Arlene Felipe

Arlene Felipe

It was through my creative studies in Art and Design that I found and live my purpose in life. I love the opportunity to give back and be one among the many talented individuals that comprise The Art Institute of Atlanta. Arlene Felipe , Fashion Instructor , The Art Institute of Charleston, a branch of The Art Institute of Atlanta
Was there a defining moment when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

I “owned” that I was a creative professional during a cultural immersion project I completed in Istanbul, Turkey. All my interests aligned—travel, learning about another culture and people, living in their world, immersing myself in opera, design, art, music, history, and costume. The design I created felt as if it crossed over into Art—with a capital A. The experience is meaningful to me because it’s where I decided what I wanted to do...and truly understood why.

How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience?

We approach the work as if we’re working in a professional environment. That means punctuality, professionalism, accountability, communication via e-mail or phone, even proper dress. For example, in my product development class I treat students as young product developers. Instead of just lecturing, I’m leading conversations and sharing industry anecdotes. Assignments and projects take the form of workshops or learning labs among colleagues. It’s as real as we can possibly make it.

What class assignment exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring?

One of my main philosophies is to “begin with the end in mind.” I want my product development students to build a portfolio piece that shows their design capability and agility, as well as their ability to be a great and organized product developer—either out on their own or as they interview for jobs. The culminating project exemplifies this approach. Students choose a design theme to create that reflects their interests and label as an independent designer. Then, I throw them a wild card where a student plays the role of a guest designer for a major brand. Each designer should have their own voice, and this exercise shows their versatility, agility, and understanding of another brand identity.

How does collaboration contribute to students’ success?

I approach our presentations as conversations and learning labs. We go up to the presenter’s table, look closely at the work, and give feedback or riff ideas off of one another. My current class comprises one senior fashion design student, several younger fashion design students, and two fashion merchandising students, one of whom runs her own business already. Students get tips and advice from a merchandiser’s POV, while an advanced designer shares their knowledge of fabrics, drawing, or swatching.

What’s the most important thing you impart to students to help them succeed in class and the real world?

Have integrity and a passion for learning. Be accountable and responsible for what you do, consider the other, and communicate well. Know that you always have something to learn. Check in with yourself, your intentions, your passions, and your actions. The only competition is with yourself—be honest with your standards.

What’s the most critical advice you would offer any student embarking on a creative career?

There are no mistakes or wasted time, there’s only and always learning. You’ll do better than you can imagine and you’ll surprise yourself!

Anything else you’d like to share?

I love helping students find what drives them, and seeing them surprise themselves with the amazing work they do.