Drawing designs. Selecting models and fabrics. Long nights at the sewing machine. Dozens of phone calls to local businesses.
These are just a few of the tasks that students in San Joaquin Delta College's fashion department must complete to put together their collections and events each semester.
Years ago, director Leslie Asfour said there were only five or six classes in the tiny program. Now there are about 15, with nine faculty members. Students learn industrial sewing, fashion design and how to merchandise a garment or collection. They also go on trips to fashion centers like New York, Paris, London, Las Vegas and, increasingly, Sacramento.
Most recently, the program presented the Designers Collection Show on May 11. Eleven student designers, including Karyn Faszer of Lodi, each created six looks from scratch and fit them to volunteer models. Once the semester is up and running, students must submit a mostly completed look once a week. From there, the work is in changing details like draping or waistlines and other tweaks.
The collections showed a broad range of talent. Some were about bright, springy colors. Others fused a historic vibe with the idea of a saloon girl, to come up with a brassy feeling collection. Still other looks were elegant and cosmopolitan, said Asfour.
"Every collection was uniquely different," said Asfour.
Leslie Asfour, 50, of Stockton, got her start in the industry when she was 16, working in a mall in the Bay Area. She loved the visual aspects of selling clothing.
Asfour attended California State University, Sacramento and majored in interior design, followed by grad school at San Francisco State University, where she earned a master's degree in apparel marketing. She was recruited by Limited Brands and traveled around the state for seven years, opening stores and training managers.
In 1988, she opened her own clothing store called Vazz in Lincoln Center in Stockton. Four years later she began teaching at Delta.
She's been at the helm of the fashion program for 20 years. She says she does it for the students. Instead of helping a business sell a product, she's helping a student find his or her life, she said.
"Stockton's a funny place. There's not always a lot of hope among students for anything fantastic to happen in their lives. Our program offers that and practical training," said Asfour.
She enjoys seeing her students go through the design process.
In the beginning, designers have rather grand ideas of beading and lace and layers. But those ideas change when students move from the drawing board to the sewing machine. As the day of the show draws nearer, some designers introduce a few of those big ideas back into the garments. Asfour says it usually works better after they've learned something.
Asfour sees her program as a prudent introduction into a major industry, and balks at the idea that anyone may consider fashion a carefree endeavor. But there is room for many perspectives in her classes. Some students are in it to make their own visions come alive, even if that means busing tables to pay for it. Others may find their way in a more mass-produced world or a more homogenized style, said Asfour.
"It is a huge industry, the second-largest in California. I don't think that's frivolous," said Asfour. "And there's something to be said about something really beautiful you put against your skin that makes you feel good about yourself."
Karyn Faszer, 36, of Lodi, created a casual line based on a novel by Ernest Hemingway, "The Garden of Eden." After reading the book a year ago, the nautical imagery and early 1920s themes stuck with her. Those memories translated into a line of mostly androgynous clothing, including striped tops, polka dotted men's shirts paired with wool trousers and a mint green gown styled with a knotted rope necklace.
"I set out wanting to translate what was in my head to successfully telling a story with my line," she said.
As a mother of four kids, Faszer went back to school to start bringing home a second income. What she found was a passion for fabrics, industrial style sewing and individual creation.
"Fashion and retail are one of the few job opportunities in our area. The location can seem limiting, but you can do freelance work for Sacramento or San Francisco. It seems to be a growing industry," said Faszer.
Faszer came in with experience in making her kids' Halloween costumes and redesigning ideas she found in magazines. The Delta program offered her the chance to experience the real highs and lows of the fashion industry. That included staying up in her home office, sewing and working until 3 in the morning before the show. Her kids are used to coming home from Millswood Middle School, Lodi High School and Reese Elementary and finding their mom barricaded in her office.
"My kids would come home and say, 'Where's mom?' They knew where to find me, but they had to come to me," she said.
The event producer
Adri Gutierrez, 23, of Stockton, worked with a team of students whose job it was to make the show happen. From marketing to finding donations and securing a venue, there were a lot of moving pieces, she said.
This was Guiterrez's second year as an event production student.
"To be a part of the show is the whole goal; producing that trophy of a fashion show to showcase what we can do as a community and to feature our designers," she said.
She finds fashion to be a vibrant industry, and more than just consumerism, she said.
"I think sometimes people get that negative reaction because they don't understand or (they're) not willing to learn. It's an incredible industry. It's not just one thing," she said.
Gutierrez recently earned her certificate in fashion merchandising.
"It's about finding a way to capture an audience without words," she said. This summer, she'll head to Long Beach to find fashion internships in merchandising or event planning.
The model manager
Nicolette Sison, 25, of Stockton, has been a fashion merchandising student since 2009. Her love for clothes and styling, along with her freelance makeup artistry skills, made her a good fit for the program.
For the show, she was part of a two-person team charged with managing more than 60 models. That means recruiting, coordinating style choices with designers, and booking hair and makeup stylists while making sure each aspect fits with the line's original vision.
"Designers basically have the final say. Depending on how (models) walk and their own look, we decide if they are the right fit for the collection," she said.
When the rest of the crew were at the venue setting up, Sison was back on campus with a mass of models, styling hair and makeup. Later, Sison took up her post backstage to keep the show moving along and the models in order.
"It was really stressful. We were kind of behind. But backstage wasn't bad, that part went smoothly," she said.