By Rebecca Esparza ’99 BBA ‘03 MBA
A simple presentation in late 2011 by Dr. Melinda Adams, UIW associate professor of fashion management to the San Antonio Economic Development Board, set into motion a chain of events that would eventually make history for the university. Representatives with Chinese sweater manufacturer Shantex Group were in the audience, scouting various locations for a planned factory. A year later, Shantex officially chose San Antonio to build their factory, but they had a unique idea for a partnership that included UIW.
By January of this year, the Fashion Management program was formally asked about creating an educational partnership with Shantex. The agreement allows UIW fashion students to supply sweater designs to the Chinese garment makers. In return, UIW students will be provided internship opportunities at the company and receive hands-on, real world experience in the fashion industry.
At a ceremony held on April 22 at the San Antonio Marriott Rivercenter, UIW President Dr. Louis Agnese signed a memorandum of understanding with Bingguo Liu, chairman and general manager of Yaqi Yantai Textile Co., Ltd on behalf of the Shantex Group LLC.
“We hope this will be a long and fruitful partnership for everyone: UIW, Shantex, and most important of all, our students,” noted Agnese.
The alliance would not have been possible without Bexar County Economic Development (BCED), which worked tirelessly for three years to entice the Chinese company to build in San Antonio.
Tracy Avery ’96 BA ’12 MBA, market researcher at the BCED, described the partnership between UIW and the Shantex Group as company goals, UIW fashion department goals and BCED goals all overlapping at the same time.
“We were promoting the area and what it had to offer in terms of manufacturing, workforce and education. UIW was one of the area organizations the Chinese delegation met with on multiple visits over approximately 2-3 years,” she said.
According to Avery, Adams saw the unique opportunity for real world experience for her students and the Shantex Group saw the benefit of a philanthropic relationship to help establish their U.S. headquarters.
“Partnerships like this do not happen often,” admitted Avery. “A lot of people came together to ensure that UIW and the Shantex Group’s best interests were represented. The partnership has long term potential that will help to further differentiate UIW programs from other schools.”
Agnese agreed, adding: “These collaborations represent opportunities for our students to receive additional internship experiences. That will help them immensely when they’re looking for jobs in the future.”
As UIW’s facilitator of the program, Dr. Catherine Studak, director of UIW’s fashion management program, said she will ensure students receive the best fashion education, as well as serve Shantex in the best possible way.
“As they grow their business in the U.S., Shantex foremost wants us to develop designers and merchandisers for possible employment and for internships. Shantex also wants us to develop a certification program for their employees. The purpose is to learn how to work within the U.S. fashion business environment for design, production, distribution and merchandising of fashion products,” she added.
“Because of this partnership, we are able to directly connect educational opportunities with employment opportunities,” Studak said. “We will be able to provide both student designers and student merchandisers a learning experience in real time. We will have direct access to manufacturing processes, be able to create real life product development projects for garments that could actually be manufactured.”
In fact, sweater patterns were provided to Shantex by UIW and seven were chosen for manufacturing. The first sweaters manufactured were featured at UIW’s Cutting Edge Fiesta® Fashion Show. UIW student Emilia Silva won the Shantex Award for her design which will be manufactured and sold in North America.