Interview with an Inspirational Alumna
Dominican University alumni Abby Zupancic '08 and Tracey Tarantino of ZZAZZ Productions >>
As I mentioned in an earlier post, this semester I have an internship with ZZAZZ Productions. As October is the month we celebrate Homecoming, I thought I would take this chance to write about how Dominican University alumni stay connected with the university and are a great resource for current students to network with and learn from. For this post I interviewed my supervisor Abby Zupancic, a 2008 alumna of Dominican University. She is a great example of graduates at Dominican who were able to find success in the fashion world after graduation. She is an inspiration to me and is a great role model for other fashion students at Dominican.
MH: What do you think sets Dominican’s fashion program apart from other schools?
AZ: Having the experience as a student and also when working with other schools during fashion shows, I would say that Dominican is conscious of taking an idea and executing it, keeping the quality of construction high, and having a business mind—not just a creative mind. This is huge when you want to be a designer and to make a profit. Also the liberal arts requirements allow students to study all realms—history, philosophy, theology—not only expanding students’ knowledge, but helping them relate to the design inspiration and design process.
MH: What about Dominican prepared you for your career the most?
AZ: Definitely taking design classes. It was helpful for getting to know good construction and the design process. It helped me develop an eye for choosing a designer, styling, knowing the quality of a garment, and what is marketable of the fashion shows produced by ZZAZZ. Also knowing quality helped me in my position at Neiman Marcus while working with high caliber designers such as Chanel, Michael Kors and Donna Karan.
MH: Are there any opportunities at Dominican that you suggest to current students, and what opportunities did you take advantage of?
AZ: I was Fashion Club vice president my senior year, which gave me the opportunity to network with businesses and speakers. I was also able to gain leadership experience. I would suggest students take advantage of all opportunities to network. When I attended the Entrepreneur’s Boot Camp, that is where I met my current boss Tracey Tarantino. When volunteering for World Fashion Chicago, I ran into Tracey again, and asked about an internship position. You should always do what you can and go above and beyond. If it sounds like a good opportunity, go for it. This is how I approached my internship, taking on tasks and doing them above what was needed. Once I even cleaned the office while everyone was out.
MH: What were you able to do to set yourself apart at Dominican University?
AZ: My internship with ZZAZZ Productions—I learned styling, production, music selection and was able to apply it to programming and set design committees for the DU fashion show. The internship also turned into a position, so I had a job right away after school in a fashion career. Building relationships and connections over the years has set me apart for more opportunities, such as with Neiman Marcus. As with coming back to ZZAZZ, I have been able to grow with a company and take more opportunities and keep learning, knowing who I am, and producing fashion shows like Style Chicago’s Taking it to the Streets, Art and Soul for Splash magazine, and more to come in the future!
MH: What do you wish you knew about life after college as an undergrad?
AZ: Your first career may not be what you want right away, but appreciate the time and the experience of the job. Remember that if you love what you do, you never work a day. Also right after college it is best to fast-forward into your career, but after a few years, slow down to allow yourself time to learn lessons and learn from mistakes.
MH: I was thinking about how ZZAZZ Productions is so supportive of Dominican students by inviting them to volunteer at fashion shows and opening up internship opportunities to them. To name a few, Brittany Rapala Dana Nolan and myself have been recent interns with ZZAZZ. How do you reach out and support Dominican students?
AZ: I am a member of the advisory board. At the end of each year I come in to critique and advise senior portfolios. I am a huge supporter of design students that wish to make a name for themselves. I consult with them to help them market their collections, narrow branding and aid with photo shoots. I have also taught a class at Dominican about production of the annual fashion show, staging, models and music.
MH: Is there one thing you learned at Dominican that you will always remember?
AZ: I was perfecting a pattern with Professor Johnson, and it was not going well. I stayed in the lab until I got it right. It taught me to know everything and learn from my mistakes. Dominican is a second home to me. I remember being down in the lab sewing, eating Sun Chips, listening to the radio, having fun with friends and creating memories. I will always have that. Sometimes when no one is in the lab on Sunday afternoons during the summer, I will go down to the lab and sit, sew and remember.