An Eye for Style

JWU professor Melanie St. Jean finds fashion inspiration all around

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As a professor of Fashion Merchandising and Retail Marketing at Johnson and Wales, Melanie St. Jean helps budding fashion stars to hone their art by forecasting trends and studying the global influences of fashion. But, she’s just as inspired by her students as they are by her. “College students, especially on College Hill, don’t care what people think,” Melanie explains. “By not caring, by not being judged, there’s more freedom there. I’m the only college professor who has her nose pierced and who wears motorcycle boots. You can really express yourself. To me that’s extremely important: what allows those students to be who they are.”

St. Jean teaches students how to forecast trends (by looking back, decade by decade, at popular fashion and the societal influences surrounding each fad) and how designers take inspiration from their whole environment, like contemporary art, architecture and culture. To do this, she takes a group of students to Milan every summer to study. “You can predict when a look is going to come in again,” she says, “but it has to be tailored to the economy today, and who’s prevalent in popular culture.”

So what’s the trend forecast for this fall in Providence? “Fall is going to be very dark,” Melanie says. “It’s going to encompass a lot of black, a lot of steel and platinum gray, and silvery, pearlized whites. A lot of luxury is in. Those three colors together can make any design look luxurious.” Expect, too, to see a lot of heavier materials, like leather, embellished with metals, crystal, studs. “I love this time,” she says.

“With Providence,” Melanie explains, “because it’s surrounded with so many universities, it keeps that very young, energetic style. It’s always evolving, always changing and moving. I think that’s great. We have a lot of little boutiques coming back to life. We’re starting to see more freedom. I think that’s a great thing for Providence.”

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