classroom

Susan Yun, 13, of La Crescenta, in seventh grade at Rosemont Middle School in La Crescenta, shows her designs to Janna Kasmanian, the fashion design teacher. (Tim Berger/Staff Photographer / November 22, 2010)

Walk into the fashion merchandising class at Rosemont Middle School in La Crescenta and you might find yourself face to face with the next Anna Wintour or Alexander Wang.

Students are poring over design textbooks, fashion magazines, how-to videos and historical references as they get to work on their most recent project — designing a one-shouldered top that they will fashion out of a worn T-shirt.

Some have opted for a soft, feminine approach with lots of ribbons and lace. Others have gone for a modern, edgy look complete with slashes and knotted fabric. Everyone is interested in their classmates' work, stopping frequently to peer over shoulders and offer encouragement.

"I love that you can be creative, and no one can judge you by what your personal style is," said Morgan Macgowan, 13.

This is the fourth semester that Rosemont Middle School has offered the fashion class, said teacher Janna Kasmanian. But it is the first time it is being offered as a year-long course that will culminate in the spring with a fully produced fashion show featuring student work.

The class covers the history of fashion and the importance of cultural influence on its development in different regions of the world. Students also study textiles, merchandising, marketing and consumer habits.

"I want them to grasp and apply real-life concepts, so even if they don't get into fashion they can be educated consumers," Kasmanian said.

During a recent assignment, students had to conduct extensive research on a specific designer — think Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan, Vera Wang — and then, acting as a salesperson, pitch the designer's clothes to the class.

Many of the students said their fashion sensibilities are heavily influenced by pop culture figures such as Lady Gaga, and by fashion-related reality television shows such as "Project Runway." And taking the fashion merchandising class has emboldened their daily fashion choices, they said.

"I have started thinking a little differently about my wardrobe, and mixing and matching different things," said Ainsley Dye, 13.

Designing and producing beautiful clothing, as well as managing the business aspects of a brand, is a tremendous amount of work, the students said. Molly Spurgeon, 13, began experimenting with clothing design last year.

"Coming up with a full design for an outfit … is super hard," Molly said. "If you think of it and don't draw it, it goes away immediately."

Jackie Park, 13, said she landed in the class because of a scheduling error. But now she loves being able to incorporate her love of art into her daily sketches.

"I thought I wouldn't like it at first, but it turned out to be really great," Jackie said. "I also thought it would be easier because nobody takes fashion that seriously. But it is a lot harder than I thought because you have to learn about fashion history and cultures around the world, what people wear and how different they are than American fashion."