Sew Good: Catholic Academy’s Fashion Club Teaches Students Clothing Design Skills

The St. Stan Fashion Club poses before their runway show. (Photo: Alicia Venter)

GREENPOINT — When Beatrix James joined the new fashion club at St. Stanislaus Kostka Catholic Academy, it was just to spend time with her two close friends. The third grader knew nearly nothing about clothing design.

Soon, what began as a hobby with friends turned into a passion she could see herself pursuing as a career, flourishing within a community of kids that are always “going to want to play with you.”

Beatrix is one of 23 students who are part of the St. Stan’s Fashion Club, an afterschool course that teaches students to design different articles of clothing. 

The members range from first to sixth graders and have met once a week at St. Stanislaus Kostka Catholic Academy for nearly three months. In that time, they have learned about the design world, from how to garner inspiration to what it takes to turn those ideas into reality. 

“Now I love fashion. It’s my favorite thing. This is all I wait for every week,” Beatrix said.

Rounding off their hard work for the year, the young club members held a fashion show in the school’s gymnasium on Wednesday, April 24, displaying their creations and designs to their families, teachers, and the broader St. Stan’s community.

The club is a first for St. Stan’s, which already has more than 30 afterschool programs available for its approximately 250 students. It was the brainchild of Lauren Gabrielson, a Williamsburg-based designer, mother of two girls at the academy, and a parishioner of the parent church. 

Gabrielson has a successful clothing brand with a warehouse and team of seamstresses, and when she heard that there wasn’t a fashion club at the school, she reached out to its principal, Frank Carbone, to ask why. 

The designs were composed of a collection of colors and styles, each portraying the students’ personalities. (Photo: Alicia Venter)

He responded that they simply hadn’t had anyone to organize it. She pitched herself as its moderator, and soon after, she was in a room full of aspiring elementary school designers giving them advice and describing patterns.

“There aren’t a lot of creative fields for them, so I think that it’s great there is this creative outlet.”

Glenys Hernandez rushed from her job to the fashion show, to surprise her daughter Hazel Peralta and catch her in her design. Seeing her daughter strut down the middle of the gym floor with her two close friends made her emotional, admitting she may have been happier than her daughter.

“It’s amazing to see your kid grow. Fashion teaches them self-expression and individuality, and she loves it. I’m so happy that they are offering it,” Hernandez said.

Hazel, a third grade student, says that Gabrielson and fashion designing have helped build her confidence.

“She just helps us calm down,” Hazel said.

Runway2: Hazel Peralta and her mother Glenys Hernandez. (Photo: Alicia Venter)

As the St. Stan students created their clothing designs, Gabrielson turned to her studio, making the clothes on her own time. They used different materials and patterns, including pink zebra prints and floral patterns.

Gabrielson has run design camps through her company, and loves to see children exposed to fashion. Every student at St. Stanislaus Kostka Catholic Academy is supportive of one another, she said, making it a nurturing environment for them to explore their creative side.

“I think when kids are free to be themselves, it’s just so great,” she said.

Carbone added, “I think one of the best elements that we have here is that we actually are a family.”