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Colin Vitale

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My Summer Internship With Jay-Z And Pharrell

Posted: 09/12/2012 9:03 am

This column features stories from students exploring the intersection of creativity and technology through Hive Learning Network programs in NYC and Chicago.

I have always had a desire to learn how the great fashion designs of pop culture are created. This fascination started in grammar school when I was drawn to Pharrell's clothing line, Ice Cream, and was impressed with its edgy and futuristic designs. So when I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity this summer to intern for Jay-Z and Pharrell's fashion houses, I was more than eager to accept the challenge. Stepping into the office from the very first day when Design Director Christopher Bevans interviewed me, I was greeted with the sound of loud music, celebrity photographs and framed award-winning records -- and it was immediately apparent that Jay-Z and Pharrell's fashion brands are both intertwined with the music industry.

Their designs, like their music, reflect their sources of inspiration. Jay-Z's Rocawear bases its trendy hip-hop look on the feeling that emanates from New York City's urban culture and inner-city imagery. Pharrell's Billionaire's Boys Club designs, with retro rocket ships and outer space themes, seem to derive inspiration from science fiction. Pharrell's Ice Cream Line reflects a playful feeling while his new Bee line takes classic clothing like sports coats and propels them into the 21st century with unique materials and designs.

It feels very cool to be an intern here -- celebs are frequent visitors as well as fashion magazine and newspaper editors, photographers and buyers. One responsibility of mine is to reorganize the material samples, which are strewn all over after an intense season of preparing for a line. I also make updated trim books, which include every last-minute detail incorporated into a design, like embroidery thread, buttons, grommets and hang tags.

Although I am just an intern, I feel like part of the team when they call upon me to swatch samples of fabric at New York City's famous Mood Fabrics. I go over every bolt on the three floors, enticed to touch almost each one to ensure I bring back the right texture, color and design that will meet the design need. Sometimes I have to hunt through almost every fabric store in the garment district for a specific swatch of leather or suede they need. At times, I have to hustle, or 'throw' out the company name to be given a very desirable and precisely colored piece.

It is now apparent to me that the process of taking an original design to a wearable garment is a lengthy one. Seeing how hard the designers work -- drafting, measuring and reworking in order to get a design flat into a tangible piece of clothing -- has shown me the determination it takes to run a powerhouse fashion brand. From the conception of a design, to the sketch, material choice, trim and button selections, I have witnessed directly all that goes into the work of each and every garment. One day while Pharrell viewed a collection and said it was "like Christmas," hearing his excitement assured me that I wanted to feel the same way one day.

I get to put my sewing skills to use when samples come in with the wrong buttons and I am allowed to sew the right ones on. Steaming clothes gives me the opportunity to view all the new samples. I dress mannequins and help keep the showroom neat so it is always ready for buyers or other fashion notables to see, all the while learning the inner workings of the fashion industry.

As a fashion intern, I get to travel the city to make pick-ups of clothing we have sent out for magazine shoots. One day I was asked to pick up an overwhelmingly large sign. Trying to maneuver it through the packed subway and city streets of Manhattan, it called attention to me from onlookers and I became a bit hot and flustered (This is New york -- weirder things have happened). Little did people know that I was carrying it for the coolest reasons and when I returned, Pharrell would greet me with a "S'up?" That simple act of recognition made my efforts all worthwhile. Surprising acknowledgements of "hey's" and "s'ups" from celebs like Jay-Z never cease to amaze me.

Being immersed on a daily basis in the fashion house of Jay- Z's Rocawear and Pharrell's Billionaire's Boys Club, Ice Cream and Bee Line has demonstrated that these music moguls have their fingers on the pulse of both high fashion and hip hop fashion. Music and lyrics are translated into fashion. Here, I am learning just how it is accomplished as they surround themselves with talented and accomplished designers. These artists use their creative ability and apply the proper techniques and skills, turning their artistic visions into wearable pieces of art. The fashion entrepreneurs of these design houses adeptly reinvent themselves each season, producing clothing that captivates audiences as they define generations. I am grateful for my experience here, and appreciate what they have opened my eyes to. Having the privilege of being a summer fashion intern at Jay-Z and Pharrell's fashion houses has proved to me that these gentlemen are not only musically gifted, but that they are able to carry over their artistic genius to the fashion industry as well.

 
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