Gatzen believes that actually making clothing is essential for students training to become fashion designers. In the core Integrated Fashion Curriculum class, taken by sophomores in the fall, “students develop a creative and critical approach to fashion. They learn by experimenting and playing with clothes that are worn in everyday life. By exploring things that attract them culturally or historically, for example, students make garments for themselves once a week.” Most students are interested in making clothes, but the core classes also allow students to explore fashion in relation to areas like magazines, photography, collaborations with NGOs, sustainability, and services.
In their second semester, students are required to sell their clothes in a sales presentation outside of school. Over the course of the program, students learn to present themselves in public, ask for help, and understand their own potential and limitations, and how to build a community to help support their ambitions.
Through a collaboration between New School students and Ajkem’a Loy’a, a women’s cooperative in Guatemala, Gatzen has taken her approach to both fashion and education abroad. “The students share their knowledge of business, marketing, and product design with the Guatemalan women. In return, the Guatemalan women teach the students beading, dyeing threads, pattern making, and weaving. The goal is for the collective to create products of their choosing and to operate without external support.”