Home Economics and Fashion Entrepreneurship

The first batch of fashion designing students of Santa Rosa Junior College did not study fashion. They studied home economics instead. This was true for all students passing out from the institute between the 1930s to the 1970s. Fashion students of SRJC have no idea about their course's humble and discreet beginnings.

Until the 1970s

The fashion designing course was widely known as home economics. The list of subjects included were clothing construction, life management, fashion merchandising, dietetics, life management, culinary, illustration, and nutrition. Only after the 1970s did the home economics subject changed to its new name of Family and Consumer Sciences. One of the teachers who taught during the transition was Bonnie Panizzera, a fully certified home economist. She is a member of American Home Economics Association. The latter is now known as American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences.

The SRJC faculty received Panizzera in 1980. She taught fashion and interior design. It was only from that time that the retail merchandising and fashion studies became a component of the theater arts. The development pushed this fashion program to diversify into different study areas. She said that the extensive classes offered students more skills and clothing construction classes. The students also learned to do own alterations. The latter was the trigger for manufacturing.

Budget cuts and entrepreneurship

Panizzera recounts the time when slashes to the budget meant that the program had only four sewing machines. She, along with many others, helped to continue the program during the 2008 recession. A few classes during that time, including fashion studies, had a real chance of being discarded. She showed the higher ups how students were making money by selling items online. She helped the program to be financially stable and pushed its entrepreneurship potential. The budget cuts and recession took its toll. Students now can achieve only two certificates- fashion design assistant and retail merchandising. These make up a total of 20 to 21 units. The students can earn their associate degree when they complete these requirements.

Lyra Bobo, a fashion program coordinator, taught students how to connect with entrepreneurship and clothing sustainability. The focus was on making own clothes and remaking them. The problem is that these lessons are now largely forgotten. The textile industry is now one of the world's worst polluters. Landfills around the world consist mostly of discarded clothing.  About 26 billion pounds weight of textiles is dumped in landfills.

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