MORGANTOWN — Three Mountaineers are leaving a lasting impact on WVU’s history of “firsts” as they follow their dreams into the fashion industry.
Fashion, dress and merchandising students Emma Ervin, Katelynn Walker and Mariah White were recently named 2019 YMA Fashion Scholarship fund recipients after competing in a national fashion and design competition. The first WVU students to participate in the competition, their winnings include $5,000 scholarships and networking and internship opportunities down the road.
“Of the 740 applicants nationwide, only 208 were awarded scholarships,” said Katie Jones, assistant professor of fashion, dress and merchandising in the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design. “For three of those to come from WVU really speaks to the caliber of our students and the quality of our program.”
The scholarships are bestowed based on an applicant’s GPA and completion of a case study project, a personal essay and an interview with a scholarship fund ambassador. Along with these requirements, WVU had to be invited for the students to be able to compete.
“Being invited to the competition confirms what we have always known,” Jones said. “Our students are some of the best and brightest out there.”
This year, the theme focused on the challenge of globalization within the fashion industry, allowing applicants to research and develop strategic plans to physically expand an American company into a global market.
Ervin, Walker and White put their stylistic skills to the test by choosing companies they can see thrive globally while adhering to what they value most.
A senior and West Virginia native from Parkersburg, Ervin, chose the vegan leather goods company, Matt & Nat. The Canadian company shares her philanthropic spirit and sustainable values through using recycled materials and donating to charities. Ervin laid out a plan to develop a larger selection, ranging from bags and wallets to clothing. Through market research, Ervin searched for an area she could shed light on mental health awareness, leading to Seoul, South Korea, where mental health is a prominent issue.
“My line has positive messages printed on the products that resonate well with Seoul’s culture,” Ervin said. “It also raises funds for mental health nonprofits.”
White, also a senior West Virginia native from Wheeling, took a different approach to her company. With dreams of being a fashion buyer in New York City, White selected a luxury apparel boutique on the Upper East Side, FiveStory. Through this choice, she wanted to stray from well-known retailers like Barney’s or Nordstrom and stay true to herself.
She planned to open a second location of FiveStory in Dubai, focusing on developing a strategic marketing campaign, targeting specific markets, creating a pricing strategy and piecing together a new product line. After facing a close call that almost cost White all of her progress, she knew her vision well enough to recreate it.
“I overcame creative blocks and lost my entire project three days before the submission deadline,” White said. “It’s safe to say the entire process was a challenge, but a good one.”
Walker, a senior from Wasilla, Alaska, took a second look at her career goals after this competition. Previously wanting to work for a fashion magazine, Walker discovered other possible career paths within the fashion industry. This eye-opening perspective led her to choose the ethically known company, Everlane, due to their communication with consumers. Everlane transparently educates where materials are sourced and where the garments are created.
“They also ensure the ethical and quality treatment of garment workers and are making extensive efforts to become a sustainably produced brand,” Walker said. “Everlane is not only selling clothing, they are selling a lifestyle and I can really see myself working for such an amazing company.”
Next, all three seniors will network with industry professionals to begin careers after May graduation.
“This award is an exclusive opportunity to speak to recruiters in the fashion industry,” Ervin said. “I feel so grateful to have been chosen.”
The Fashion Scholarship Fund is an international nonprofit organization founded in 1937.