Three Arizona State University fashion students were honored in New York City this week as part of the Fashion Scholarship Fund’s Class of 2023.
LeeAnn Huang, Sabrina Martinez and Aletheia Olear were awarded scholarships — $10,000 each to Huang and Martinez and $7,500 to Olear — and invited to participate in a series of events, including a gala April 3 attended by more than 750 scholars, alumni, industry leaders, designers and influencers celebrating fashion luminaries Anna Wintour and Emma Grede. Huang and Olear traveled to New York from Arizona for the occasion; Martinez is on study abroad in Florence, Italy.
Huang, a junior double majoring in fashion design and business management, said that winning the scholarship “felt like the ultimate recognition of my hard work.”
The Fashion Scholarship Fund is a fashion-oriented education and workforce development nonprofit based in New York that awards more than $1 million in scholarships annually to students from diverse backgrounds. The scholarship fund's goal is to help those students succeed in sectors across the industry, including design, merchandising, marketing analytics and business strategy.
The scholarships aid students as they figure out their place in the industry, said ASU Assistant Professor Danielle Sponder Testa, who leads the fashion program’s Fashion Business Management track.
And the support doesn’t end there: “Even 10 or 15 years down the line, after a student has graduated, the connections to companies and peers in the industry help these students blaze new trails in fashion,” Testa said. “It’s exciting for ASU to be a member school and see such great success from our students in our first year.”
Huang, Martinez and Olear each worked with Testa to develop a case study for the competition.
Huang, who entered the Design category, designed a collection from the perspective of an “intra-preneur.”
“LeeAnn brings unique vision and personal connection to her designs, valuing the connection garments can create with the wearer,” Testa said. “This was evidenced in her collection, ‘friend fits,’ a collaboration between Baggu and Big Bud Press.”
In the Merchandising category, Martinez created a concept called "Let Them Eat Cake" for Savage x Fenty. Her case study included the branding, assortment plan and distribution strategy for a concept that embraced “positivity in lingerie,” Testa said. “The lingerie and marketing was inspired by and features food — the opposite of what is often shown in lingerie,” and the takeaway was that “you can eat cake and look great.”
Olear submitted a Business Strategy case study in which she considered how Nordstrom could benefit from AI. Looking at existing AI technology, Olear identified a partner technology company for the launch of a proposed online styling system she calls Nordstrom You.
“The system enables customers to create avatars that mirror reality,” explained Testa, “making the online experience even more life-like.”
Martinez, a senior from Flagstaff, Arizona, with a minor in sustainability, said she was ecstatic to be able to call herself a Fashion Scholarship Fund scholar.
“Being a scholar makes me feel like I already have a community within the fashion industry, making it feel a little less intimidating to enter the workforce. This award has helped to give me a sense of belonging in the industry I'm about to enter, so I am extremely grateful.
For Olear, a 26-year-old senior who grew up in Phoenix, winning the award “was a really good reminder that life always works out the way it’s supposed to.”
Olear said she “bounced around in different jobs,” from finance and customer service to welding and restaurants, until she finally ended up in ASU’s fashion program.
“Since it’s the first year ASU has participated in Fashion Scholarship Fund, I wouldn’t have even had the opportunity to participate if my life had gone the pace I wanted,” Olear said. “I feel like I’ve learned so much (at ASU) in lots of areas like fashion law, sustainability, business, entrepreneurship and of course design. Getting to win this award really is just the cherry on top.”
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