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Friday, June 3, 2011

The Dress Code: Apparel Design Program on Budget Chopping Block

2011 SCCC Design Students
Recently, I came across this fantastically written article by Seattle Designer Cameron Levin on a facebook thread I had been included on. The article was so well written and articulated, I just had to re post it. Thankfully, when I asked Cameron, she agreed. I sincerely hope SCCC does not cut their Apparel Design Program, as doing so would be a huge dis service to the Seattle Fashion community. Please share this article with your friends, colleagues and co- workers, and lend your support to the SCCC in any way you can. Thank You, Maile Cabral Hager
The Dress Code: Apparel Design Program on Budget Chopping Block
Author: Cameron Levin
CLICK HERE FOR Original Article Post

Seattle Central Community College is charged with the grim task of cutting $4 million dollars in programs, administration and services by July 1st, per Washington State's 2012-2013 fiscal year budget. The school’s administration is analyzing the nine most expensive departments and crunching numbers to decide which programs will make the cut. Last week the SCCC’s internationally renown Apparel Design Program learned it was one of the departments up for elimination.

This news led us to Camila Sigelmann, one of two full-time faculty directors of the SCCC’s Apparel Design Program. Sigelmann not only teaches clothing construction, business and pattern making, but also co-administers the power-house department, and graduated from this very program back in 1986. She walked us downstairs to a cool 10,000 square foot space full of cutting tables, dress forms, and over 100 industrial sewing machines.

The SCCC’s Apparel Design program is where almost 1500 students in its rich 65 year history (one of the longest running fashion programs in the state) have called “home”, and where the Pacific Northwest fashion community procures its future stock of industry professionals. Influential alumni includes: Neiman Marcus Fashion Director Ken Downing; Lucky Brand Jeans Creative Director Rhea Opiniano; Cutter and Buck Vice-President Julie Snow; Outdoor Research and Development Director, Ammi Bornstein; along with up-and-comers like Becky Sullivan and Miriam Reynolds.

The SCCC's Apparel Design Program is recognized by hundreds of American-based labels, large-scale retailers and manufacturers, from Nordstrom’s and Zumiez to Columbia and REI, as one of the top professional schools for highly-skilled technical pattern-makers, documentation specification development, as well as garment construction. SCCC is where students come to experience an intensive full-time, two year program akin to fashion boot-camp that often keeps students on campus from 7am- 9pm, sewing their guts out. The coveted SCCC Apparel Design graduates are swooped up by major retailers and industry recruiters to join their design teams.

”Over the years I have worked at several companies and every applicant that I have interviewed from the SCCC program has always out-shined the others. They are well prepared with the necessary skill sets and drive to succeed in this business. I know if I hire a student from SCCC they understand pattern making, fitting, construction, tech packs and how to measure a garment,” says Ruth Lancaster, SCCC Apparel Design Program graduate and Technical Designer at Zumiez.

A few little known facts a la the Economic Development Council: Seattle is the 4th largest fashion market in the United States; and apparel and footwear is a $3.3 billion dollar industry in the Pacific Northwest. Our local economy has thrived on fashion ingenuity from local retail powerhouses like Eddie Bauer to Nordstrom’s, to the smaller-scale successes like Jarbo and Prairie Underground. Cutting this program would be like cutting the Achilles tendon of Seattle’s collective fashion community—from independent design to local corporate creative teams.

“Part of the process of the state budget crisis is the huge human toll. Tying the hands of education restricts our ability to produce talented, skilled people to maintain stability of our local economy,” says Sigelmann.
Seattle Central Community College’s Apparel Design program and the New York Fashion Academy are Washington’s only professional fashion design programs that are under $12,000 (the Art Institute's fashion degree is over $80,000).

The Apparel Design Program has received over 260 emails in support from alumni, universities, politicians and other proponents. If you’d like to express your support for this program you can send the executive team an email at

You can reach author Cameron Levin on Twitter @CameronLevin and on her website at

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