New York Fashion Week is the Super Bowl of the fashion industry: seven days of runway shows that bring together designers, models, buyers, celebrities, media—and interns who help make the shows happen. This fall, Melora Werlwas, a fashion merchandising major at Northeast Campus, was one of those interns.
Werlwas lived her dream and made connections for the future—all while getting ready to graduate, serving as president of the Fashion Collective campus organization she founded, taking care of her young son and preparing for baby number two in the spring. Here, she takes TCC backstage.
September 5, 9:15 p.m.: Ready to go
I still can’t believe I’m going to New York Fashion Week. All the wisdom about plugging in at school and to “network, network, network” is true. My former professor (now mentor) Dionne Dean and I have always talked about how one day we would go to Fashion Week. Well, Dionne is friends with Lori Riviere, CEO of The Riviere Agency—a PR firm with offices in New York and Miami. Dionne heard Lori needed an intern for Fashion Week and recommended me.
This is a game changer and will have, I hope, huge career implications. I could meet my future employer, and that is exciting and terrifying. Really, I can’t decide how I feel, but I’m going to rock this experience.
September 7, 5 p.m.: En route
On the way to the airport! Flying with a baby is never easy—especially when your flight takes off around bedtime. Jamie (18 months old) is a trouper, and I’m thankful my mom came to help. The hands-on assistance is great; raising a family while going to school and working also requires discipline and time management. I am heavily involved on campus and with extracurricular activities, but when I am home I am 100 percent focused on my son. I study after he goes to bed, so I pull some pretty late nights.
If that sounds like a lot of work, that’s because it is. But I think it’s important for moms to keep doing things that make them feel strong and powerful. My trip to Fashion Week certainly falls in that category.
Sept. 7, 6 p.m.: Getting oriented
On my way to orientation, and I sure have missed this city. I lived in New York during my freshman year of college. While I loved the city, I wasn’t sure about what major or direction I wanted to take so I opted to come back home while I figured it out. But New York will always have a special place in my heart.
I’m excited to meet Lori, her staff and the other interns—to learn from them and show what I’m made of. The office is cozy and inviting, and I instantly feel at home. Everyone is great, and we get a better sense of our role for this week. Interns wear many hats but mainly I will be directing people to their seats and handling any complaints. Now it’s back to the hotel to get a good night’s sleep before the work really begins.
Sept. 8, 11 p.m.: One show down
The first show was long, tiring and absolutely amazing! There were a number of collections presented by Australian designers. Hours before the show started, we interns were setting up seat numbers, placing gift bags, assisting the show’s producer, etc. At the very last minute, we had to make some changes to the seat assignments, but everything got done. All those critical-thinking assignments and communication classes really paid off! I was able to handle things with ease.
The real excitement came when the audience arrived. Pre-show is a buzz of conversation, punctuated by laughter and the pop of camera flashes. As the show starts, I sit for the first time in hours. Suddenly it hits me. I am at New York Fashion Week, alongside glamourous people watching a real fashion show. I have never felt cooler.
Sept. 10, 7 a.m.: Fashion Week pro
It’s my second runway show. This one is Dan Liu (ready to wear) and backstage is a flurry of activity. Models have up to four people each working on their hair and makeup, while seamstresses rush from outfit to outfit, making final fixes and steaming to perfection. You cannot help but respect all the moving parts.
After my trial by fire yesterday, I tackle my pre-show duties with much more confidence, and I really feel part of the team. This was my favorite show; no couture here, so everything was easy to imagine off the runway. I still feel the glamour and excitement, but this time I also feel tired. The last few days have been intense! With the show’s end, my job is done.
Sept. 12, 3 p.m.: Reflections
This trip brought to life everything I’ve learned at TCC. But it did more than enhance my skills; my most important takeaway is to be bold. I learned to ask for what I want and not be afraid of things that may be above my experience level. There were times when I felt like the only person who didn’t belong in the room, but I never let that feeling show—and it made me work even harder. That hard work led to new industry connections, and there’s no telling where the future will take me. Hopefully back to Fashion Week!
Werlwas will earn her Associate of Applied Science in May 2017. She plans to earn her bachelor’s degree in international business and then, an MBA. Her goal is to become CEO of a Fortune 500 company.
This story is the latest in a series celebrating members of the TCC community who don’t let challenges stop them. Follow these links to read previous features: Salma Alvarez, Celia Mwakutuya, Jessica Caudle and Ken Moak.