Designed to Educate

Designed to Educate
University of Cincinnati's College of DAAP ranks among the tops in the nation, but what exactly makes it stand out from the academic crowd?
Cincy Chic talks with a visiting professor to find out.

081610FASHION.jpgAn aesthetic eye might be innate, but design techniques come with education and experience. And not many places offer a more prestigious program than the University of Cincinnati with its Fashion Design program in the College of Design, Art, Architecture and Planning (DAAP).


While all four of DAAP's schools rank tops in the nation, Cincy Chic talks with Visiting Assistant Professor Henry Navarro to find out what makes the Fashion Design program so strong. Currently Navarro is in Italy for an artist residency, so we connected over e-mail to get to the bottom of UC's fashion acclaim.


Cincy Chic: You got your start in fashion design as a kid, so what first drew your attention to the fashion world?


Navarro: The craft of fashion was an important part of my upbringing. My grandfather was a leather artisan, and one of my aunts is a dressmaker. I learned to sketch, pattern making, cutting and sewing from them.


Although I started designing garments when I was 12 years old, I did not think seriously about the fashion world until I was in college. In fact, my degrees are in ceramics and sculpture — BFA and MFA, respectively. While enrolled in college I started working as a freelance fashion and costume designer and, at one point, developed a sustainable hand bag business. But, throughout my whole life I had been aware of the cultural importance of dress and, one way or another, had been involved in clothing design.


Cincy Chic: You currently work at UC, but where have you worked in the past?


Navarro: In the past I worked at the fashion departments of the Academy of Art University, California College of the Arts, and the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM), all art schools located in San Francisco, Cali.


Cincy Chic: Before coming to DAAP you worked at FIDM, one of the most well-known fashion design colleges in the nation. So why did you choose to come to the University of Cincinnati?


Navarro: I was attracted by the School of Design's potential to foster interdisciplinary practices. With finer arts, architecture, urban planning, and design under the same academic umbrella, DAAP is advantageously positioned to facilitate collaborations between artists and designers.

In addition, Dean Robert Probst is committed to transform DAAP into an incubator of multidisciplinary professionals. Being an artist and designer with a diverse background that includes fashion design, sculpture, stage design and art direction for film, I felt that DAAP would be an important step in my professional and intellectual development.


Cincy Chic: DAAP's four schools rank among the tops in the country, so what exactly is it that makes the School of Design, particularly the Fashion Design program, so outstanding?


Navarro: I will say that there are two main factors. One is that the fashion program offers an equally solid education in both the craft and the creative aspect of fashion. The sequence of the courses is well balanced and through their tenure the students have many opportunities to explore and practice what they have learned.


The second is the very inspiring atmosphere produced by the closeness to designers and artists from other fields. There is a lot of cross-pollination and retroalimentation taking place, which results in fashion projects which go beyond the boundaries of the fashion industry.


Cincy Chic: After talking with several DAAP graduates through the years, almost all of them credit UC's co-operative education program as a stand-out part of their experience. Why do you think the co-op program is so important to a DAAP student's education?


Navarro: I think the co-op program provides our students with an invaluable opportunity to experience real-life situations that apply to their careers. They get to know firsthand the inner functioning of the fashion industry by becoming active participants of its creative and productive aspects. This is a very important complement to the learning process that takes place in the studios and classrooms where many of these situations are studied and analyzed from the safety of academia.


Cincy Chic: When DAAP students graduate, what can be expected of them from an outsider's perspective?


Navarro: DAAP's alumni are characterized by their critical thinking skills in addition to technical and conceptual competency in their industry. Due to the co-op they also come equipped with the experience necessary to quickly jump in a creative environment. Any potential employer or client can expect from them professionalism, advanced technical skills and a highly creative outlook.

Photo courtesy of Henry Navarro

Linda Palacios -

Linda Palacios is the editor of Cincy Chic. Send her an e-mail at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .Read More >>

More articles by this author

Hairapist in TrainingHairapist in Training
Hairapist in Training As your hair is cut, sculpted and shaped,...
Picking Herself up, Aiming HighPicking Herself up, Aiming High
Picking Herself up, Aiming High After 20 years in business, this...