By  on June 3, 2005

NEW YORK — Ashleigh Verrier, Parsons School of Design, Class of 2004, was one of the lucky few.

Verrier sold about 30 designs that constituted her senior thesis to Saks Fifth Avenue after she was named co-designer of the year at the annual Parsons student fashion show in 2004.

For fall her clothes hung near Marc Jacobs, Balenciaga and Chloe, and Saks ordered more for spring and fall 2005. She's now working on spring 2006 and lining up funding for production costs for future seasons. Verrier is also selling to Nordstrom in San Francisco and Seattle, taking small deliberate steps forward.

"All of us imagine that the goal is to be a designer," Verrier said. "I don't know if I'm part of a trend of students starting their own labels or not wanting an entry-level position. I was raised by parents of the Baby Boom generation. The rearing I received encouraged independence."

As new fashion school graduates hunt for jobs, the goal of becoming a designer is elusive. Some, out of school for a year or more, still search to find a dream job or an "angel" to back their collection.

Students at top institutions such as Parsons and the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles and, to a lesser degree, the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, often have unrealistic expectations and are dismissive of the vast moderate sector of fashion populated by the Gap, J. Crew, Liz Claiborne and Kellwood Corp., college administrators said.

Their desire to be creative stars like FIT graduates Calvin Klein and Carolina Herrera and Parsons alums Donna Karan and Marc Jacobs has some of them rejecting entry-level jobs that could improve their pattern-making, draping and fit techniques. After an education that costs as much as $130,000, as is the case at Parsons, industry professionals said graduates have little idea of what a real design job entails and some still need to master basic skills such as sewing.

Parsons alumna Anna Sui is among those who lament the loss of dedication to training and paying dues.

"What strikes me is that they have a lessened appreciation for the craft behind design," she said. "Everyone wants to be a designer but they don't always understand that they have to also be a pattern-maker, a seamstress, a tailor, etc., to really build a successful business."

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