Project Runway Winner Visits Genesee Community College

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“I knew I wanted something else, something bigger,” explained Project Runway season nine winner Anya Ayoung Chee as she spoke with fashion students on campus Wednesday afternoon. Offering advice and sharing her journey in the fashion industry, Anya Ayoung Chee chose a more candid and relaxed approach to her presentation. While engaging students in conversation, Anya outlined her rise to fame from unknown to internationally acclaimed designer through the hit television program Project Runway.

Photo Credit: Howard Owens Used with permission from

Photo Credit: Howard Owens
Used with permission from The Batavian.

Growing up in Trinidad, Anya Ayoung Chee had limited career options and felt as though she was expected to pursue a traditional career by becoming a doctor or a lawyer. It wasn’t until Anya traveled to Tokyo, Japan with her family at the age of fifteen that she realized her true passion – design. Anya recounted how mesmerized she was by the technology and innovative designs illuminating the streets of Tokyo. It was this experience that influenced her in choosing to study graphic design at Parsons The New School for Design in New York City. Anya eventually left Parsons during her junior year and studied at the prestigious Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London, England. Upon graduating, Anya worked a string of jobs ranging from film production studio assistant to luxury perfume packaging designer, until her life was suddenly rocked by tragedy. In 2007, Anya’s younger brother Pilar died in a tragic car accident at the age of eighteen. Following this tragedy, Anya embarked on a “soul searching” journey that eventually led her to the Miss Universe Pageant in 2008 where she represented her home country as Miss Trinidad and Tobago Universe. Representing Trinidad and Tobago provided a platform for Anya to begin designing clothing and promoting her own designs. In 2011, Anya Ayoung Chee auditioned for the ninth season of Project Runway and was chosen as a contestant in the final round of casting. Anya recounted the weeks leading up to Project Runway, describing her motivation to be a part of something bigger than herself and the encouragement she felt as “almost divine.” Anya did, however, suffer a lapse of faith when she received a call from Project Runway producers and initially turned down their offer for casting in season nine, fearing she would embarrass herself and her family and friends. Eventually Anya did accept the offer from producers and the rest is history.

Anya Ayoung Chee with fashion students.

Anya Ayoung Chee with fashion students and professors Mr. Dudkowski and Ms. Ehrhart.

Today, Anya Ayoung Chee is working on her eponymous line in addition to her street wear line PILAR, created in memorial of her brother. Anya’s Spring/Summer 2014 line showed at fashion weeks in South Africa, New York, and London. Anya also recently launched “The Canyaval Shop” showcasing her designs inspired by Carnival which feature strong Caribbean influences. Anya Ayoung Chee is still very involved with The Tallman Foundation, a charity that her family founded in memory of her late brother, Pilar.

Anya Ayoung Chee credits much of her success to her “light-hearted approach” to the industry and her mentor who taught her everything she knows about the technical side of design. Anya offered the same advice to fashion students during her presentation: find a mentor to foster and develop skills and take calculated risks. Anya enforced the ideals of self-respect, positivity, determination, and tenacity in setting out to achieve greatness. When asked to impart her best piece of advice for young designers and professionals trying to break into the industry, Anya left students with the following words of encouragement:  “Celebrate yourself and risk being yourself fully. It’s never worth not knowing.”

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Anya Ayoung Chee signs autographs for fashion students following her presentation at Genesee Community College on Wednesday.

Check out some of Anya Ayoung Chee’s designs here!

“Haute Dogs In High Heels” Genesee Community College DECA CLUB

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Genesee Community College’s DECA Club is an associated national organization for students who are interested and have the passion for going out and taking on the world pursuing careers in marketing, business, and or fashion retailing. This club gives the opportunity to expose students to a lot of different career skills through activities like field trips , public speakers luncheons, and the annual College Fashion Show. Such programs included in the DECA club are

  • Accounting
  • Business Adminstration
  • Supply Chain Management
  • Enterpernurship
  • E-Commerce
  • Fashion Business: Event Planning
  • Fashion Design
  • Fashion Merchandising Management
  • Sales and Customer Service
  • Tourism and Hospitality Management
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“Shenique’ Johnson (Right) & Candice Cooper (Left) The Haute Dogs In High Heels Servers”

Every year, GCC has a Club Fair, and gives students the opportunity to learn about clubs on campus and what they’re all about.

This year’s Club Fair theme was “Hot Dogs” for National Hot Dog Day, and all the clubs had to come up with something for their table surrounding the theme’s title. This year’s project managers and representatives for this table were myself as well as DECA members Candace and Alaina. Coming up with the theme for our table was hard, but it was fun deciding the final title especially using fashion words we learned throughout the business and fashion classes we’ve taken. As the preparation came into play, our light bulbs began to shine bright to an idea so the DECA club could stand out from the rest. The night before, we made five packs of hot dog wieners, designed a poster, and added a few touches of some flyers respresenting last springs fashion show “Fashion Foward” and what it was about.

"A Student Trying on the shoe bar heels, getting lessons on how to walk in heels "

“A Student Trying on the shoe bar heels, getting lessons on how to walk in heels “

Lastly, we had the idea to display various styles, shapes, colors, and designs of high heels, because as a fashion student everything can be fashionable; even a hot dog! The students and faculty loved the table, and were very inspired by the theme too. Everyone who passed was offered free hot dog wieners with condiments for the apperication of stopping by the table and finding out what the club has to offer. As a added bonus, we let some students pick out a pair of shoes to wear and get lessons from the DECA club project managers on how to properly walk in heels, and to have the appropriate attitude! At the end of it all, it was a very fun experience that I will remember for the rest of my life, and a great opportunity for the new students to know about the DECA club and what we offer as well as the different programs and majors involved in the club. We explained to students that the DECA club members help out the annual fashion show, as well as what goes on into the making of the fashion show, its history, and how successful last year’s event was.

Who says Hot Dogs can’t have style?

A Student and her children attending the Club Fair Posing next to Candice Cooper (Left) Alaina (Upper Right Hand Corner) Our High Heel Specialist. & Candice Cooper (lower Right) Posing with our "Haute Dog Wieners""

A Student and her children attending the Club Fair Posing next to Candice Cooper (Left)
Alaina (Upper Right Hand Corner) Our High Heel Specialist. & Candice Cooper (lower Right) Posing with our “Haute Dog Wieners””