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New York Fashion Week kicks off this week, and Deb Gordon’s guest was Michael Palladino, Vice President of Fashion Education at United Colors of Fashion (UCOF), which is a non- profit that offers free fashion education to underserved young people in New York.
United Colors of Fashion works with New York area public school teachers and principals to provide participants with a full curriculum consisting of different facets of learning – from writing and oral communication, to fashion design, to math.
Mr. Palladino stressed the importance of having students not only learn the business of fashion, but gain all the skills that they need to succeed.
“To achieve any level of success you need to know how to read, you have to be able to communicate effectively… What we try to do is through very strategic seminars, we introduce them to all the different options – building confidence… getting them to speak out loud,” said Palladino.
“Once they get past that, then we open it up to event planning, fashion forecasting, fashion show production…any number of things that they would never have thought of,” said Palladino.
Mr. Palladino and the UCOF staff also ensure that the students are engaged in other culturally relevant activities and take students on regular field trips to places in the city they might not otherwise ever see.
“It could be going to a museum, it could be going to hear someone speak, it could be going to a business,” said Palladino.
UCOF also provides mentorship opportunities. “Mentoring is very, very important. You build their confidence – they’re talking to somebody who believes in them, we’re telling them they have talent, we’re telling them they have ability,” said Palladino.
Mr. Palladino, who has had a long career in fashion at Bendels, and has collaborated with legends like Patricia Field and Steven Burrows, volunteers at UCOF, and is passionate about teaching young people the business that he loves.
“If I can leave anything behind – if I touch a few people and change the trajectory of their life, I did something amazing,” said Palladino. “The most important thing I think for them is to build that sense of confidence – to get them to understand that their dream can be a reality, but to show them that they have to work hard”
New York Fashion Week is a huge business that generates millions of dollars in revenue for our city, and employs many New Yorkers. United Colors of Fashion offers a way for young residents to get exposed to the business, and get their foot in the door through internships, career days, and other opportunities.
“A child that is questing for information and knowledge is a beautiful thing – and it’s a shame when that child is not met with what it needs. And that’s where UCOF comes in to help them attain their dreams.”
United Colors of Fashion depends upon grants and private contributions to foster its mission. For more information, visit www.unitedcolorsoffashion.org.
–Deb Gordon/Fresh 102.7