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YMA Fashion Scholar’s Fund 2012 Gala

The YMA 2012 Scholars


Fashion isn’t exactly known for being a welcoming industry. If anything, it’s depicted in popular culture as the exact opposite: a celluloid world of cut-throat interns, preposterous spending and zombie-like models, essentially The Devil Wears Prada meets Resident Evil. Yet for 126 fashion obsessed college students, this year will be remembered as the year that fashion opened its arms to them–for one night at least. These students represent the most recent crop of YMA Fashion Fund scholars. They have been selected by the Fashion Scholarship Fund from 35 schools (including Cornell, Parsons, Wharton, UVA and for the first time this year, Harvard) to receive scholarship awards ranging from 5000 to 30,000 dollars.

After submitting their applications and interviewing with YMA board members during the fall, the 2012 scholars were honored at a gala at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City in early January. The gala started with a cocktail hour, during which the scholars networked with industry execs.  Besides representatives from companies such as Macy’s and Li and Fung, the event was also attended by various fashion world luminaries, from designers Sophie Theallet, Yigal Azrouel,  Carly Cushnie and Michelle Ochs (of Cusnie et Ochs), to stylist Kate Young, Vogue market editor Meredith Melling Burke and the iconic Iris Apfel.  Bill Cunningham was snapping photos for the New York Times and top models Karlie Kloss and Anja Rubik were on hand to make everyone else feel terribly short and graceless.

When the cocktail hour (which was really two hours) was over, the various attendees took their seats in the Waldorf’s ballroom as a long central table was set with Asian salad and white wine. The 126 scholars came in in a long procession, accompanied by educators from their respective schools carrying placards proclaiming their Alma mater. From that point on, the night proceeded in a blur of speeches and video presentations. Jim Rosenfeld, the president of the YMA, commemorated the 75 year history of the program while keynote speaker Jeff Genette  gave anecdotes from his long rise to the top at Macy’s. After this, the eight finalists for the Geoffrey Beene scholarship were brought up on stage where four were selected for the grand prize of $30,000 while the remaining four received scholarships of $10,000 a piece. CNN correspondent Alina Cho and former 49ers player Dwight Hicks did the honors.

The highlight of the night panned out to be when Jason Wu, design wunderkind and recipient of the YMA’s Future of Fashion award, got up on stage to talk about growing a business from the bottom up, how Michelle Obama changed his life, and all the other (normal) people who helped him along the way. Ending his speech with a heartfelt shout out to boyfriend Gustavo Rangel, Wu ended everyone’s night on a poignant note.

Despite the baroque splendor of the Waldorf ballroom, Wu’s speech and the gala in general managed to speak to the core of the YMA’s mission–fostering the success of a new generation of industry leaders. Those future leaders, a confused and starstruck bunch of 126 scholarship winners, who hailed from ivy decked halls and design school studios, sat quietly in the audience, sipping nervously at their champagne as they watched their icons  flit across the stage, knowing that this might just be the beginning of something life changing.


Jim Rosenfeld, YMA president

Jason Wu and Meredith Melling Burke

Megastylist Kate Young

Karlie Kloss and Anja Rubik

The Geoffrey Beene Scholarship Finalists

never not a model…

Carly Cushnie and Michelle Ochs

Sophie Theallet and Alina Cho

Jason Wu and WWD’S Executive Editor Bridget Foley

Yigal Azrouel

Jersey Boys performing


Karlie Kloss

The Waldorf Astoria Ballroom

Photos courtesy of Brian Farrel Agency, New York


For any Harvard students seriously interested in the fashion industry, I encourage you to look into applying for next year’s scholarship program. The application is a bit of a doozy but I promise you, it’s worth it. For more information, check out the Fashion Scholar’s fund website or contact Nancy Saunders at the OCS

Also check out Bill Cunningham’s feature last week on the event in the Sunday Style section of the New York Times and Style.com’s blog post covering the event.


-Thomas Dai 14′