aids students in the fashion world
steps toward big success
Thats the perception of the fashion world. But its
not all about designer labels, champagne bubbles and the
overnight success of the beautiful people.
Its about hard work, global issues and an entrepreneurial
spirit, and no one exemplifies that better than the head
of the design, merchandising and textile department, Sally
Fortenberry didnt always know she was headed for
fashion. My favorite subjects in high school included
business law, transcription and business math, she
During college I decided I definitely wanted to
teach. However, I also remember stating that if things
did not go as I hoped they would with teaching, I would
go back to law school (to pursue business or divorce law).
Fortunately, after graduating from college and teaching
at a high school twice the size of the college she attended
in Tennessee, things did go well. She went on to get a
masters degree in textile sciences and became department
chairwoman at TCU in 1997.
Fortenberry came into her role as department chairwoman
with a few simple goals.
Overall, she said she believed the program was already
It just needed more resources to be its best,
Fortenberry said. We have been able to obtain some
of those and thus see positive changes as a result.
Adding full-time faculty to the department to accommodate
the growing number of students interested in the program
was key. Since 1997, the number of the departments
majors has increased from about 175 to almost 350, Fortenberry
The increase in interest stems from another goal she accomplished
increasing the visibility of the program throughout
the metroplex and campus. She said there is an indication
that more students are selecting TCU in order to major
in one of the departments two majors. It also houses
the interior design program.
So why chose a fashion degree from a small, private university
rather than one geared specifically for future fashionistas?
The TCU fashion merchandising program is highly
competitive with other programs, Fortenberry points
out. We have the advantage of being located in a
major metropolitan area where many of the nations
largest retailers and manufacturers are located along
with the Dallas Apparel Mart, World Trade Center and Market
Another advantage of TCUs program is the required
10-week internship. Prior to Fortenberry, students were
placed in a position. Now, students must interview with
at least three companies and must actually be offered
the internship on their own merits, she said.
Students are taking more risks in finding a company to
intern with, she said. Instead of just focusing on the
Dallas/Fort Worth area, past interns have gone to New
York, Chicago, California and London to learn at companies
such as Louis Vuitton, Donna Karan, Chanel, W magazine
and Alberta Ferretti. Fortenberry herself will obtain
an internship this spring while on sabbatical. In order
to continue to provide the most current knowledge for
courses offered, she will work with Neiman Marcus and
Zales Corp. for a mini, hands-on internship.
I will be placed with the senior buyer one day,
the head of visual merchandising another day, she
said. It is important to continue learning about current
trends in the industry rather than just giving the students
textbook facts. This will give students further advantage
in the challenging, dynamic and progressive
aspects the industry embodies.
I believe it is imperative for me to keep learning,
growing and gaining more knowledge for the benefit of
my students. Retirement is a long way away for me,
Fortenberry said. Even when that day comes, she said she
will still be actively connected with the industry through
consulting or freelance work.
For now, fashion students are anxiously waiting for her
to return to campus where she always has her door open
to chat or give guidance for their future entry into the
glitzy world make that academic world of
Fortenberry, head of the design, merchandising and
textile department, rummages through costumes in
the departments collection stored in the Bass
Building. Fortenberry is on sabbatical this semester
to help provide insight in future courses.