“I feel like this was a once in a lifetime experience for me.”
Kieley Gayle may live in a small-town, but she has big dreams. The sophomore distance runner for South Carolina track and field is originally from Atlanta and now lives in Union City, Georgia, with a population of around 20,000, and she recently took part in the New York Fashion Week in “The Big Apple.”
“I’ve thought about starting a clothing brand with one of my friends,” said Gayle, who is majoring in political science with aspirations of going to law school. However, she had previously studied retail management with a focus on fashion merchandising. “That’s still an interest for me. I feel like this was a once in a lifetime experience for me.”
CLC, which is the nation’s leading collegiate licensing company, and IMG, which operates New York Fashion Week: The Shows, partnered in this one-of-a-kind education experience for 23 students from 15 universities earlier this month. Gayle was one of three students from the University of South Carolina attending, but it wasn’t her first trip to New York as she has visited family there previously. The program offers future fashion leaders a behind-the-scenes look at the industry, with events including runway shows, panel discussions, and networking opportunities with industry leaders.
“It gave me an inside perspective in how everything works and how quickly the industry moves,” Gayle said. “This gave me an idea of how much work it would be to do any of this, especially if I was still in college and running track. That’s a lot to juggle.”
The students enjoyed a runway show with top Korean designer Son Jung Wan, and another show presented by NewLeaper, a unique incubator for new designers and fashion business start-ups. The students also attended a NYFW: The Talks session on “Mindfulness in Fashion” with Model Hilary Rhoda; Singer, Songwriter Bianca Quiñones; Wellness Professional Christa Janine; and others to discuss mental health in the fashion industry. They also took park in a Q&A with representatives from IMG, as well as a backstage tour of the production and execution of a fashion show at Spring Studios, the central hub of New York Fashion Week: The Shows.
“We had a dinner on Thursday, and later we went to Times Square,” Gayle said. “The (fashion) show on Saturday was really good. I think that was my favorite part. The last designer did a whole performance with singing and dancing. I never knew they did anything like that!
“We heard from a lot of people who have made a difference in the industry. We had a chance to talk with some IMG models, and they told us how they got to the positions that they’re in.”
The students also spent the day at collegiate licensee Champion where they had the chance to learn firsthand how a clothing line is developed and merchandised.
“We saw a lot of things behind the scenes,” Gayle said. “We saw their clothing lines all the way up to Spring 2024. We weren’t allowed to record or anything like that, so I guess we saw a lot of top-secret stuff. We had a chance to go to a Champion store and design our own hoodie. We saw all the brainstorming they go through with all the different designs on the walls.
“It was interesting to see all the trends they are predicting for two seasons from now. I didn’t realize how far ahead that they predicted trends. That just gave me some ideas regarding my own brand and how people are three steps ahead of what I’m thinking. It gave me the idea to test out patterns and things like that. It was a really good experience.”