What I learned from fashion school . . . | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Loralee Soong

Summer is over and it is back to school. Even if I have been out of school for over a decade, I still can’t snap out of the relaxed summer mood, like a grade schooler. And as June came rolling in, I started to become nostalgic about my own academic life.


It is my post-graduate education at Istituto Marangoni in Milan that I look back on with excitement and warm fuzzy feeling.


It was a dream come true for me to live and study in one of the world’s fashion capitals. Stepping onto the streets of Milan, one felt fashion in the air. I could not only see it, but also feel it and touch it.


Milan showed me the behind the scenes of the fashion industry, beyond the glossy magazines and spell-binding catwalk shows. I saw, experienced and actually was part of the fashion industry.


It was almost surreal.


I came back to Manila with a treasure trove of life lessons and aspirations.


Sure, I learned how to cook my own meals, walk the cobble streets in high heels, navigate through Milan with a limited Italian vocabulary, and it even inspired me to open a fashion school of my own!


But the most valuable lesson I learned which I still apply to this day is the discipline behind the design process.

I learned that design is not purely an instinctive process anchored on aesthetics. Design involves research, a lot of conceptual thinking and making deliberate choices to create collections that tell stories, touch people and convey a point of view.

I asked fashion friends the same question I asked myself, to complete the phrase: “What I learned from fashion school…”


Mich Dulce, milliner

Creativity and inspiration is everywhere. Even at your most uninspired moments you can find something to spark creativity.


Marielle Santos-Po, graduate of Istituto Marangoni

When building a brand, it’s not just about good design and good quality products, a big part of it is creating a persona for that brand. It’s creating a lifestyle for your target market so that it’s easier for your customers to connect to the brand and in turn become loyal.



Mia San Agustin, managing director of Harlan + Holden, graduate of Bocconi University

I’ve learned that behind the fashion shows, parties, and grand events, there is serious machinery and hard work behind the glitz and glam.


Loralee Soong, executive director of SoFA Design Institute, graduate of Istituto Marangoni

I learned that it is necessary to have a balance between the creative, technical and business components of the design practice to be able to build a strong creative brand.


Kristel Yulo, designer, graduate of Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT)

“Time’s up!!!” More than just the skill of time management, design school at FIT taught me the importance of immovable deadlines. It has proven to be an invaluable lesson working with brides on their wedding day.


My working days are tightly regimented between designing, managing production + bridal fittings, and client meetings. Whatever challenge comes my way, I will design the gown with all my artistic abilities, using all the experience I’ve gathered so far, and fit it on my bride on time (and hopefully, beyond her expectations.)


Rita Nazareno, bag designer, graduate of London College of Fashion

I learned in school and in life (as far back as the playground) the importance of sharing—one’s knowledge, skills, even one’s time. Even one’s wealth. Sharing is always good karma. And for the slightly self-absorbed, a Dalai Lama centuries ago did say: Share your knowledge. It’s a way to achieve immortality.


Rajo Laurel, designer

I learned to be fearless. To use my imagination without parameters. To think out of the box. To work ideas to its full potential.


Jessica Tan Gan, Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising

The best experiences I had were my internships at BCBG for merchandising, Virgin Megastore for buying, and J Brand for design & PR.

Take the opportunity to learn from the best while you still have time as a student. Always be professional and humble. Merchandisers, Microsoft Excel is your best friend! Learn it and love it!


Maureen Disini, Istituto di Moda Burgo

Fashion school has given me the strength and confidence to set up a small business when I returned to Manila. I was hesitant in the beginning but one of my teachers pushed me to do so.

Pam Picazo Garcia, PR practitioner, graduate of Istituto Marangoni

It’s not only about trends and collections but there is also the business side of fashion—forecasting, inventory, number pushing, P&L and the crucial role of marketing and communications in promoting and building an image of any brand.


Denise Aquino, owner of Tokyo Posh, graduate of Bunka Fashion College

Before entering fashion school, I thought that me loving fashion was enough to get by. I never thought that fashion involved so much of chemistry, science and technology—subjects I dreaded most growing up.


I entered fashion school with a drawing notebook, pens, and copies of Vogue from all countries. Little did I know that subjects that made use of those were just an hour or two each week.


Being in fashion school for two years made me build the highest, highest respect and admiration for fashion designers. The glamor is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s one tough job.


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