Adjunct Fashion Design and Fashion Retail Instructor
The Art Institute of Austin, a branch of The Art Institute of Houston
You never know where your classmates may be in the future. I can think of several times when I have opened a door for a friend or a friend has opened a door for me. Nina Means , Adjunct Fashion Design and Fashion Retail Instructor , The Art Institute of Austin, a branch of The Art Institute of Houston
Was there a defining moment when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?
Creativity has always in my blood. My grandmother worked for a hosiery mill in a rural North Carolina town, while making clothes for herself and her 5 daughters—expert, well-tailored clothes. My mom would help her and passed down the tradition by making clothes for my sister and I when we were small. I’ve always had a passion for self-expression through apparel and enjoy exploring the ways that others’ journeys of self-discovery and reinvention through how they present themselves to the world. The moment it was clear to me that I had started down the right path was when I pursued my career in fashion design in New York and the door to great, fulfilling opportunities was flung open.
How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience?
I believe in realism when it comes to instruction. I emphasize the kind of real-world experiences that my students will encounter when working for established brands in the business. I reinforce skills that help them stand up to the challenges that lay before them in the fashion design world. It’s competitive, exhilarating and it tests their limits.
What class assignment exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring?
The courses I teach are project-based and I try to tailor the assignments so that my students have pieces and projects that can be incorporated into their final portfolios. Students have said that they love the approach and realize that I am preparing them for the real world. Anything that imitates real life resonates with them.
How does collaboration contribute to students’ success—particularly when students from various programs work together?
In the design industry, collaborations and synergizing workflows go into the realization of any creative project. The more students are able to practice this, the more prepared they will be to negotiate their creative points of view with other partners in the industry.
What’s the most important thing you impart to students to help them succeed in class and the real world?
I always reinforce to them that how they handle themselves in class will reflect in their future connections in the industry. When you show up on time, come prepared, do an excellent job, make great friends, it shows what kind of coworker you’d be. And you never know where your classmates may be in the future. I can think of several times when I have opened a door for a friend or a friend has opened a door for me. Some of those doors would not be available had I not developed those relationships as a student. But when those doors open, be sure to show up and be as excellent as they say you are.
I believe that students will rise to the challenge given to them. Some of them have been expected to achieve less because, somehow, being creative was not as highly regarded. I believe the opposite. The value placed on a creative mind has been greatly undervalued and I believe my job is to reinforce the talent of my students and what they can bring to the table.