“Be Entrepreneurial,” Fashion Celebrity and PhilaU Trustee Carson Kressley Advises Students During Campus Visit

Carson Kressley, Emmy Award-winning fashion celebrity and newly named Philadelphia University trustee, was on campus Nov. 7 to visit classes and do a wide-ranging interview on the fashion industry in front of almost 500 students, prospective students, faculty, staff and visitors.

“One of the reasons I am so excited to be here at Philadelphia University is to spread the word that there’s a world-class design school right here in our own backyards,” the energetic and personable Kressley, who grew up in Allentown, Pa., said during the interview. “If I had known about Philadelphia University when I was growing up, I probably would have been here.”

Kressley, who has a long-standing relationship with PhilaU, will officially join the Board of Trustees at its Nov. 8 meeting. “He really personifies what Philadelphia University is all about,” President Stephen Spinelli Jr. said when introducing Kressley before the interview. “It’s an honor for us to have him as an official part of our family.”

Carson Kressley speaks to Professor Carly Franks’ Garment Structures class.

Seniors Emily Ray, a fashion design student, and Sylvia Chun, a fashion merchandising student, interviewed Kressley on a stage set up in The Gallagher Center, later taking questions from the enthusiastic audience.

Kressley repeatedly advised students that today’s fashion industry requires the ability to collaborate and to work with a wide range of people involved in the processes of designing, marketing and selling apparel and accessories.

“You get all that experience here,” Kressley said. “I learned it on the job, but if I had this type of education, I would have actually had a head start.”

Earlier in the day, Kressley visited three classes, including fashion design and a business models class required for students in the Kanbar College of Design, Engineering and Commerce.  Students he met with in class and during the interview session were interested in his perspective on careers in the fashion industry and the education and skills they would need to succeed.

“Be well-versed and be entrepreneurial,” he told students in a fashion design class when asked for his advice. “Fashion is so broad now. It’s a double-edged sword—you can work in PR, color prediction, advertising, as a stylist. The other side is you need to be so well-versed now” in all aspects of the field.

Carson Kressley discusses business strategies with Professor Valerie Hanson’s Business Models class.

Kressley rose to stardom and earned a primetime Emmy Award for his role in Bravo’s hit break-out show “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.” Currently, he designs a line of women’s clothing, called “Love, Carson,” which is sold online via Shop HQ.

The celebrity stylist, author and fashion designer also has helmed the hit television shows “Carson-Nation” on the Oprah Winfrey Network; Lifetime’s critically acclaimed “How To Look Good Naked,” ABC’s “True Beauty” from executive producers Tyra Banks and Ashton Kutcher; and “Your Own Show: Oprah’s Search for the Next TV Star” on OWN.

In addition, Kressley is a New York Times best-selling author with three books to his credit including “You’re Different and That’s Super,” a children’s book promoting diversity and tolerance.

Kressley has visited the University several times in recent years, introducing PhilaU Spirit of Design Award-winner Tommy Hilfiger at the 2011 Fashion Show, visiting classes and doing an interview in March 2012, and delivering the May 2013 Commencement address, at which he received the honorary degree Doctor of Humane Letters.

On his return to campus, Kressley got an “A” from many of the students who came to hear him. “It’s really cool to hear his story and how he got into the industry,” said Ashlee Bowers, a freshman fashion design student. “He’s not afraid to be himself, and I think that’s really cool.”

Check out more photos in this Flickr slideshow.

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