Kennedy Finke knows how to stand out in a crowd.
From the top of his magenta and rose-gold tinted hair, to his glitzy golden shoes, he’s a living, breathing fashion statement.
In a few months, the 2018 Mead High School graduate will leave for Paris to study design at Institut Français de la Mode – the French Institute of Fashion. He’s one of the few American students to be accepted at the school.
“I’ve always had a unique way of expressing myself through what I wear,” Finke said. “In high school I was always called best-dressed. I followed trends, but I made them my own.”
That kind of confidence will serve him well as he travels to France to learn the art of haute couture. Especially since the first time he’d traveled by plane was in August, and that was just to California.
When he decided to study fashion design, he didn’t apply to American schools. Two years of high school French had made him an avowed Francophile. And there were practical considerations as well.
“Tuition is less expensive there, but the cost of living is higher,” he said.
He was accepted to three other French schools, but the news of the September 2019 merger of the French Institute of Fashion with the prestigious École de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne (ECSCP) greatly influenced his choice. The new school will add two design programs: a three-year bachelor’s degree in French or English, and a two-year master’s programme in English.
“I’d like to get a master’s if I can afford it,” Finke said.
Right now, he’s waiting to hear how much scholarship and financial aid he’ll receive.
“They had very specific guidelines for a chance to be considered,” he said.
After applying to the school, Finke had a Skype interview in March.
“I was excited,” he said. “I felt like it really went well.”
The interview was followed by two online design assignments. For the first, he was tasked with making five collages that entailed creating “personal and innovative silhouettes” from a list of materials.
The second assignment was the creation of a mask that covered the face and shoulders and “revealed an alternative personality.”
That kind of creativity proved to be right up his alley.
“I love things that are eye-catching, expressive and different,” Finke said.
Stella McCartney is the designer he’d most like to emulate.
“Her whole practice of fashion is thinking of the future,” he said. “She never uses leather or furs.”
Finke, a vegan, thinks his values gave him a leg up on the competition.
“Fashion is going to be more and more eco-friendly,” he said, adding that one of his interview questions was “What’s your opinion on ethical fashion?”
He has big dreams for the future. The biggest? Designing for Miley Cyrus or Lady Gaga for the Met Gala red carpet.
The event is often referred to as “fashion’s biggest night out,” and is considered a pinnacle of iconic style. A fundraising benefit for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the event showcases celebrities, young creatives and industry paragons.
But following graduation, Finke admits he’d be happy sewing for Stella McCartney, Chanel or any of the old-school fashion houses.
Though he’s flying far from home, leaving his parents and eight siblings behind, he said he’s more excited than nervous, and is eager to jump right in to a world he’s only read about.
“I feel more connected to France in general,” he said. “And what better place to study fashion than Paris?”
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