For just over twenty years, the Garden State Film Festival has acted as a gateway for aspiring filmmakers, actors, and others interested in careers in the film industry, the opportunity to meet and network with industry professionals – all in an atmosphere that fosters learning and mentoring roles. With community and leadership at the forefront of the Festival’s philosophy, the Festival has cooperated with Brookdale Community College since its inception – eventually moving its headquarters and executive offices to the College’s Lincroft Campus in 2020.
The move essentially allows for greater collaboration closer to home, allowing students to become more involved in the pre-production side of the Festival. This collaboration has proven successful as it has opened the door for many students to enter the industry – but more recently an unlikely collaboration has been struck with a perhaps quite unexpected Brookdale program.
In March 2022, the Garden State Film Festival held its 20th anniversary festival, showcasing a documentary about elite fashion designer and icon Elie Tahari. With the documentary [titled “The United States of Elie Tahari”] In mind, students and staff from Brookdale’s fashion department were invited to attend the festival and participate in a Q&A and reception with the designer. Through the event and documentary, students and staff learned about Tahari’s story of immigrating to New York City with less than $100 to become the icon and inspiration he is today. . Students were also able to gain an educational insight into the fashion industry, seeing various sectors of the industry, including retail, fashion show production, and design.
“It was our first major interaction with the Garden State Film Festival — at least for the fashion department,” department chair and assistant fashion professor AnnMarie Hughes said of the event. “I think it was a very valuable experience for the students to learn about someone who has been in the industry for so long and built himself from scratch.”
As Professor Hughes said, students received a first-hand connection to someone so progressive in the fashion industry, an opportunity that can be so critical for those looking to enter the field. due to its competitive nature. Additionally, during the Q&A, students received valuable advice and information directly from Tahari, creating different resources and knowledge that they can take with them as they progress through their education and career. . It was a chance in which they can begin to relate to Tahari not only as professionals, but to use the designer as a mentor in the moment. Some students even brought their portfolios and design sketches to the event, putting Tahari and his experience to their best advantage.
“Meeting Elie Tahari is one of the greatest moments of my career in fashion. I’m glad it happened so soon,” responds fashion student Ava Ferrise, one of the few students to have presented her work to Tahari. “Hearing her story increased my motivation to become a designer. But, above all, having the chance to have a one-on-one conversation with him was the most uplifting and inspiring memory I have of the event. Having this opportunity at Brookdale is amazing, and I’m very grateful. I wish more like this.
For many who attended, the event is one they will never forget. This may have been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the students involved, but it’s just the beginning of Brookdale Community College’s continued collaboration with the Garden State Film Festival. And for many who seek to become students in the fashion merchandising program at Brookdale, it’s a gateway to limitless opportunities.