Kent State University student wins top award at FSF gala

Fashion Scholarship Fund, now in its 83rd year, delivers one million dollars in scholarship funding annually, and while the gala this year celebrated Rent The Runway and Centric Brands among others, as always it shone the spotlight on students from some of the nation’s top fashion programs. Rebranded last year, and now without the YMA in front of it, the FSF is an institution dedicated to nourishing young talent from 62 partner schools, and to supply the industry with the finest creativity out there. At January’s glittering event held at the New York Hilton, whittled down from 650 applicants 211 student candidates were in attendance, 8 of which received recognition. But the evening’s top winner was Tyshaia Earnest from Kent State University, a senior on the Fashion Merchandising program who took home the 35,000 dollar prize.

Peter Arnold, executive director of the FSF, offered the following praise: “Tyshaia’s winning case study and her compelling presentation to the judges, during which she revealed a branded T-shirt under her blazer, produced product from her pockets and delivered an articulate, passionate pitch for her case study collaboration, making her, in the judge’s estimation, the Kent State rock star that she most definitely is!” FashionUnited spoke to Earnest about the experience.

Kent State University student wins top award at FSF gala

What inspired you to choose fashion as a career path?

"As an African-American, fashion is deeply rooted in my culture. When I was younger, it was quickly understood that apparel and beauty were things that my family members and friends enjoyed. I wanted to be closer to the subject that I witnessed brought so many people, including myself, unity and joy."

Describe the work you created for FSF?

"The prompt was to idealize a fashion collaboration with a retailer and a company outside of fashion, beauty, accessories, or home. So, I chose to combine my passion for retail and advocacy together with the idea of a fashion collaboration between Nordstrom and menstrual rights advocacy organization, Period.org. The main goal of this collaboration was to empower, educate and unite the consumer all the while fighting against period poverty, which is the fact that not everyone around the world has access to menstrual products due to cost and the stigma attached to it."

What do you think made your work stand out from all the other submissions?

"Ultimately, this idea was very timely with 2020 being the 100th year anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment, and menstrual advocacy being a critical topic in politics and the media. Unlike typical cause-based fashion collaborations, this collaboration, coined #FlowTogether, would have an immersive shopping experience and disruptive marketing tactics."

"But I truly believe that what made my work stand out amongst the rest is that this idea was very meaningful to me so, passion spilled out in all angles from the little details I put into the concept, to the way I presented it to the judges."

With graduation just up ahead what are your future plans?

"I aim to obtain an internship this summer before I start a full-time position in something not so connected to fashion, hopefully, a media/communications firm as there is no better time to diversify my skills than before I start my full-time job. My ideal entry-level position would be either working at a specialty beauty retailer, a retailer within the beauty department in an integrated marketing role, or working for a renowned retailer within their multicultural marketing division. Perhaps most importantly, winning this award allows me to inspire others from my community to believe they can do anything, and I feel empowered that I get to set this example."

Fashion editor Jackie Mallon is also an educator and author of Silk for the Feed Dogs, a novel set in the international fashion industry.

Photos provided by Tyshaia Earnest

 

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