I first met Rachel Aydt when I took her Fashion Publishing course last fall. It was where I found my love for magazine writing! But don’t think that you have to be a journalism student to take her Fashion publishing course; students ranged from BBA Design and Management majors to BFA Fashion Designers. She is an expert at her craft and was able to liberate us in finding our individual writing voices, but also to find the courage to use that voice to reach out to the masses. Rachel also is the Student Corner Editor of 560, the Fashion School Blog, and has her own site—but I must warn you, her writing is contagious!
Classes you teach: Fashion Publishing (Parsons, Fall/ Spring 2012); Intermediate Nonfiction (Eugene Lang, Fall 2012)
How long have you taught here? I’ve been teaching at The New School since 2002.
What do you do when you’re not at Parsons: I’m a freelancer, so if it’s a good day, I’m writing and pitching stories! Right now I’m juggling six different pieces, so I’m trying to thrive in deadlines.
Favorite artist or designer right now: I have an unabashed and nepotistic amazement with my childhood friend Colette Calascione, who I’ve recently reconnected with. Her paintings astound and inspire me.
What do you like most about teaching? Teaching is a very interesting give and take between not just myself and my students, but between us and the work that we’re studying and discovering along the way. I learn so much about fashion from my students. It’s very gratifying to watch them pitch writing and get published for the first time, or to see them embark on their own blogs and put them into motion.
What’s your favorite class to teach and why? I’ve loved all of my classes in different ways. Each class I’ve taught has been very different from the next (there are similarities, too, of course). I’ve loved my Digital Media classes because it’s so cool to watch new blog communities blossom in real time. I also love watching my Fashion Publishing students learn to observe their own stories and discover how they inform their relationship to fashion. We’re such a diverse community at Parsons, and it’s been a gift and a joy to read about the different trajectories that have led them to fashion.
What’s your own teaching philosophy? I’ve never assigned a particular philosophy to my style of teaching, exactly. The writing process is so humbling, from idea conception to publication. It’s dirty work, and the magazines you read that sound the breeziest in tone I can guarantee you are often the most difficult to write for. When I was working at Cosmopolitan, I saw this to be true. Editors would come in and struggle with the tone. I want my students to understand how to crack the formulas so that they can get published, but to still find ways to be creative within those pre-existing structures. I have to think about this all of the time with my own work, so that idea tends to drift into my classes.
What sort of skills/character traits do you find in your more successful students? My successful students are the ones who take their new skills and put them to practice. They’re pitching stories – hard – before the semester is over. They understand that workshopping their pieces in the classroom can be an invaluable experience, and one not to take for granted.
What class do you wish you could take at Parsons? It’s funny, but my 9 year old son has just finished a Foundation class through the Parsons Pre-College Academy and in 13 sessions managed to get his hands on that many different mediums, from acrylic to charcoal to printmaking. It looked like so much fun, and because it had nothing to do with words, I’d find that refreshing. I’ve just spent the last year taking French classes with Professor Samuel Howell in The New School Foreign Language Department, and it was intoxicating. I miss those classes so much!
What advice would you give to prospective students about going to design school or becoming designers? It’s important to stay curious. I never stop taking myself to museums, galleries, and international newsstands so I can study the new outlets that are out there. The internet is an incredible tool, but print is what inspires me. Exploring the tactile nature of magazines always helps me to remember the relationship that a writer has with their reader. One of the greatest truths in writing classes is also one of the most ubiquitous writing teacher cliches: “Write what you know.”
Beautifully said! Thank you Rachel!
– Written by Lauren Sanchez, Design and Management BBA ’12