MODESTO -- This spring, expect to see sun dresses in dusty blues, menswear in "alloy" gray and a new class of fashion-savvy teens learning the retail ropes in hopes of designing a good fit in careers.
Jacqueline Flores and Paola Perez, both Gregori High School seniors, buckled down last semester with 60-hour internships at American Eagle Outfitters at Vintage Faire Mall. Both learned the basics of stocking and stacking.
Flores worked her way up to cashier. "I was so nervous, dealing with my first return, but it's actually easy," she said.
Flores liked helping customers find clothes that looked good and fit their body type and coloring, sometimes nudging them to better choices with a compliment. " 'Oh, I think this color would be great on you.' We picked that up really fast," she said with a grin.
Perez focused on styling the mannequins and laying out complementary merchandise. "I learned how to waterfall the clothes (on staggered hooks)," she said. "I used the color wheel a lot, light to dark, and how to match."
Both survived the pre-Christmas crush. "Your time goes by faster when it's busy and there's more to do," Perez said. "You really need to be a multitasker."
Downey High School senior Omar Cruz said a lot of customers fail to consider their trendy choices. "They don't really know fashion," he said. "It's just whatever catches their attention."
That's exactly the type of boots-on-the-ground knowledge ROP fashion merchandising and advanced fashion teacher Brad Lash wants his students to sock away while racking up retail hours.
"Not all are successful to the same degree, but they all learn what it takes," he said. All learn the money side of those dreamy duds, the demands of customer service, and that employers expect them on time every time.
Some find that a hands-on helper role fits like a glove. Others get their feet wet and decide to give retail the boot and run away from the runway. But the fashion industry has lots of other choices, Lash said.
"There's a lot of science and technology in fashion," he said, everything from fiber technology to inventory control, architecture and artistry, photography and publishing. "It's a huge part of the economy," he said, hefting the 916-page September edition of Vogue magazine from his desk.
The basics, too
While the fashion houses of Milan, Paris and New York are Vogue's (sliver of) bread and (faux) butter, Lash said, street fashion and what sells at Target also matter in the fashion scene. "It's all about selling, making money," he said.
He uses industry publications, videos displaying the latest couture collections and plain old lectures to teach fashion's underpinnings. Project boards have to not only showcase designs, they need examples of the thread and buttons, and a cost breakdown for everything.
"Students learn it's all about planning and execution to reach their goals," he said. "It's not how smart they are. It's the skills."
Lash spent years working at the Broadway store before it was bought by Macy's. Teaching credential in hand, he discovered Regional Occupation Programs, better known as ROP, and liked the mix of business and bookwork.
Teaching 75 students
This year he teaches 75 students from all the Modesto City Schools high schools at his studiolike class in the district's ROP center on Reno Avenue.
Some of his students take a shine to the glamorous end. Perez said she's considering modeling or fashion design, but if that doesn't work out, she'll always be a snappy dresser.
Flores would rather work backstage at runway shows and may try her hand at writing articles for Teen Vogue.
For Modesto High School senior Liliana Farias, retail rules. "I love the experience, all of it, from the stock room to the floor," she said.
But Henry Khy, busy drawing his updated twist for Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" characters, said helping customers was not a high point for him. "They're so interested in clothes, but a lot of people don't know what they're doing," he said. "I was always just too afraid to say something."
Vanessa Romo, a senior at Davis High School, said she's a people person and does likes sales, although fashion may or may not be a fit for her. She's gained a lot from the class, she said. "It's just more relatable."
Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2339, and on Twitter, @NanAustin.