Tell us about what you are currently doing in your role as Assistant Professor in the Department of Fashion Design and Merchandising at Virginia Commonwealth University:
Surviving! It’s been a year of many firsts, and hopefully, many lasts. As a fashion merchandising professor, I’ve been teaching courses such as Fashion Forecasting, Fashion Economics, and Fashion E-Commerce Website Development, as well as the VCUarts high school summer intensive. Think of that as a three-week, sleepaway art camp in Richmond where you can take fashion, photography, graphic design, or other art classes. Also, part of my role as a professor is research. For this requirement, I’ve been working on new products for esses, a jewelry line with my sister, Michelle Lopez (SAS ‘88), and High Prospect, a childrenswear line with my wife. I’m also researching fashion brands as political flags in this time of division for a conference this summer.
How has work shifted in the last year due to COVID-19?
I think everyone’s discovery of a new workflow has followed a similar path. We have all (including our respective industries) been forced to adapt to tools that were previously only in its introduction. It’s a testament to the incredible technology most of us have at our disposal. It would have been difficult to pull off even ten years ago with remote work and learning. One of the silver linings of the pandemic is the eagerness for our fashion contacts to speak to our students with the free time they’ve had. They’ve all been great. But there’s a human side to all of this as well, right? The level of compassion and empathy towards one another has been highlighted in the last year. It’s been tough for everyone, but we’ve all been in it together.
How did St. Stephen's and St. Agnes School help you get to where you are today?
Aw man, SSSAS was a grind for me. Admittedly, I was not a great student. However, when I was transitioning to college, I was definitely more than academically prepared having that work ethic instilled in me. Hang in there! I have also found the importance in maintaining relationships, both those I’ve created first at SSSAS, and then elsewhere. More importantly though, I know that SSSAS had a big part in my character development. Seeing and hearing examples of positive gestures from older peers, coaches, and faculty, and staff as I grew up in the school community. Just how we treat other people. It goes a long way. Recently, it’s really encouraging to see the school take steps forward with diversity and inclusivity. It will put better people, our alumni, out there in the world.
What is the most rewarding part of working as a professor in the fashion industry?
I’m forever grateful for the teachers, coaches, and mentors that helped me get to where I am, so I love passing on whatever little knowledge I have to help the next generation reach their goals. Seeing friends and past students hustle, persevere, and reach their goals is the most rewarding part. They’re landing their dream jobs and opening their own businesses. It takes a certain level of courage to make the jump to pursue something you’re passionate about.
Were there any St. Stephen's and St. Agnes faculty members who were instrumental in your life?
I often think of all of my teachers, coaches, and staff over my twelve years at SSSAS and I’ve been meaning to reach out to ALL of them. Of course Coach Hooper and Coach Murphy (history/wrestling), Mr. Trask (music), and Mrs. Holden, but there were also those whose teachings extended beyond the classroom such as Mr. Barbee (Dean of Students, English) and Mrs. Keith (MS English). Thank you all!
What have you most enjoyed about being part of the Saints community?
That I’m still part of it! Starting in the early 80’s with my sisters attending St. Agnes to seeing their kids graduate with the same experiences, it’s still a welcoming community. It’s unique, but I’m still close friends with those that I’ve met in Ms. Ross’s 1st-grade class in Sinclair Hall. These relationships are special.
What’s next for you?
Isn’t that the million-dollar question? All I know is, the most discussed question lately that my friends and family are always asking is, “Where are we going to travel first?”