Teen fashionistas try industry for size at summer camp

NEW YORK Mon Aug 20, 2007 4:48pm EDT

A model displays a creation by Prada during a fashion show in Milan February 20, 2007. While many students enrolled in sports or music camps this summer, a rising number of girls invested their time instead in a new type of program centered on catwalks and haute couture -- fashion camp. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

A model displays a creation by Prada during a fashion show in Milan February 20, 2007. While many students enrolled in sports or music camps this summer, a rising number of girls invested their time instead in a new type of program centered on catwalks and haute couture -- fashion camp.

Credit: Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - While many students enrolled in sports or music camps this summer, a rising number of girls invested their time instead in a new type of program centered on catwalks and haute couture -- fashion camp.

Enrollment in fashion-related majors at schools like New York's Fashion Institute of Technology and Parsons The New School of Design has risen in recent years, partly due to the popularity of reality television series based on fashion such as "Project Runway" and the hit movie "The Devil Wears Prada".

So fashion camps held in New York, Ohio, California, Alabama and Canada were seen as giving teenage girls with a passion for fashion the chance to see whether they wanted to seriously pursue a job in the highly competitive industry.

In New York, where about 169,000 people work in the fashion business, a group of 35 girls aged between 13 and 16 paid $1,095 each to join the first season of Fashion Camp NYC, comprised of five days of lectures, seminars and store visits.

This week-long mock immersion into the heart of New York's fashion world, which accounts for 6 percent of the city's private employment, was dreamed up by Fran Della Badia, a Coach Inc. merchandising executive, and her husband Gordon Josey, a summer camp director.

"She goes to work in Prada and I go to work in Birkenstocks," said Josey, referring to the outdoor sandals favored by hippies and other nature-lovers. "She knows the fashion industry, I know the camp industry -- why not marry the two together?"

Josey said the couple also wanted to keep abreast of future talent and fill a gap they saw in the market -- a lack of summer programs to teach people about the retail fashion industry and its various opportunities.

FOCUS FOR YOUNG FASHIONISTAS

They weren't alone in spotting this untapped niche in the lucrative summer camp industry in the United States, where the American Camp Association estimates about 10 million children each year attend about 12,000 camps every summer.

Other fashion camps were on offer across the United States this summer and in Canada at the Design Exchange, an organization devoted to promoting Canadian design.

Some of the students attending the New York camp traveled from Britain and Canada to join the event where guests from different parts of the industry spoke to the campers about design, sourcing, branding, art and illustration.

One mother, Wendy Yudell, brought her daughter Erin from Toronto to New York for the course but said it was money well spent as her daughter was considering a career in fashion.

"If she didn't like it, we would've known before I had to pay X amount in university or college tuition," she said.

Yudell's daughter Erin, a confident 15-year-old, said she enjoyed fashion camp, and was encouraged to learn that jobs in fashion are not limited to designers and models.

She was interested in fashion journalism, especially after meeting a writer from Vogue and a beauty editor from Redbook.

"I don't have the model figure -- not a lot of people do -- and I don't plan on starving myself to get it. And I like putting outfits together but I'm not the type of person who starts trends," Erin Yudell said. "I just like the clothes."