Meet Kadeem Fyffe (Milan, 2011), our July Alum of the Month! Kadeem is a 2013 University of Richmond alum whose semester with IES Abroad jumpstarted his career in fashion. Read on to learn how his time spent living and learning in the fashion capital of the world redefined him.
IES Abroad: Why did you choose IES Abroad Milan?
Kadeem Fyffe: When I first got to Richmond, I walked into Abby [Ward, Study Abroad & Program Manager]’s office and was like, “I’m going to go to Milan junior year,” and she said, “Come back and talk to me in two years.”
I just thought if I was at a liberal arts school where I was allowed to make my own curriculum and experiment with fashion under the studio art umbrella that I had to enrich my whole experience with a study abroad experience. What better place to go for fashion than Milan?
I chose the IES Abroad program because I liked the format. I thought it was a very straightforward process rather than just applying to a university abroad. I really liked that IES Abroad handled a lot of it.
IES Abroad: What was it like to enroll in Italian institutions?
KF: [In addition to two courses at IES Abroad], I took a course at Cattolica (Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore) and Istituto di Moda Burgo [the fashion school]. I got a diverse experience in terms of how education is approached in Italy. Coming back, it made going to Richmond a lot easier.
IES Abroad: Tell us about your internship.
KF: I did an apprenticeship for a few weeks with a kickoff show for Milan Fashion Week. I found out about it via the Internship Coordinator. I wanted to intern but hadn’t filled out the paperwork so I asked if there was any way I could do something on the side. I got to assist the show director and get a trial by fire, in-depth view of how to run a fashion show and all that it takes. I couldn’t believe that I was in Italy, first of all, and then working with Fashion Week was a really interesting and life-changing experience.
IES Abroad: How did study abroad redefine you?
KF: Milan was kind of like the spring board for everything that happened after. It was very clear that I was supposed to do fashion and go back and make sure I achieved all the goals I had set out for myself. Every time I talk about my Milan experience, it’s like, “Oh you did this—that must mean you are capable of doing more.” So everything that I’ve gotten afterwards, I owe to Milan—personally and professionally. This abroad experience changed me and put me on the right path, and showed me this is what I’m supposed to do. It helped me focus, all in all.
IES Abroad: What are you up to now?
KF: I started at Parsons The New School for Design [in New York City] last fall, but I took one semester off this spring to work because I am paying for school myself. I needed to take time to gain more industry experience and save up for school. I am taking a summer course and will go back to Parsons in the fall and graduate in December.
The company I am with right now is Lyssé, a women’s performance fashion label. I’m a designer on a design team of three people. [Our product] is carried in a bunch of department stores and over 2,000 specialty stores across the country. It’s been very hands on and I’m able to put all the things I’ve learned at Richmond, in Milan, and at Parsons to work.
IES Abroad: Did you always know you wanted to be a designer?
KF: When I was younger, I always drew women’s clothes. I would make mannequins and dresses out of paper, whatever I could get my hands on. Back then, it was just a fantasy. I had no real idea of what that was until maybe late high school/college. When that clicked, I knew that the only thing I was supposed to do was be a designer. I think the most important thing on my journey so far has been retaining focus and remaining determined. There’s still room to grow, and I’m really interested to see where I go next!
IES Abroad: Any advice for future study abroad students?
KF: Seize the day. Every day you wake up, make sure you go out and see the city, make sure you are immersing yourself in the culture, and don’t stay in the house. You can stay in the house at home. Get to know the locals. It will really open the city up for you.