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Pennsylvania Designer Shelly Steffee Explores the Deeper Side of Fashion

by Marianne Salina
Fashion Career Center Columnist

Pennsylvania-born designer Shelly Steffee has always loved fashion and knew from an early age that creating clothes was in her future. But unlike most of the fashion designers scattered across the eastern seaboard, Steffee chose not to attend school in New York and opted instead to explore her options in local Pennsylvania.

What she found was a university that not only offered instruction in the basics of fashion design, but also a curriculum that explored literature, history, math, and psychology. Steffee's multi-faceted education has served her fashion career immeasurably, as much of her design inspiration is rooted in this cultural foundation.

Fashion Designed with Intelligent Women in Mind
Upon graduation from fashion design school, Steffee worked at Anne Klein New York for six years before striking out on her own. Her vision was different from many other designers'. While her pieces are made with luxurious fabrics and precise lines like other skilled artisans, Steffee uses artistic and cultural objects to create her seasonal lines.

For her spring 2005 line, for example, she called upon images of women's faces from Belgian Symbolist painter Ferdinand Khnopff, focusing on how their eyes evoked a strong sense of character. She then envisions a specific woman who will wear her designs--one who embodies strength and sensitivity.

Fashion Design House with Style and Substance
The next step for Stefee was to build a fashion house. With the help of architect Stephan Jaklitsch, the designer of Marc Jacobs's retail spaces, Stefee and her husband created a 2,300-square-foot home for her designs. The boutique is located in Manhattan's fashion-forward Gansevoort Market (the historic meatpacking district) and serves as a creative workspace as well as a cultural salon where musicians, poets, and fashion designers can introduce their work to the community.

Find the Right Fashion Design Experience
Stefee's fashion career proves two things. First, not all successful designers attend fashion school in New York. Second, if you are seeking a broader education outside the nuts and bolts of design, there are many schools that offer broader curricula to help you fulfill this goal. Find a fashion design school that offers you both the education and cultural experience you need to nourish a creative and inspired career in fashion.

Sources:
Shelly Steffee

About the Author
Marianne Salina has a B.A. in Literature and Creative Writing and enjoys researching and discussing the myriad of fashion design pursuits in her columns.