Christina Olsson (1994) attended the Parsons School of Design. She went on to pursue a career as the Design Director for Calvin Klein Jeans Boys Sportswear. The Sword & Shield interviewed her to learn more about her career and her experience at University High School (UHS).
Sword & Shield: What did you do after graduating from University High School?
Christina Olsson: In August of that year, I moved to New York to attend the Parsons School of Design.
S&S: What have you done since then?
CO: I graduated with a BFA in Fashion Design from Parsons with a concentration in menswear and got a job designing men’s sweaters at Tommy Hilfiger. After five and a half years with Tommy, I moved into children’s and young men’s clothing. I am currently the Design Director for Calvin Klein Jeans Boy’s Sportswear and other branded products likeboy’s dress shirts and sweaters from Perry Ellis and Nautica. I also design and manage young men’s dress-wear for Zoo York and Public Notices—a private label brand for Kohl’s. I love designing and am so happy I have been able to make a career out of it! Working in fashion has enabled me to travel to many different countries: the UK, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Japan, and China.
S&S: How far have you come in your career?
CO: At the time I was in Parsons, its fashion design program was basically geared towards Seventh Avenue, which is women’s wear. I had to push and push my instructors—proving to them that I was serious about pursuing menswear. I was serious enough that I won two scholarships and some awards. When I graduated, I was approached by two different companies for job opportunities based on my senior year collection. As of today, I have experience in almost all product categories under my belt and for a variety of design aesthetics—traditional, modern and street.
S&S: How did your time at UHS influence the decision on your major?
CO: Of my graduating class, I think I was the only one that specifically wanted to study fashion, let alone, attend “art school.” This was WAY before Project Runway. I’d always known that I wanted to do something creative. My mom is an interior designer, and my grandmother was a milliner—a hat maker—so it must be in the blood, not to mention that I’d been sewing/making stuff since I was knee-high to a grasshopper! One memory from senior year is of working on my art/design portfolio, which was required to be accepted to various art schools, by taking additional live model drawing classes at Orange Coast College. My high school art teacher at the time didn’t think I’d get accepted to Parsons, Pratt, or RISD, but I did!
S&S: Do you have any advice for current UHS students?
CO: My word of advice is to persevere and believe in yourself. If you lack certain skills, do what you need to do to acquire them. And most importantly, enjoy it! Life is too short to do something you don’t like or aren’t really interested in, not to mention that college isn’t cheap either! If you don’t have any concrete ideas of career paths, now is the time to explore your interests through part-time jobs, internships, classes, etc. And remember: there are many career paths out there—not all of them are straight lines, nor do they need to be typical.
By HESAM MODARESI