Gatepost Interview: Laura Kane – Fashion Design and Retailing Professor

How did you find out about FSU and what is your educational background?

I am originally from Rhode Island and knew I wanted to do fashion. I loved my experience at FSU, and I knew I wanted a close-knit community to work in. I am an alumna of FSU and [graduated in 2009] with a bachelor’s degree in fashion design and retailing. I interned and worked at TJX after I graduated for a year and a half. I knew I wanted to work at FSU since it is local and then I decided to go to graduate school at Oregon State University for my Ph.D. since my husband and I – fiancé at the time – both got accepted there. I wanted more advanced apparel courses, so I really focused on studying psychology and sociology in that program. I got my doctorate in human behavior and in the near environment at Oregon State University [and graduated in 2016]. Then after graduate school, I got a four-year and full-time teaching job in Wisconsin and finished my graduate degree while teaching and wanted to move back to New England after spending years away to start a family and to be close to family. … Then I saw the job open at FSU and I have been working here for four years.

 What is the best part of your job?

The best part of my job would be that I really love interacting with my students as people – not just students. Ever since I taught fashion design, I loved seeing the different ways students interact with clothing. COVID-19 has been tough with not being able to see students in person.

 What is a typical day in your life during COVID-19? 

Right now, in the COVID-19 world, my day-to-day schedule is very different. I am teaching two studio classes – one is completely remote and the other is a hybrid. I spent most of the summer after COVID-19 in lockdown filming video demonstrations of all the content my classes needed. Right now, I am teaching a class called Advanced Apparel Design in which the students learn how to make a pair of pants and a dress. The challenge to teaching this course is that you need to get close to the students and get close in their space – how they are setting up their sewing machine and how they are sewing little bits and pieces on the garments. I could not have that in a COVID-19 environment and I also could not have students crowd around a table to watch what I am doing either. So, the set-up forces me to pivot to a new modality. I do a lot of sewing of my own and watch YouTube videos on sewing, so I approached my class as if I was making a YouTube channel for my class. I learned a lot about how to film, edit, how to do lighting, and making transitions. I filmed all my demonstrations with multiple angles and with voice-overs. I did not need to have a student necessarily next to me and they could do the class completely at home with my videos. My sketching class is completely remote and has videos for that online as well. This has allowed me to give students more flexibility and leeway and they can include their own personal touches to the work.

What social media platforms do you use?

I have a very active social media presence. I have my website that I use as an additional portfolio and I have a blog on there that I have not updated in forever. I am active on Instagram and I have a baby YouTube channel that I started at the beginning of COVID-19. I use these to show my personal and scholarly work and I do a lot of costuming on my own. I also do wearable art and I’m heavily involved in the International Textiles and Apparel Association, which is a professional organization in our field. I also like sharing small tutorials on how to take little elements from my classes and try to break them down to more digestible information for people who are not a design major. That is what I am focusing on now. [The website is http://www.laurakanedesigns.com/about/].

What is your favorite class that you taught at FSU?

I have two favorites. I teach Fashion Sketching and Design and I have been teaching this class almost every semester. It is an introduction to garment drawing and flat sketching. I really go in and teach students how to properly draw a sleeve, or how to properly draw a blazer, or a jacket. It is one of the classes that most students would come in and not have drawing experience and then come out really showing their building of skills from the start of the class to the end. It is really eye-opening to see how much a student improves in the 16 weeks that we have in the class and it helps them get their design perspective fleshed out a little bit. I have a mix of design students and merchandising students in that class and some have never designed anything before and then others have done basic design work. It is a way to hone their skills a little. I like seeing all the different ways that a student interprets the same assignment and I get very different types of garments being designed – I love that. As far as the most challenging class for me and exciting, I taught the portfolio capstone class in the Spring of 2020 – the year that COVID-19 hit. It was a really tough class because we had to pivot to being completely remote halfway through and it was not the ideal way to have that semester, but I really loved working with the senior design class. I loved seeing what all the different students were doing and their perspectives and this was my chance to really work with each one individually and understand their own communication styles, design styles, and design perspectives. This class did not end up the most successful because of COVID-19 so, it was a challenge, but personally, an interesting and fun challenge for me.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I definitely see myself still at FSU. FSU was where I wanted to come back to work when I started graduate school, and now that I am here, I am in it for the long haul. I have a lot of big plans that I have set forward such as what classes to teach, independent studies I want to run, and workshops to do at FSU. I am hoping that in five years, I have tenure and I have published a couple of papers and made more interesting wearable art pieces. Also, I hope to have gotten to teach some classes that I have always wanted to teach. So, I am hoping that comes to fruition.

What advice can you give to students and the FSU community about COVID-19? Advice you can give seniors?

I think it is important to curate your online persona. As much as we are so annoyed with being online all the time lately, it really is a strong and useful tool for you as a new graduate. Even while you are in school, start to make an online presence such as with a website to have an online portfolio and keep it updated. If you do not want to do that, then have an Instagram page for your work as a design student. Even in another major, you should show off the work you are doing and give yourself the best platform for that. …  I know some people do not like to have an online presence, but even a little bit of it can give you a leg up and edge when applying for jobs.

 What is something students would be interested in knowing about you?

A big thing that students can get surprised about is that I am an active cosplayer. I cosplay characters from Disney to Harry Potter and I am a huge endorser of it. I cosplay with my parents or my sister and we go to the conventions together to dress up as characters. I am always happy, excited, and open to talk about cosplay with anyone and if any students who are reading this want to reach out to me about cosplay, please do.