple, the class is working on sewing pairs of socks, but Salazar hopes to be able eventually to craft entire outfits.

“People don’t know how much goes into it,” she said.

Although Salazar gathers her ideas from fashion shows, the “fashion police” on E! and red carpet events, Vinyard’s design class allows her to turn her ideas into a reality. She hopes to become an editor at a fashion magazine or a wardrobe consultant after college, she said.

From exploring the history of fashion by studying fashion icons such as Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” to reworking old denim jackets into fashion statements, the students are immersed in a hand-on curriculum, said Vinyard, who was a student of fashion design herself at the Art Institute of Chicago.

In a recent class, students armed with their own personal tool kits – boxes filled with ribbon, fabric paint, beads and buttons – transformed outdated jeans jackets into garments many would be happy to add to their wardrobes. Inspired by the theme “urban royalty,” Angelica Terry, 18, used her “signature paint splatters” and a length of purple satin to revive the bland jacket.

“I like to be a trendsetter,” Terry said. “I always wanted to be different. Fashion is a way to stand out.”

Terry, a senior who said she “was stoked” when she heard about Vinyard’s new fashion class, started making clothes on her own even before she came to high school. Whether it’s stitching together new patterns or sprucing up old clothes with new additions, Terry isn’t one to go with the crowd, she said.

“I’m actually dressed as a Plain Jane today!” she said, gesturing to her nondescript black T-shirt and jeans. Understated as her clothes were, a striking pair of yellow frames perched on her nose spiced up the look.

The students acknowledged, however, that being on the cutting edge isn’t always easy.

“It’s hard to tell if your ideas will catch on,” said Anissa Pantoja, 15, one of the youngest students in the class. “It’s hard to be a trendsetter. You have to take the weird looks sometimes.”

Still, the class teaches students confidence, hones their artistic skills and gives them valuable tools to take into the workplace, Vinyard said.

“If you like what you’re wearing, who cares what everyone else thinks,” Pantoja said.

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