Students in J-term class learn all about fashion

Guest speakers from the profession provide insights


Addison Bakemeyer

In Loretto 2210 during the third day of J-Term on Jan. 5, Ms. Denisha Dlang, left, and Ms. Polina Osherov, right, provide their insights on how high school students eventually could have a career in fashion. They spoke to students enrolled in the Fashion Week class, which was taught by Mrs. Mary Reasner and Mrs. Jennifer Neale.

Ashlynn Bakemeyer, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Although Indianapolis isn’t necessarily a city acknowledged for its world-renowned fashion trends, there is a hidden abundance of opportunities and experiences for anyone interested in the industry. 

During the Fashion Week J-Term course on Jan 5, two guest speakers, Ms. Polina Osherov, executive director of Pattern Magazine; and Ms Denisha Dlang, executive director of the Indiana Fashion Foundation, presented some of these opportunities to students. 

One of the first tips that both women presented for students who are looking to have a profession in the fashion industry was networking. “Networking is all about meeting people. It doesn’t have to be scary. It’s literally just finding people that are interested and reaching out to them. It is vital to know that the cliche ‘It’s who you know’ is 110% true,” Osherov said.

While networking may seem like a task for the future, Dlang said, “If you’re on Instagram or Facebook, you’re networking. When I was a teenager, and even now I do it all the time, everywhere I go I tell myself, ‘I’m going to meet somebody that I’m going to connect with.’ It’s just a standard thing I do everywhere I go.”

Osherov added, “Surround yourself with people who enjoy the same things and are passionate about the same things who are willing to work with you.” 

Although the cliche of ‘it’s who you know’ is true, Osherov said that some stereotypical beliefs have their faults. “There’s the narrative that once you find something you’re passionate about, your life is just going to be a constant highlight. But I don’t really think it works like that. I think the world is divided into two groups of people: those who like to solve problems and those who like to make them.

“I think the highlight is finding that problem and figuring out a solution for it. The highlights are figuring out how to do something. For example, I had no background in publishing and we were like, ‘Let’s make a magazine.’ It’s been 10 years that we’ve been doing this (magazine) and everyone that’s involved has absolutely no background in publishing. It just shows you the results of dedication,” Osherov said. 

One of the steps to finding a path into the fashion industry involves embracing any chance to experience it firsthand. Dlang said, “Be open to the different opportunities that you have, and also your peers. When I produced my first show at 15 years old at North Central High School, I did it with peers. We worked together to pull it off. I took my $250 and rented the space. I didn’t know what I was doing, I just did whatever came to mind. It’s a matter of you just saying, ‘Who do I already know and what are they doing? And how can we both work together and do what we say we’re going to do?’” 

The ideal person for the job in this industry is someone who is really good at multitasking, somebody who is really organized and can keep all of the various details together.”

— Ms. Polina Osherov

Osherov agreed that anyone who is curious about pursuing a career in fashion should be able to work together and make do with any available resources. “The ideal person for the job in this industry is someone who is really good at multitasking, somebody who is really organized and can keep all of the various details together, someone who is collaborative and good at working together with other people. All of it is very much like a team effort. Both of us are able to do what we’re doing because we surround ourselves with likeminded people who are able to delegate and work and share ideas,” she said. 

Among the various resources for high school students who are looking for a pathway into the industry is the Imagine If program. Dlang said, “It was created for students to be able to learn about the fashion industry. You’ll learn the basics of design and a little touch of when it comes to sewing. You also get to meet different industry experts. You also get to come to Indiana Fashion Week and work behind the scenes, or you can enjoy it as a guest and see how all of the pieces that you just learned fit into fashion.” 

Dlang added that there are also openings for high school students to be able to work at Fashion Week. “I had an amazing 15-year-old student who was very interested in fashion and she volunteered with us over a three-month timeframe, five to eight hours a week. And she actually got to be an assistant for one of the main fashion people in the industry, Steven (Kolb), the CEO of the CFDA,” Dlang said. 

The CFDA is the Council of Fashion Designers of America, which promotes American designers across the country. has several resources for online training as well. 

Fashion can also open up opportunities for others in the community. Dlang said, “We’ve had to pivot because of the pandemic. We ended up making gowns and masks for the hospitals. It allowed us to employ over 100 stitchers, those who sew, in Indiana to be able to make extra income during the pandemic.”

Junior Allison Pea, one of the Fashion Week J-Term participants, said, “I like that (fashion) can bring people together in so many ways, people that you wouldn’t expect. A lot of people just think it’s a hobby, but it’s not.” Dlang agreed and called fashion a “community connector.” 

Dlang added, “When I was 15, 16 and 17 years old, my goal for myself was that I was going to create the biggest fashion event in Indiana. I contacted Fern Mallis, the creator of New York Fashion Weekly. I continued to stay in touch with her, and in 2019 she came to Indiana for Indiana Fashion Week, something that I had nurtured for over 20 years.” 

While Indiana may not be perceived as the ideal place to start up a career, Osherov said that it is a welcoming community. “Indiana is not known for its fashion industry. We are still very much in the process of building it. We’re working with the high schools around Indianapolis — because there is such an interest in this — to try to create curriculum specific to high school students,” Osherov said. 

Pea said that she learned what she called “all of the options for high school students in Indiana.”

Although high school may feel early to start thinking about long-term career decisions, Osherov said, “It’s OK to not know what you want to do. Just keep going and be open to experiences. Explore the space. Curiosity is a really valuable quality. You never know what you’re going to find.”

Dlang added, “I learned to respect my family, but also stay super close to what I wanted to do.”

“We’re trying to spread the word about the fashion industry locally and really get engaged with high schools to help students know that this is a career pathway. If parents or students have an interest, we are always more than happy to chat and provide information,” Osherov said. 

Anyone interested in learning more about opportunities or the work completed by Osherov and Dlang can visit and, and visit their Instagrams @Patternmagazine and @Indianafashionweek.