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tennessee technological university

TTU News


After a trip overseas, most people describe what they did with a list of sites visited or foods tasted. A fashion student describes the colors.

“Florence and Milan were beautiful but very modern and gray,” said Susannah Warren, a senior fashion merchandising major at Tennessee Tech University. “Venice was brighter. It was oranges and reds and greens; it was more vibrant.”

Warren was one of nine TTU students to travel across Italy, exploring the fashion capital of the world this summer. After her return, she immediately put what she learned to use in an internship in the Chattanooga store of designer Kayce Hughes.

“Going to Italy really helped. I had a lot of inspiration into fashion and also how things work,” said Warren, of Chattanooga. “I came back with the mindset of instead of being all uptight, it really made me slow down. If a computer didn’t work, ‘ciao bella,’ just take it and go.”

Every summer, TTU fashion students have the chance to go to one of the world’s fashion cities: Los Angeles, New York City, Atlanta or Milan. This year, they will go to New York City.

“It’s the best place domestically and it begins our rotation,” said Lizbeth Self-Mullens, associate professor of merchandising and design and interim dean of TTU’s College of Agriculture and Human Ecology. “By the time they graduate, I hope they will have been to all three domestic cities and one international experience.”

Throughout the year, the students work to raise money to offset travel costs. Several fashion shows are already planned to benefit the travel and several charities. The first will be in October to benefit breast cancer research.

During the trips, the students meet with designers, see pieces being sewn, visit various museums, and, of course, shop. One of the chaperones on the trip had to buy an extra suitcase for her purchases, according to her student traveling companions.

“I think the travel makes the life of a fashion merchandiser attainable,” said Lacey Givens, a senior merchandising and design major at TTU. “I think of Milan as some distant far-off land where beautiful clothes come from, but we were there.”

In a world where industries, especially fashion, are increasingly globalized, the travel experiences give TTU students a better starting point as they search for internships or begin their careers.

“It just broadens their abilities to think. They know so much more about what’s happening in the world of fashion,” Self-Mullens said. “It’s so important to their career. Many of them will be working internationally and they get to see and learn the source in terms of materials, designs and retail.”