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A Foot in the Door for Fashion’s Future

SAN FRANCISCO — For Jennifer Jeon, landing one of the two coveted internships Zandra Rhodes offered last week during the graduation fashion show at the Academy of Art College here was fate. <P>On vacation last year in London, the Korean student...

SAN FRANCISCO — For Jennifer Jeon, landing one of the two coveted internships Zandra Rhodes offered last week during the graduation fashion show at the Academy of Art College here was fate.

This story first appeared in the May 29, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

On vacation last year in London, the Korean student visited Rhodes’ studio and presented her portfolio to the staff there.

“She wasn’t there when I dropped by,” said Jeon, who will likely begin at Rhodes’ Southern California studio in Del Mar, with an option of relocating to England where the pink-haired designer will open the Fashion and Textile Museum in the fall. But she’ll get plenty of time now, Jeon, an MFA grad in textile design, enthused.

At the May 21 ceremony, Rhodes and designer Koos van den Akker accepted plaques and honorary doctorates of humane letters from AAC, a privately owned and accredited school with 22 campuses within San Francisco.

Mayor Willie L. Brown Jr. sent a declaration of May 21 as Zandra Rhodes and Koos van den Akker Day. The pair met with students throughout the day, reviewing portfolios and talking shop.

“I bet five months ago none of you even knew who I was,” roared a smiling van den Akker to the students and faculty, referring to his reemergence on fashionista radar last year, thanks to the collection homages of Marc Jacobs and Nicolas Ghesquière. “I’ve worked hard for 35 years making fashion, a home collection and furniture. It’s the variety that keeps it exciting.”

As his intern, the New York-based designer chose Rhode Island native Jessica O’Hara.

“I was so shocked, my friend had to nudge me, ‘Go up there, it’s you,’ ” said the BFA grad in fashion design. O’Hara believes van den Akker will keep her learning process going. “I’m most interested in draping, the construction of things and the fabrics themselves, so obviously it will be exciting working with Mr. van den Akker.”

A third graduate was honored with an internship, also with Rhodes. Amber Powers, who earned a BFA in textiles, will leave her Santa Cruz, Calif., home for London. “I’m totally inspired [by Rhodes],” said Powers.

The spotlight brightened on one student when her former intern employer, Miguel Adrover, leaped up onto the stage to honor her knitwear contributions to his fledgling company. Adrover, incognito in a black leather baseball cap, would only say about his company that he hopes to return with a collection for spring 2003. He preferred to shift the attention to his former intern, Ioana Monica Magdaf, who presented a Romanian gypsy-inspired grad collection.

It’s on the runway, of course, that the class of 20 finally got to show its stuff. Design concepts ranged from hard-edged and deconstructed (Alisa Schulof) to concise and sweet (Sun Young Lee) to kiddie cool (Jacquelynn Wong ). There was also a special collaborative project sponsored by the Sustainable Cotton Project, Nike and Natural Origins. To promote the state’s organic cotton resources, Natural Origins donated fabric to the students, who created three varied capsule groups.

Executive director of fashion Gladys Perint Palmer, a fashion illustrator and former editor, boasted that while the school has an open-enrollment policy, it’s no easy ride. “We’re very democratic at the beginning. And very elitist at the end.”