By  on August 6, 2007

With the aim of being at the forefront of fashion design, the Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles has developed a curriculum centered on fusing creativity and technology.

"We're focusing on new technology, new ways to see clothing in the world," said Rosemary Brantley, founding chair of the college's department of fashion design.

Students work with apparel vendors on special projects, which include developing textiles made from corn and flax, and using dyes such as those derived from coffee and beets for fabric. The college recently completed a three-year design apprentice program with The Warnaco Group Inc., in which recent graduate Richard Mesich bested fellow classmates in a competition for a spot as associate designer at Warnaco's Los Angeles-based swim group.

"While vying for the final position in the Warnaco Designer Apprentice program, Richard showed a wealth of talent and a great grasp of fashion knowledge in general," said Paula Schneider, president of the Warnaco swim group.

The competition began with 10 sophomores awarded internships at the swim group, where they worked with the Warnaco teams at swimwear brands Speedo, Anne Cole, Ocean Pacific, Calvin Klein, Nautica and Michael Kors. At the end of a three-month internship, Warnaco selected five juniors to participate in the design program, with three selected to continue in their senior year. Mesich, the winner, began his career at Warnaco as associate designer in June.

According to an Otis spokeswoman, the college recently worked with Nike in incorporating metal-plated fabric with stretch, used for the first time in apparel. She also said the college has been working on a design project with Patagonia, in which students use fabrics made from soybean, flax and corn, and use dyes made from tomatoes, beets and coffee.

Founded in 1918 by Gen. Harrison Gray Otis, the founder and publisher of the Los Angeles Times, the campus is based in the heart of L.A.'s fashion district. Industry observers say Otis is one of the top four fashion schools in the country along with the Fashion Institute of Technology and Parsons The New School for Design. Otis is considered the top fashion college on the West Coast.

There are about 1,100 students enrolled in the college, with some 200 majoring in fashion design from the sophomore through junior years. About 55 seniors graduate from the fashion design program each year.

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