Arts & Entertainment

Fashion First Workshops in Westfield Help Aspiring Young Designers Build Confidence

Everyone strikes a pose at an FFW class. Credits: Fashion First Workshops
Students march down the runway in their newest designs at FFW's fashion show. Credits: Fashion First Workshops
Fashion First Workshops teach students not only how to sew, but also how to build self-esteem. Credits: Fashion First Workshops
Trips to NYC are part of FFW's fashion field trips, held year-round. Credits: Fashion First Workshops

WESTFIELD, NJ — Making your own clothing isn’t easy, unless you know how. With the help of Renée Nesbitt-Baird and Fashion First Workshops, kids can learn to sew and create their own garments in no time.

“Fashion First Workshops is a program that teaches the fundamental skills to not only learn how to sew and design, but also to build self-esteem,” said Nesbitt, who known to her students as Ms. Renée. “My vision is to inspire my students to follow their passion for fashion.”

Ms. Renée has decades of design experience in apparel, accessories and hosiery. She graduated from Parsons School of Design, and in the 1970s was a protégé of fashion guru Oscar de la Renta.

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Fashion First Workshops (FFW) was established by Ms. Renée in 2013 to offer sewing lessons and creative fashion art and design classes to young people in response to the disappearance of many of these concepts from school classrooms, according to Ms. Renée.

FFW’s many locations offer a wide variety of after-school and weekend classes, as well as private events and even summer camps and birthday parties where children can learn to sew, pin and size to help them construct garments that perfectly fit.

“We can’t wait to sign up for summer fashion camps,” said Kayla O. of Clark, whose daughters have previously attended FFW classes. “Ms. Renee is patient, kind and very personable. The girls love her and how she is mentoring them to be who they want to be in fashion.”

Summer camps are available in both half- and full-day sessions. Different design projects are offered in each part of the day. Full-time campers can enjoy unique fashion challenges throughout the week and create up to two garments per day. The end of the week features a fashion show where each young designer can show off their final designs.

“My daughter has attended several after-school Fashion First Workshops and also a week at the summer camp program,” said Rachel R. of Scotch Plains. “She has created some really interesting, well-made pieces, all of which she loves to wear. I am thrilled that she is learning to sew ... which I feel is becoming a lost art in today’s younger generation.”

Fashion summer camps typically run Monday through Thursday for ages 7-18, with the first session beginning June 19 in Madison, NJ. Camps are offered from June to August at three main locations: FFW’s “Home Studio” in the Netherwood Heights section of Plainfield, Thursday Morning Club in Madison and Westfield Recreation.

Kids can sign up for a half day (9 a.m. to 12 p.m. or 1-4 p.m.) or a full day (9 a.m. to 4 p.m.).

Before- and after-care is available at the “Home Studio” location from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m and can be offered upon request at other locations.

Explore the exhibits at the Met, visit the Fashion Institute of Technology and Parsons School of Design and enjoy delicious NYC pizza with FFW’s fashion field trips, offered every Friday during camp weeks and throughout the year. Groups also visit Mood Fabrics, a textile store frequented by competitors on Bravo’s reality television series, Project Runway.

Select discounts are also available for sibling and multiple-week signups, and parents like Susan K. of Bernardsville say FFW has “the most affordable sewing class around."

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