"Definitely a One-of-a-Kind Experience"
A Year with a Flash
Kent State Today will be following a group of Golden Flashes for the 2023-24 academic year chronicling their efforts and successes during the fall and spring semesters. The group includes students, faculty and administrators who are at different places on their Kent State journeys.
When she first began the fashion design program at Kent State University, Parma Heights, Ohio, native Kaleigh McGreal said that she didn’t even know how to operate a sewing machine. “I did not know how to turn it on,” she said. “I didn’t know to put the bobbin in. I was completely overwhelmed because everyone around me had been sewing for years and I was just starting. But it was cool. I kind of liked being a little guinea pig and figuring it out because I was able to get advice from other students and the teachers were super helpful, so it ended up really working out.”
“Really working out” is an understatement in McGreal’s case. Flash forward a few years and the student who struggled to learn how to master a sewing machine is now creating full garments from scratch, from the pattern to the finished product, and has worked side-by-side with world-famous fashion designers.
Study Abroad, Study Away and Three Internships
McGreal’s Kent State education-abroad experience was in Florence, Italy. “The professors are amazing,” she said. “That was really interesting to have studio classes with the Italian professors. They have a different way of doing things. They have techniques that we probably wouldn’t learn elsewhere. And, of course, just seeing the culture and the different fashion – it was definitely a one-of-a-kind experience. One of the reasons I chose Kent State was because of the study-away and study-abroad opportunities.”After Florence, McGreal chose to spend the spring semester of her junior year at Kent State University New York Fashion. She chose New York for the internship opportunities and because she felt that New York City was the heart of fashion in the United States. While in New York, McGreal completed three internships. The first was with a women’s luxury wear brand in which she learned firsthand about the process of product development – from design to pattern making to taking samples to factories and assembly of the finished product.The second internship gave her experience with fashion tech and the third internship was with designer Victor de Souza.
McGreal and de Souza at the showing of his inaugural bridal collection. McGreal assisted with the creation of the designs and the staging of the show. Photos courtesy of Kent State University New York City Fashion.
Born in Argentina, de Souza is based in New York City. His “Conscious Couture” designs are created to reflect a lifestyle committed to beauty and integrity as well as sustainable, conscientious production. McGreal’s work with de Souza stared with hand sewing and assisting with shows. Then, he introduced her to pattern making and she did some machine sewing.
“It was amazing,” she said. “I got to see everything. I got to see it from design to the runway. I was backstage at the shows, and I was helping with the pieces. I got to assist with the pattern and then assist with the sewing and then assist with the fittings. It was the whole process.”
“One of the dresses that walked the runway, I made the pattern, I sewed the dress and then she wore it, and I was like ‘Oh, my God,’” said McGreal.
McGreal feels that the study-away and education-abroad experiences are experiences that she would not have had anywhere else. She said that both in Florence and New York, the professors and staff were always there to support her and that she felt “right at home.”
“Honestly, Kent is how I met Victor de Souza. I would never have met Victor without Kent State,” said McGreal. “He is amazing, and I still keep in touch with him now and I hope to see him when I go back to New York after graduation.”
McGreal’s excitement grows as she gets closer to her graduation date. She feels that she will return to New York City for a job. “I think I have a really good foundation,” she said. I’ve made some good connections. I’ll definitely have some good references going out. I think I’ve really been able to build what I need to get out in the actual workforce.”
Her “dream job,” she said would be to one day work with designer Stella McCartney in London. “I just love her work,” said McGreal. “And I’m also really passionate about sustainability which is one of her big things. So, it would be cool to learn from her for sure.”
Working as a technical designer appeals to McGreal because she finds the challenge of turning creative designs into wearable clothing fascinating. “It’s cool when you get such a crazy piece, and you have to have to figure out how to make it. You take the crazy and make it something you can actually wear,” she said. “That’s the other cool part. You can take something really avant-garde, figure out how to make it technical and then you can make it a real thing.”