BY: JULIE CHUNG
She studies her sketch as she gathers the raw pieces of fabric around her sewing machine. She loops different colors of thread into the machine as she begins to sew the pieces together. She spends hours hunched over piles of fabric precisely placing the designs and details, as she brings an evening gown to life from her imagination. She steps back and takes a moment to relish her creation, and then she’s onto her next one. From becoming the president of Cal State Long Beach’s fashion organization, Students in Fashion, to creating her own collection for the 25th and 26th Annual Campus Couture show, alumni Karyn Piedad had consistently been involved in fashion during her time in college.
Piedad graduated from CSULB in May 2014 with a clothing and textiles major and film and electronics minor. Although her involvement in fashion had been unswerving, she certainly didn’t begin that way.
“I originally started off…as a film major, but I didn’t feel challenged enough there,” Piedad said. “I love films but I felt like it wasn’t my calling...It was a really hard time for me because I felt like I was never going to amount to anything. Then I decided to try out fashion design and everything just fell into place for me.”
Piedad interned at several costume shops and warehouses. She has worked at the costume shop for CSULB’s theatre department, as well as the Long Beach Playhouse, where she helped prepare costumes for live production. Piedad also worked at NBC Universal’s costume department.
“I was actually always interested in fashion design,” Piedad said. “When I was little, I always sketched princess gowns for my favorite cartoon characters. I remember that I sketched gowns on Lola Bunny from Space Jam a lot.”
Piedad credits her sister for guiding her in the right direction and reminding her how much she loved fashion growing up. Piedad’s love for fashion grew as she began to see it as a practical art form.
“I find it so fascinating the amount of thought that goes into every detail of an outfit,” Piedad said. “It’s specific to fit a storyline in order to pull in the audience into this imagined world. You can do that everyday with the clothes you choose to wear. It’s just crazy to me. The outfits we choose are very telling of who we are or who we’re trying to be.”
For Piedad, interning and gaining experience in fashion was just the beginning. Not only did Piedad apply herself in her studies and work, she strived to make an impact on the fashion department.
One of her proudest moments at CSULB was her role in Students in Fashion. She created opportunities for fashion students to make friends within the club, form lasting connections, gain job and internship opportunities, and learn about the fashion industry.
Piedad received the Outstanding Student Leadership award for her role as club president.
“My goal for the club was to make it a more friendly environment for everyone (because) I wanted to break that stereotype that fashionistas are snooty and stuck up,” Piedad said.
Reflecting on another proud moment during her time at CSULB, Piedad recalls the all-nighters, intensive labor, tears, and “delirious laughter” that went into putting together her senior collection for Campus Couture.
“It was a lot of work…but it was all worth it to see my work displayed on the runway,” Piedad said. “I almost cried several times throughout the show because it was so emotional to just see the end product and have all your loved ones there to cheer you on.”
Piedad has made more garments than she can remember during her time as a student, but one of her designs that has made a lasting impression is her reversible cocktail dress. And her favorite is a purple draped gown that she named “Caught in Her Web,” that she designed for the 26th Campus Couture show.
“Karyn was a highly motivated, bright and super creative student,” said Dr. Botkin, CSULB assistant professor in fashion merchandising and design. “She was a joy to work with!”
Piedad, who was very shy and quiet before dabbling in fashion design, says the fashion department helped her break out of her shell. She began to notice a change in her confidence, attitude and outlook on life when she gradually recognized her potential as a designer.
“Although she was a fashion design major, Karyn’s interest in costume always came through in her designs,” said Ms. Sherrill, a CSULB fashion merchandising and design lecturer. “Even her most wearable garments had a dramatic flair. If you didn’t know her well, you might think that she was all about the dramatic aspects. In fact, she takes her work seriously, paying close attention to the details, the construction and the concepts involved. Her best designs always had their own stories to tell.”
Piedad says she will always remember the technical and life lessons that Dr. Kim and Ms. Sherrill taught her on how to make it through in the fashion industry.
Another lesson she says she will never forget came from a former graduate who visited one of Piedad’s lectures as a speaker.
“[The graduate] said that you need to take a look at your boss’ lifestyle and daily work,” Piedad reflects. “If you can see yourself in their position living happily, then you are in the right place. If not, you need to get out of there.”
The first thing Piedad did after graduation was take a month off to explore Europe because she wanted to enjoy every moment before she steps into the real world. Now, Piedad excitedly prepares for her best friend’s wedding as the maid of honor.
“For those graduating soon, the best advice I can give you is to enjoy college as much as you can,” Piedad said. “Go out to the silly school events, make new friends from different departments, do all the stupid, cliché college things and do them with gusto. After college, it will be a lot harder to do all these things and still be taken seriously…(so) why not do them now?”