I walked down the hallway. It was narrow and long. The lights were a little dim. Half of the walls were plastered with white tile. “I’m sure they could use something better than white tiles”, I thought to myself. I could make out fashion pictures on the walls. A line of models head- shot’s were on the left side of the wall. I remember one of my Chinese colleagues explaining to me about all the majors in our clothing & textile department, and mentioning that there was a model class right across mine. This was exciting! A little nerve-wrecking but exciting. All my classes would be taught in Mandarin. I tried not to really freak-out. Considering my very limited knowledge of the Mandarin language. I walked into the first class I would be officially taking in China. I came 30 minutes before class actually started. I needed time to take in my environment before my new classmates showed up. I looked around me. There was a large black chalk board in front of the classroom. It had a 2-feet platform on the floor underneath the chalk board giving it a mini center stage effect. A gray-colored medium height podium stood at the corner. It was an average sized classroom with white walls. Gold- colored curtains draped loosely covering large windows that stretched across the room. I walked further into the room. “Ouch!” I cried out loud. I stared intensely at the large dark- wooden desk that purposely caused me such pain. There was a row of them lined up on two separate sides leaving a generous amount of space in the middle. Fashion magazines from all kinds of publications (both International and Chinese brands) were scattered all over the desks. I walked across the room towards the huge windows. “How beautiful!” I thought. I have to admit Jiangnan University was a very beautiful campus. I silently thanked Dr.Liu in my mind. Dr. Liu was my professor back in the States that helped me choose the campus. I heard some noises down the hallway, I quickly turned my head to the front door of the classroom. “Time up”, I said to myself as I rushed to one of the large dark wooden desks. It was time for class to start and the students would soon be filing in.
I grabbed the vogue magazine closest to me as I pretended to look through it. I felt their curious eyes on me as the students came in. I raised my head a little trying to get a quick glimpse of my new classmates. A set of friends giggled as they came into the classroom. They grinned at me as we looked at each other. “你好!: Hello”, they squealed as they said waving excitedly. “Nǐ hǎo!”, I replied waving back. I was glad that crash course I took a few months before coming to China actually did some good. I couldn’t wait to start my Chinese language class so I could actually say more than two syllable words. I scooted a little as the girls sat in my row. “Hello!” one of the girls said excitedly to me. Her friends giggled waving at me. “Hi!” I said smiling. “What’s your name?” I asked. “My English name is Jocelyn and this is Li Chen and Fang Wu”, she said pointing to her friends. Her friends giggled. “They are shy”, she said laughing. “It’s really nice to meet you”, I said to them smiling. “Where are you from?” she asked me. “America“, I said. “Waaaaaa! America!”, she exclaimed. “Uhumm yeeahh….where are you from?” I asked her. “I’m from Macau, all my family is there”, she said. “Wow, that’s really far from home”, I replied. “Yes”, she said. “Your English is really good. How did you learn it?” I asked. “Really!?!” she exclaimed giggling while covering her mouth with her hands. “I watch a lot of American movies”, she said proudly. “That’s really nice”, I replied. It felt so nice to have such friendly classmates. I looked around the room. My classmates were all sitted with their very dressed up, edgy and fashionable attires. “同学们好！欢迎到时装设计我 : Hello students! Welcome to my fashion design class”. I turned my head to the front of the classroom. “老师早上好: Good morning teacher” all the students said in unison, some of them snickering.
“它是什么！？！: What is it!?!”, the teacher said playfully looking at the students. Then she smiled in my direction. “Welcome to my class”, she said to me. “Xièxiè”, I replied shyly. “今天，我将通过围绕一个手了，我们会在这个类来工作的项目。你会学到在创造一个时尚品牌的步骤和基础: Today, I will pass out a hand-out, we would be working on a project in this class. You will learn the steps to create a fashion brand and infrastructure“, she said to the students as she took out a pile of papers. I sat in my desk wondering what the teacher just said. I had no idea and was seriously praying someone would explain something to me. “Be positive. Be positive. Be positive. You can do it”, I repeatedly told myself. I tried not to freak out because I was totally freaking out. I only recently found out all my classes would be taught in Mandarin (a few weeks ago). I had to look at things on the bright side; at least I would be learning about the fashion industry in China AND also learning the Chinese language all at the same time. I was glad to see the teacher heading towards my desk. “Hello! I am teacher Zhōu. What is your name?” she asked smiling sweetly at me. “Sakeenah”, I replied. “Sorry my English is not good”, she said shyly covering her mouth with her hands. “Nooo it’s okay! My Chinese is terrible”, I said. She giggled. “Wait a minute, my daughter Lilly is here. She’s on break from her school. She would translate the instructions for the project”, she said. “Okay! Thank you so much!” I replied smiling. “礼来这里: Lilly come over here”, teacher Zhōu called out to her daughter. Lilly sat at the back of the classroom in a deep conversation with a group of two girls and a guy. She must have said something funny because one of the girls almost fell off her sit laughing with her nude fur earrings dangled from her ears. “Gànma!” the guy in the group said hitting the girl on the shoulder playfully. He looked adorable with his maroon long sleeve dress shirt, black slacks, navy blue loafers with gold details at the front, and a round pair of stylish glasses (they looked medicated). Lilly looked up ahead as she heard her mother. She stood up and came towards us. They exchanged a few words then she pulled up a chair and sat next to me. “Hello my name is Lilly”, she said to me. “Hi! I’m Sakeenah. Nice to meet you”, I said shaking her hands. Lilly was studying in London at the Royal College of Art. She was currently on break and decided to come back home. She often joined her mother’s class when she was around. This class was all about team work so Lilly and I were partnering up with the nice girls that sat beside me. In this class we had to act like a company to create a fashion brand. We had to come with everything that makes us a legit fashion brand. Like; our business ideas, our vision and mission, our audience and so on. We only had four weeks to pitch our ideas and present everything to the teacher including our product. College classes here were very different from the United states. In China, we take a given number of classes for a semester but each class carried on for just a month or even a few weeks. I could tell it was very hands-on and project oriented (just the way I liked my classes to be). “Let’s meet at the coffee shop in Micx City tomorrow afternoon”, Jocelyne said to me. “Can I ride with you guys because I’m not exactly sure where the mall is”, I said to her. “Of course!”, she replied.
A Few Days Later……..
Jocelyn (the new girl I met in my Fashion Design class) had messaged me earlier on my WeChat to join her for dinner. She had scheduled to eat at this really cute restaurant that I was quite excited to eat at because she had gushed about how delicious the food was. The idea to go was urged by the fact that I had never eaten from a “Hot pOT” (Which is a popular style of cooking in China). She had made sure to schedule a “Hot pOT” dinner insisting I must go.
The Next Day…………At the studio
I had been sitting in the same position for an hour staring at my mood board. My team and I were really getting somewhere with our brand. We had been meeting up a lot to brainstorm. Last Friday we finalized the logo. Jocelyne, Li, and Fang wanted our logo to be something foreign like English, French, or Spanish. While Lilly didn’t have much of an opinion about the name. I didn’t mind the idea but I wanted to add something different with it, something I could connect with. “I have never seen a luxury brand with Chinese characters as their logo and I think it would be really cool to create one!”, I explained excitedly to my team. It took a while to convince them to make our logo Chinese but I did it! We chose to call it: La Fleur. Now we can finally move on with putting everything together in our PowerPoint. “I need to do something active right now”, I said to myself standing up. It felt really nice to have my own cubicle in a very large office space. During the days when no one was around I basically had the whole office to myself. Today was an early Sunday morning and no one was around.
I grabbed my Sketch pad and IPod, as I scrolled through my dance playlist. Kiesza was my first option. I turned up the volume as “Hideaway” one of my favorite song started playing. “Taking me higher than I’ve ever been before!” “Oooohhh! Aaaah! Oh! Oh! Oooh! Aaah!”, I sang as I paraded around the office space, occasionally stopping by the mirror to show off my dancing skills. I looked at the office clock and it was almost time for me to meet up with the team. We each had to sit down and sketch out twenty outfits. This would give our audience a better view on what our style and aesthetic was about. “That’s a lot of outfits”, I said to myself carefully reading my handout. “I better get started but not till I sing the next song”, I said out loud.“Don’t stop me just give me more!”“You’re what I want for sure!”, I sang at the top of my lungs.
A Few Minutes Later……..
I walked into the building trying so hard to remember what floor Jocelyne said they were at again. “Aaah! Yes! 117”, I said out loud. I walked briskly because I was a little behind time (after all that dancing around the office). I stood in front of the door knocking quickly. “你好！: Hello!”, Fang said as she welcomed me in. “Nǐ hǎo!”, I replied smiling at her. The dorm room was an average size room. There were all bunk beds, two on each sides. Then, there were study tables underneath the beds. They created a space for me to work beside one of their tables. “Nǐ hǎo!”, I said to each of the girl’s as I walked over to the table. I stopped by Li’s table as I watched her sketch an outfit. I wanted to say something to her but my Mandarin was very Limited and her English wasn’t very good. So I said the one thing I knew how to say. “Piàoliang”, I said pointing to her drawing. “谢谢!: Thank you!”, she replied smiling. “我就开始对工作简报: I would start working on the presentation”, Fang said as she withdrew her apple laptop from her hand-bag. “Fang would take care of the PowerPoint while we work on our sketches”, Jocelyne explained to me.
Four Hours Later……..
I was feeling really accomplished. We had only one and half week left of “Brand Design Class”. I couldn’t wait to take a break. Concept…done. Mood board…done. Sketches…done…PowerPoint…….well……. almost done. I mentally took note. “What outfit would you be choosing to make”, Jocelyne asked distracting me from my thought process. “Make? What do you mean?”, I said. “We each have to make a sample outfit”, she replied. “Shénme!?!”, I exclaimed. “When! What!?! How?”, I asked. “I thought you knew”, Jocelyne said. “No! I did not!”, I replied trying not to show my anxiety at that moment. “This has got to be the most annoying thing! how could I not have known about this”, I thought to myself. It wasn’t my favorite thing working against the clock. It’s really the worst thing designing and producing an outfit in just a week’s notice. The latest at least a month in advance. It wasn’t Jocelyne’s fault that she didn’t know I wasn’t aware. She must have forgotten that I couldn’t read very well in Chinese yet and I must have skipped that part. “Remember to bring your paper pattern to class tomorrow. We would start working on our outfits”, she reminded me. “Ok”, I mumbled as I dragged my things along with me sulkily. “I can’t believe this”, I said as I pulled up my phone. I scrolled through pictures of fabrics. “I think I have a pretty good idea what fabric I would be using”, I said to myself. BOOM! I could hear the thunder roaring. “Can the weather get any worse”, I grumbled as I took out my umbrella stepping into the pouring rain.
To be continued…………….