Our fashion roots

Our inclusive and supportive approach stems from our entrepreneurial founders, Shannon Rodgers and Jerry Silverman. Together, they brought to life a fashion education that celebrates diversity and creative thinking. 

The Shannon Rodgers and Jerry Silverman School of Fashion Design and Merchandising opened its doors on July 1, 1983. The new school instilled a relationship between business and design. It created opportunities for the wider community and encouraged students to grow their cultural understanding through international travel. It also invested in the decorative arts and historic costume to help define what excellence in the industry means.

Rodgers and Silverman were joyously interesting people who had a spirit of partnership, adventure, curiosity, and commitment. They grew their industry expertise through their own fashion house, Jerry Silverman, Inc. From its headquarters on New York City’s Seventh Avenue, it created and sold a series of high-end and ready-to-wear women’s clothing labels. The fashion house enjoyed international success for over 20 years, consulting with and dressing movie stars, royalty, First Ladies, and fashionistas across the world.

The School of Fashion’s Legacy

Kent State University’s School of Fashion stands on the shoulders of these 20th Century American fashion greats. When the school opened in 1983, only 350 students were enrolled and just six faculty and staff made up the team. Today, nearly 2,000 students enroll each year and nearly 100 faculty and staff are employed across our three campus locations in Kent, New York City, and Florence. 

The School of Fashion is grounded in real-world industry experience. It is enriched by the history, material culture, markets, and modern technology of fashion design and fashion merchandising. With these strong foundations, our legacy is to continually pursue excellence in the industry, not just in our school. Through our programs and initiatives, we’re developing the next generation of fashion thinkers to build a sustainable and fruitful industry that supports creative employment for years to come.