Lauren Cunningham

The Fashion Capital

Lauren Cunningham - Paris, France

My month at Paris Fashion Institute (PFI) in June 2012 was unlike any experience I have ever had. It has been my life’s dream to travel to Paris, let alone study there. While I had studied fashion before, I had never gotten close to the knowledge I gained at PFI. Before leaving for Paris, it was hard for me to comprehend what to expect. I had never been out of the country, let alone for an entire month on my own. But I knew that in order to fulfill my dreams, I was going to have to take some risks and get used to uncomfortable situations.

It was really hard for me to leave my family and the first couple of days in Paris were not at all what I expected. I was completely out of my comfort zone and I did not know a single soul. But I soon found out that this journey was not going to be easy and I needed to accept all the challenges with an open mind. After I had this realization, I had nothing but positive experiences. I got to visit several museums including the Louvre and the Pompidou, as well as visit Versailles and Notre Dame. It was an incredible thing to learn about the vast and rich history of the French, but I must say I learned the most during my visit while on the streets of Paris. My new friends and I would take every free second we had outside of class to explore each “arrondissement” of Paris. We visited numerous cafes, famous bakeries, original fashion houses, flea markets, chapels, and everything in between. We met several native Parisians who shared some local insight.  I also gained a good amount of French conversational skills, and after my second week in Paris, I began to feel comfortable, even as if I belonged.

In addition to the whirlwind of cultural experiences, Paris Fashion Institute provided me with more knowledge of the fashion industry than what I ever dreamed of possible in thirty days. We were in class 28 out of the 30 days, sometimes 10 hours a day. And while that may seem like a lot of tedious time to spend on schooling, it was the most interesting, captivating material I have ever learned. The classes were not set up like traditional classrooms; they were more like work rooms where all sixteen students worked as a team to put together a pseudo Fall 2012 collection. We also gained a complete understanding of the industry. From public relations to pattern making, we really got to learn the business from each angle. Before Paris, I had never been challenged to create or sketch my own designs, but I now find myself sketching almost every day and feel so eager to keep growing artistically. We had the privilege of having industry professionals as professors, including Diane Pernet and Robb Young. We also had professionals (Godfrey Deeny, Lisa Horn, etc.) lecture to us weekly about their journeys to success, and at the end of the month, we had the extreme honor of working in Henrik Vibskov’s Fall/Winter 2012 fashion show in Paris Men’s Fashion Week.

My month in Paris changed my life forever. It inspired me to keep following my dreams and motivated me to work harder. It showed me a different culture and excited me for my future to learn about cultures around the world. I can honestly say I now have a completely different and exciting view on the world of fashion and my future professional life. I am so grateful to have had this opportunity and meet the fabulous people I did. I owe much thanks to Joan White, the CMU Office of Study Abroad and all of the wonderful professors I had the privilege of meeting; I will cherish this experience forever.