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Local Vogue: KCAD Unveils Pamella Roland DeVos School of Fashion

Posted November 13, 2013 in Events

It’s rare for a fashion designer to lend their name to a fashion school. It’s even more rare for them to do so in their own community.

KCAD’s new Pamella Roland DeVos School of Fashion is named for a woman who, in addition to being recognized as one of the fashion industry’s most dynamic and accomplished designers, is a proud native of West Michigan and a dedicated family-woman whose longstanding support of the region has cemented her reputation as a pillar of the community.

Pamella Roland DeVos next to the sign commemorating KCAD's new School of Fashion

Pamella Roland DeVos next to the School of Fashion's commemorative plaque

"We're fortunate in Grand Rapids that the people who've had great success in our community have invested in our community, and [Roland DeVos’] gift is another great example of that,” said Ferris State University President David Eisler.

As she addressed a crowd of friends, colleagues, and community members at the school’s naming ceremony, Pamella Roland DeVos stood in the Woodbridge N. Ferris Building, the very same building that once housed the Grand Rapids Art Museum, a place where she spent countless hours volunteering in her youth, building her own artistic drive.

“Today marks the first steps of a shared journey and the start of expanded opportunities for those students with us and those that will enter these doors in the future,” said Roland DeVos. “When I was a young girl growing up in Grand Rapids, fashion wasn't a career you could aspire to here. Now, [these students'] dreams of a fashion career can be established right here at KCAD. I cannot wait to see the places we'll go.”

Pamella Roland DeVos with KCAD Fashion Studies students

Pamella Roland DeVos with KCAD Fashion Studies students

From the onset, KCAD Fashion Studies program chair, Lori Faulkner, has advocated the cultivation of a fashion industry right here in Grand Rapids, using a steady supply of homegrown talent to encourage local startups and draw established designers, producers, and retailers into the region. Already, plans are in place to develop a community atelier that will provide designers access to equipment and avenues for collaboration. KCAD is also reaching out to community partners to create a Textile and Apparel Council that would work to help provide fashion upstarts with a consistent, local supply of materials. Now, Roland DeVos’ support, guidance, experience, and influence make these goals more tangible than ever.

“[Roland DeVos’ support] opens up so many possibilities,” said Ellie Perry, a sophomore in the Fashion Studies program. “The exposure goes a long way towards being taken seriously as a school of fashion, and also towards helping people realize that fashion is a global market. People think that it’s only places like New York, Los Angeles, and Paris, but fashion can happen anywhere.”

New York City fashion model Valeriya models a Pamella Roland gown next to a display of student-produced designs

New York City fashion model Valeriya models a Pamella Roland gown next to a display of student-produced designs

If the beautiful student-designed garments that were on display at the event are any indication, the program is already paving the way for fashion to become an integral component of the city’s design ecosystem.

“It’s a very exciting time to be in this program, and we’re very lucky to have [the support of Roland DeVos],” said Jane Hesselschwerdt, a freshman specializing in fashion illustration. “It’s going to present students with great opportunities to open doors and make connections. Only good things can come from this.”

While the Fashion Studies program is currently designed to give students the option of completing their final year of study in New York City, the prospect of a burgeoning fashion industry in their own backyard will likely motivate graduates to return to Grand Rapids to launch their careers.

Dave Eisler, David Rosen, Pamella Roland DeVos, and David Rodriguez answer questions from the media

David Eisler, David Rosen, Pamella Roland DeVos, and David Rodriguez (VP of Design and Brand Development at Pamella Roland) answer questions from the media

“It's important to grow our talent here, and I think it would be great if we could keep our talent here,” said KCAD President David Rosen. “Design is part of the rich tradition of Grand Rapids and it seems to me that we have the capacity to grow a fashion program that can help power that. It's marvelous that [Roland DeVos] has partnered with us and lent us her name as an inspiration as well as a way for us to say, 'We're here in Grand Rapids, and we're significant, and we're going to do things that will make you sit up and take notice.'"

So the next time you’re flipping through Elle, watching your favorite celebs on the red carpet, or strolling the downtown sidewalks, keep your eyes peeled. You just might see some striking fashions that were born right here in Grand Rapids.


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