Jennifer Lezan

Fashion Design

Fashion Instructor
The Illinois Institute of Art — Schaumburg

Jen Headshot

I believe that dreams can come true if you're willing to follow through on your goals, put in the hard work, and never give up. Jennifer Lezan , Fashion Instructor , The Illinois Institute of Art — Schaumburg

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

Whether it was designing on my Crayola Barbie Fashion Plates or painting portraits and sewing garments, I found joy in creating and working with my hands. If I had to pick one moment, it would be as a junior in a high school that offered a slew of Fashion courses that allowed me to learn more about the industry. We took a field trip to see a Chicago fashion designer in her studio. Listening to her experiences as both a business owner and creative, I knew I’d found my calling.

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

As an adjunct, I stay active in the fashion industry. I run a digital fashion & lifestyle publication and design an indie kids wear label, so I am able to bring real-life case studies and scenarios into the classroom. I also have great working relationships with other industry professionals I can call on as guest speakers and for helping students find internships—even jobs. I like to keep it real with my students...the industry can be rough, but with enough hard work and drive they can do great things. I’m passionate about teaching, and I work hard to impact my students and inspire them as they follow their dreams.

What class assignment exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring?

In my Lookbook and Fashion Styling course, I use my experience in the magazine world to combine styling, art direction, photography while teaching programs like Photoshop and InDesign. This is a great opportunity for them to get out there and see the big picture—and actually create something that has their voice. I truly believe that without experience, real-world practicum and hands-on work, theory is of no use.

How do you inspire students to push themselves beyond their perceived limits?

I constantly push my students to experiment within their work, and to question my ideals and theories I teach to solve a problem on their own and find their voice. I use my story—as scary, gritty and imperfect as it is—as a way to inspire others. I hope it instills hope in the hearts of students who are working to connect the dots and need a path to follow.

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

I urge my students to network—most importantly outside of their department. Fashion designers work with photographers, advertisers, marketers, graphic designers and so on. I believe collaboration makes their experience on campus much more robust. Our annual charity fashion show is an incredible example. Students in nearly every discipline come together to execute a show that raises thousands of dollars for charity. Culinary Arts students provide food & drink, branding is created by Graphic & Web Design students create branding and update our website and social media, Audio Production students coordinate the music, and Digital Film students produce a live feed—they all work together in a coordinated fashion.

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

Students are at such a pivotal point in their development when they enter college and as an instructor, it’s my job to guide, mentor and inspire them to continue on their journey—no matter how rough it could potentially get. As someone who was once in their shoes, I know what they’re dealing with. The one ideal that I share constantly is the fact that their future is in their hands.

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

Even when times get tough, you can make a change and follow through. Find a way to meet your goals.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I am truly an advocate for education. It gives many people like me the opportunity to create their own future. I believe that dreams can come true if you’re willing to follow through on your goals, put in the hard work, and never give up.