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Fox Lane’s Fashion Program Inspires

students work in FHLS fashion classA student drapes neckties on a mannequin. Another cuts shapes out of felt. Still another, slowly feeds fabric into a sewing machine. It is a typical day in a Fox Lane High School fashion class. 

Now in its second year, the fashion program began thanks to the generosity of Lisa and Bob Gerbino whose son, Phillip, graduated three years ago and went on to attend The Fashion Institute of Technology.

Fashion was not offered during Phillip’s time at Fox Lane, so he took AP art and pursued fashion through summer classes and pre-college courses. When he graduated, his parents decided to fund a program at the high school. By next year, the fashion program will have enough sewing machines for every student in the class.

“The Gerbinos are fully responsible,” Lappin-Burke said. “Their donation was essentially a legacy for Phillip. It did not personally benefit him. They have had an incredible impact. Many students take this class on a whim and then decide to pursue fashion in college. The Gerbinos essentially create careers.”

Elle Gallagher, a senior in Fashion II who was working on a neutral dress with a bright blue pop of color, is one of those students planning to pursue fashion. She committed to Marist early decision and her excitement about studying fashion merchandising there is infectious.

“It was my dream school and I got in,” she said with a smile.

Elle explained that, while initially drawn to design, she is more interested in the merchandising aspect of fashion now. “I want to be the person who buys things for runway and chooses what people wear,” she said.

Lappin-Burke said she can see the depth of knowledge students have gained and how they have grown in the class, noting that it is empowering for them. 

“The confidence is incredible,” she said. “When I see a kid finish a garment and walk through the halls showing it off, it is amazing.”

Moments before, Grace Roebuck was posing for the class in a floral top she had just completed. Though masked, you could tell Grace was beaming. She had used a sweatshirt pattern to create a top out of a blanket found second-hand on the internet.

“When I was looking at trends, I saw people were making things out of upcycled blankets,” Grace, a senior, said. “I don’t really like fast fashion, so I wanted to try it.”

Lappin-Burke explained that Fashion I starts out with a “trashion” project where students make something out of garbage. It is followed by an upcycling assignment in which students take something they no longer wear and make it new. These assignments serve as the foundation of the fashion program and support both equity and sustainability.

Lappin-Burke also shows students how to find free patterns that they can learn from, use or modify.

Lappin-Burke became interested in fashion after helping Conner Ives, a 2014 Fox Lane graduate with his independent study course in fashion.

“I’m so connected with this program because of working with him,” she said. “He shared so much with me. I knew nothing about it. My role with him was taking his passion and helping organize it.”

Ives went on to study at the prestigious Central Saint Martins in London, was recently featured in Vogue Paris and was just named a finalist for the 2021 LVMH, or Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, Prize for Young Fashion Designers. He has remained close with Lappin-Burke.Lindsay Lappin-Burke works with student at sewing machine

“He is so proud that Fox Lane now offers this program,” she said.

Like most things, the fashion program shifted a little in response to the pandemic. When many (or all) students were working from home, the course had to become more design-based than material-based.

Lappin-Burke also focused on preparing students for the real world by teaching them how to market their designs. They learned to take social media-ready photos, create videos that show how a garment moves, communicate their aesthetic and more. Finals included projects like creating fashion magazines or creating a website chronicling outfits and the feeling and purpose behind them.

The students in Fox Lane’s fashion classes are engaged and enthusiastic — and it is no surprise when you witness the passion Lappin-Burke has for her job.

“I just want to do this all the time,” she said. “I’m the luckiest.”