Sharon Shoji

Fashion Design

The Illinois Institute of Art — Chicago

Sharon Shoji

[This assignment] gives each student the confidence to start thinking of themselves as an emerging designer, not just a student. Sharon Shoji , Instructor , The Illinois Institute of Art — Chicago

Was there a defining moment when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

I don’t think there was ever a specific event or time. Looking back, I can’t remember when I wasn’t a Maker of Things or a creative problem solver.

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

I often use my industry experience to explain why certain technical things are done (like mirroring flat patterns) but I always speak about it in terms of professional behavior. I want to make sure they understand that their classroom experience is different than what they’ll experience in the workplace.

What class assignment exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring? How do you inspire students to push themselves beyond their perceived limits?

In my Senior Concept and Technical class, the first assignment is to craft a Design Philosophy/Designers Statement for themselves. I first talk about the importance of having a Design Philosophy and how it expresses their aesthetic and their point of view as a designer. Then I guide them in the process of creating one. I guide them to use strong, descriptive words and think about the important of the order of these words. They refer to this statement when they start sketching their collection. It helps them keep on track with their designs regardless of their concept/inspiration. More importantly, by putting their POV into words, it gives each student the confidence to start thinking of themselves as an emerging designer, not just a student.

How does collaboration contribute to students’ success—particularly when students from various programs work together?

The majority of collaboration in my classes comes from peer feedback. It’s just as critical to learn how to give and take feedback as it is to learn the coursework.

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

I think that systematic and analytical thinking is critical to the design process. Once students go beyond assigned projects and start working on their own, the hardest part is getting started. They need to get comfortable with the question, “What do I do when I don’t know what to do?”

Also, helping students understand that they need to analyze the design and how to break it down into logical steps is something that they can apply to any project.

Anything else?

I enjoy mentoring the students in their design process. In particular, it’s very rewarding to help students prepare for the annual FGI scholarship awards and the submission process for the Spring Driehaus Initiative Fashion Show.