On the Cutting Edge
Professor leads fashion into 25th year
Dr. Annemarie Walsh’s love of fashion began practically in the crib.
“When I was four my sister went to kindergarten and she wore a dress on her first day. I remember crying all day because she got to wear a dress and I wanted to,” recalls Walsh, a UIW associate professor who is director of fashion management. “I was only allowed to wear pants because I was not in school yet. I cried until the time she came home.”
Always the trendsetter, Walsh later found ways of personalizing her school uniforms to express her creative style. Today, the native of Syracuse, N.Y. stays on the cutting edge of fashion by voraciously reading every industry magazine she can get her hands on and relying on her students for fashion updates.
“They know every designer, every fad, every trend,” she said.
After receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in education, with a concentration in home economics from the State University of New York in Buffalo, she began teaching home economics to inner city students in Buffalo while working on her Master’s Degree.
One of only three female teachers on staff, she remembers one time when police were called to her school. When the officers left their vehicle, several students seized the opportunity to run the patrol car into the school, just another of the daily challenges of her environment. Still, Walsh believes she made a difference in the lives of her students, while learning a thing or two about discipline herself.
“I got through to my students because I was teaching them something they needed - life skills,” she said. “Through sewing they could express their individuality no matter what their economic situation.”
She later moved to Dallas and continued her education, earning her Doctoral Degree in consumer sciences and a minor in home economics education from Texas Women’s University. She has also earned 18 hours in post-doctoral work in fashion.
Walsh continues sharing her philosophy of instilling her students with life skills and is pleased with the growth she has seen at UIW since she came on board in 1993. She led the transition at Incarnate Word from the outdated home economics program to the highly popular fashion management and merchandising programs, while witnessing an increase in enrollment of some 1,500 percent.
Last fall, the department introduced students to the Gerber Garment Technology software, the most sophisticated computerized design program for generating patterns in the industry. While she says the fundamentals of pattern making will always be taught by the department, the program will work hand-in-hand to teach students the latest technology in their field.
At a time when many institutions are teaching students how to create ready-to-wear designs for mass production, UIW students are still taught how to create couture or custom-made clothing.
“I tell my students if they can learn how to design the hard way, they will be able to do it all later,” said Walsh.
Not only do Walsh’s fashion students receive an excellent education, but they also gain valuable experience through the production of the annual fashion show. This year the department will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Cutting Edge Fashion Show on April 18 at the Sky Room.
“Student coordinators are selected in the fall to determine the direction and theme of the show,” explains Walsh. “Approximately 14 student designers produce a collection of between six to eight garments each. Each designer chooses a theme behind their collection it can be anything from a season, to a market segment or color.”
Every aspect of the runway show is entirely produced by students, a detail that Walsh is particularly proud of. Other universities with fashion programs hold small shows or participate in a show produced annually in Dallas by the Kim Dawson Agency, but no other school produces a show entirely on its own. From sound and lighting to staging and contracting professional models, every detail is handled by the students.
“It can be very stressful. The show takes on a life of its own,” said Walsh. “It’s a big test to see the garments they have created from scratch on professional models.”
Following each show, Walsh routinely asks her students if all the work was worth the effort and the answer she receives is always a resounding yes.
And the show continues to grow each year. Last year’s event had over 700 people in attendance with more than 100 people working feverishly backstage. The reputation of Incarnate Word’s fashion program and the success of the show have enabled the event to sell out in recent years before invitations are even printed.
Walsh is looking forward to the 2005 show and the success of her students. She advises her students interested in a career in fashion to stick with it and follow their dreams. “I keep reminding them that who they become is as important as what they become,” she said.
Walsh’s sincere interest in her students has made her much more than a teacher; she is also a cheerleader, mentor and advisor.
“The compassion and devotion Dr. Walsh has for her students is a quality that has endeared her in the hearts of all those in the fashion program and to her fellow educators around campus,” said former student Laura Painter.
Her dedication has meant very little spare time for other interests, which in the past have included sewing, working out and playing bridge. In high school, many may be surprised to learn that she also sang opera.
These days she revels in the success of her students, a number of whom have kept in touch long after graduation, sharing their accomplishments with her as well as their trials and tribulations.
“I hope I will be as strong a beacon of light as she has been both to her students and to the higher education community. Students and fashion educators alike look up to her as the definition of style and eloquence,” said Painter.
Her commitment to her field, as well as her students, has earned Walsh a 2005 nomination as a Minnie Stevens Piper Professor. The annual award, started in 1958, recognizes 15 Texas area professors for excellence in teaching at the college level. Her unwavering enthusiasm for teaching is evident to all who meet her.
“There is nowhere that I am more comfortable, more impassioned and more alive than in the classroom,” admits Walsh.
For more information about this year’s Cutting Edge Fashion Show, please call (210) 805-5833.
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