At Ohio State, fashion could be more than just joining a club –– it can be an experience.

Twenty-six years ago, Nancy Rudd, a professor in the Department of Human Sciences and the head of the fashion and retail studies program, created a course for students to display their original garments in a public fashion show. In 2007, however, the course became the Fashion Production Association, a student organization open to students of all majors.

The switch came in order to acquire campus funding for the course’s growing student involvement, and it now has more than 70 students of a variety of majors involved.

“It really has broadened [FPA] to have it as a student organization,” Rudd said. “We have students from … the business majors. We have students from communication. We have students from majors that aren’t even related at all because they’re interested.”

Kate Palko displas original garments in the Fashion Production Association, a student organization open to students of all majors. Credit: Courtesy of FPA

Rudd said the organization has two goals: creating an annual spring fashion show, and to have students participate in a total of four service learning projects associated with FPA. This year, FPA will be helping the Driving Park Community Center, a local group in Columbus, with underprivileged children.

“As long as I’m teaching this [FPA], we will always be involved in service learning,” she said. “I hope the big thing they get out of it is this desire to pay it forward to help others.”

When FPA students aren’t volunteering, they’re either designing garments or organizing the spring show, with the help of Rudd and two other advisers, Wendy Goldstein and Alexandra Suer, who are both consumer science lecturers.

Suer, an Ohio State alumna and former FPA member, said the organization gives students hands-on experience and a look into the fashion industry.

“It teaches students a lot of different skills and it gives them a peek into what the industry is like,” she said. “Almost every retailer has a fashion show. So, it’s a great opportunity for them to get down to every single detail and learn what it takes to put [on] this kind of event.”

Jenn Sperry, the co-president of FPA and a fourth-year in marketing, joined the organization in her first year at Ohio State. Sperry said she couldn’t sew then, but with the help of the advisers she began designing immediately and organizing the show.  

“These three women are so passionate about what they do,” Sperry said. “It inspires me every day to be as successful as possible, not only in work or industry, but [in] life as well.”

Apart from designing and helping run FPA, Sperry said her favorite part of the organization is working with her colleagues.

“We have a very, very great team right now,” Sperry said. “We all work very well together and we also have fun, so it’s kind of a win-win.”

Rudd said she also likes seeing the students work together and is proud to see them create a professional show every year.

“The beauty of the student organization-slash-class is that they have to learn to negotiate with one another,” she said. “And every year I weep, I truly do, to think they pulled it off again.”