What’s Next For VHS ’19: The Fashion Business


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Francis Lavery did the artwork that is on the cover of the newest Verona school district magazine.

The U.S. is the world’s largest market for the fashion business, with $406 billion spent on apparel and accessories annually. New York City is the fashion capital of the world, with companies that generate 185,000 jobs and $2 billion in tax revenue. If you want to learn about the business of fashion, and get a job in it in the future, there’s probably no better place to do it than the Big Apple. Which is why Francis Lavery, a 2019 graduate of Verona High School, is headed to the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) this fall.

“I will be able to wake up every day and be happy with what I am doing,” he says.

FIT is part of the State University of New York system, and it has been located just south of New York City’s garment district since 1946. It delivers an education to roughly 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students in everything from accessories design and cosmetics marketing to textile development and toy design.

Lavery’s intended major is fashion business management with a concentration in product development, which will take him deep into fashion marketing, buying and planning, sourcing, styling, fashion management and forecasting, and the technology that is shaping so many industries now: artificial intelligence, social media and analytics. He’ll have field trips, internships and capstone projects in NYC’s leading fashion businesses, and can even study fashion abroad in places like London, Paris, Rome or Hong Kong.

“They say I’ll be getting six to nine internships before I’m done,” Lavery says. “That’s a lot of connections.”

From Lavery’s portfolio: A riff on the Hillbilly logo and Verona’s large music program.

Verona High School no longer has classes in sewing, but it does have an extensive curriculum in graphic design and fine arts, and Lavery made the most of it, taking every single art class that VHS offers, including digital illustration, photography, fashion design and print design, as well as drawing, painting, ceramics and mosaics. He did the artwork that is on the cover of the newest school district magazine. Lavery credits the robust portfolio that he developed under teachers Helene McKelvey-McLaughlin, Christina Sciacchitano and Terry Sherman for his acceptance into FIT.

“Mrs. McKelvey showed me how to use all the design programs and, senior year, she took me under her wing to do advanced projects and showcase work,” he says. McKelvey also took VHS students on a field trip to FIT. “She showed me that design is a thing,” Lavery adds. “Even if I do not go into design, I can always use what I’ve learned.”

He also did a poster to improve recycling in Verona.

Lavery has a strong fashion sense, which he says was the product of a growth spurt in middle school. Like many a younger sibling, he had spent his early years in hand-me-downs. His older brother, CJ, was deeply into sports, so that meant a lot of sports-themed clothing. But when Francis hit the growth spurt that would eventually send him up to 6’3″, hand-me-downs were no longer an option. He began to focus on what he likes to wear. “It’s what made me feel confident in who I am,” he says.

Lavery applied to fashion business programs at the University of Delaware, Marist and Johnson & Wales as well as FIT, his top choice. He got into all four, but FIT’s late April 1 decision kept him on edge until very late in his senior year. Lavery says that after word got out that he would be going to New York to FIT, underclass students came up to him and said that they, too, wanted to go into the arts. His message to them, and to all Verona students with an eye on the arts, is one of encouragement.

“Go for it and don’t let people discourage you,” he says. “And let the colleges know that you want to be there. Show them that you have what it takes to be the best.”

“What’s Next” is a series of profiles about what members of each Verona High School class intend to do after graduation. MyVeronaNJ has been publishing the series since 2010 and you can read all of them here.

Francis Lavery, Verona High School Class of 2019
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Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citranohttps://myveronanj.com
Virginia Citrano grew up in Verona. She moved away to write and edit for The Wall Street Journal’s European edition, Institutional Investor, Crain’s New York Business and Forbes.com. Since returning to Verona, she has volunteered for school, civic and religious groups, served nine years on the Verona Environmental Commission and is now part of Sustainable Verona. She co-founded MyVeronaNJ in 2009. You can reach Virginia at [email protected].


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