An Unexpected Running Start

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Let’s take a moment to focus on what my students have accomplished, shall we?

The other day, fifteen Clothing Tech seniors showed me the results of a semester’s worth of work: 5 looks finished during the lab/studio hours of my advanced construction class. We use the term “advanced” very loosely in this department. Prior to the advanced course, they have about 10 units of pattern drafting and sewing. Some of these kids had never touched a machine or picked up a french curve prior to this class. In drafting the curriculum, when we wrote “advanced”, we were being “optimistic”. I’m happy to see how that optimism has gotten them somewhere. Almost everyone is finished and ready to show something they can take genuine pride in, having sweated blood over a subject they little preparation for at the start.

When I was an undergraduate in Clothing Technology, we didn’t get to have a fashion show. As seniors, we could opt to arrange a graduation show as the culminating activity for our advanced constuction class, and somehow my batchmates didn’t want it. I was indifferent to it, because by the time the opportunity came up, I’d been consigning to a small boutique for two years, but I do remember my professor losing her temper in the middle of one lab class. I was always late, and this time was no different. As soon as I had my machine set up, my professor started yelling about how all we did was complain while missing opportunities and turning in shitty projects. I got a 1.75 in that class, which is UP shorthand for “nice try, but whatever.”

My friend Duffie wrote something about indifference being the opposite of love, and my mediocre performance as a Clothing Technology undergraduate says just as much about love or indifference. Indifference led me to channel my energy towards other things – things that I wish I could say were just as productive; but the truth is my disappointment with the department and my inability to relate to my peers far outweighed whatever drive I had to push for something greater. This reflected in the jobs I got immediately after graduating and the little effort I put into picking myself up any sooner.

I wouldn’t say those years were wasted though, because had I not made it through on time, I wouldn’t have gotten this job. I’ve been teaching at UP for four years, and the students in this picture were freshmen when I started. Their first class that I got to handle was Costume History, and I remember being so inept and incompetent, thinking that we could pull through just by watching movies and talking about the movies after. I cynically felt this was still a step up, considering the kind of instruction I’d been dealt.

I handled two more of their classes in the following years, and I’m not bullshitting by saying they made me want to do better. This batch seemed to genuinely love their work and treated creativity as an end in itself. The only times I saw any compromises in their output were when they spent too much time thinking about what would go on the runway, and I would take that any day over the indifference I felt towards what had been asked of me.

In a couple of weeks, they’ll be showing their first collections. Hopefully, these will not be their last, because there’s real talent here; moreover there’s integrity in what they’ve created. A large portion of their grades came from peer evaluations, and they were so careful about fairly assigning who sat on whose panel, making sure the assignments were permuted randomly (because their teacher is really bad at math).

This is a group that’s more concerned with collaboration and constructive criticism, than with competition. They help each other out rather than tear each other down, which goes against the stereotypes of the industry they are about to enter–should they decide to stick it out. This is a small batch of designers; but as cheesy as it sounds, I have genuine faith that their hearts and minds are big enough to change the game, and shift our attention from what the fashion industry already looks like, to what it could be. Some of them will be treated like freaks, and the most I can do is keep my fingers crossed, hoping they’ll be okay with letting their freak flags fly.


In other news, I’ve been busy with my MA. Last semester, I allowed myself to miss a deadline on account of not being able to afford to pay for parking at the Lopez Museum (why do you people not have parking? Whatever happened to public service?). So now, I have this semester to make up for that incomplete grade. I’d love to say I don’t care about grades, but it’s only when you actually have something to maintain that you begin to care about keeping it up; but what matters more is that I finish my Masters on time, because I’ve been there too long as it is.

Next semester, I’ll be doing my final year of coursework, then I don’t know if I’ll take some time off before beginning my thesis. What I do know is that I want to stop teaching fashion. I’ve already mentioned it to friends, but it was just this week that I actually admitted it to those involved and affected by this decision.

This idea to quit literally came out of my ass, when I started brainfarting about wanting to join a roller derby league while visiting my sister in the states. But because I should know better than to let the prospect of getting elbowed in the face by a very large woman on roller skates have any bearing on my *future*, I let the first coin toss be the application I sent in for Jenesys 2.0. That did not get approved. Onward to round 2, which is a proposal to write a book. There is no funding, only research credits, and as with all projects that involve government approval, I have serious doubts about whether or not it will pull through. But still…

I’m 28. I’m one of the youngest among my colleagues. For a time, this was the answer to life after college, but there will always be more. Like roller derby.

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Author: alicesarmiento

San Juan, Metro Manila

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