Young Alumna Kicks Off Her Career Designing Performance Apparel
Christine Michalek '13
Christine Michalek ’13 stumbled upon Philadelphia University on her way to visit another school. PhilaU was not on her radar. She was focused on New York and other cities. Since PhilaU was on the way, she decided to stop by for a quick tour. She had such a great experience during her visit that she signed up to shadow a student. “The opportunity to connect with the students and faculty made it easy to have that “moment” where you feel yourself being in the right place at the right time,” explained Michalek. “I knew that is where I had to go.”
Michalek arrived to PhilaU knowing she wanted to study fashion design. She is creative by nature and learned basic sewing skills from her mother. Michalek was so committed to exploring her creative side that she enrolled in the Carnegie Mellon Pre-College art program during her sophomore year of high school. She took a four to five hour studio class every Saturday for three years studying anything from drawing and anatomy to soft sculpture. It was then that she realized that she wanted to pursue a career in the creative field. Until then, the original plan had been to go to medical school.
During her time at PhilaU, Michalek was a very active student. She is a firm believer of making the most of any situation and utilizing available resources. She was a member of Fashion Industries Association (FIA), the Honors Program and a Rambassador. With the help of faculty, Michalek was able to find networking and leadership opportunities which allowed her to get acquainted with the industry. Jane Likens, Professor Emerita, admired her work, her ethics and her fortitude. Likens had Michalek in the senior capstone course when she pursued and conquered her first collection. “She was never afraid of hard work – doing and re-doing many garments during those 15 weeks,” noted Likens. “She earned an outstanding senior award which was well deserved.” Likens and Michalek communicate often and are good friends. “Christine is a joy! The earth needs more Christines.” Michalek will never forget her experience volunteering at New York Fashion Week and producing the annual PhilaU fashion show, while creating her senior collection. She learned about time management and the experiences reinforced her desire to work in the fashion industry.
Only having been out of school for a year, Michalek is on her way to a bright future in the fashion industry. She is an Assistant Technical Designer, working as a member of the On Field Team at Under Armour in Baltimore, M.D. This team is involved with domestic and international uniforms for college and professional sports teams. As a technical designer, she works directly with the designer, sourcing, product line managers and the athletic teams to develop products from start to finish. She communicates directly with factories to create Tech Packs (the blueprints to a garment) patterns, leading model fittings, developing trims and artwork. Michalek’s role on the On Field Team includes developing team uniforms and apparel for collegiate soccer, international soccer (football) and rugby and several winter Olympic uniforms.
Michalek admits that managing a variety of products, following a variety of fits, on a variety of calendars is a challenge. When she began working at Under Armour, she was nervous about not making mistakes, but realized that her education and training prepared her to get the job done. Michalek said that the most challenging aspect to working with athletic wear is that there are drastically different body shapes for which she is designing. An English soccer player does not have the same build as a goalie in Chile. Michalek must keep mobility, fabrics, rules and regulations in mind when developing a garment that is innovative and successful for a specific sport.
Michalek also admits that she was not a sports enthusiast. She learned to appreciate the sport on the job. She now finds herself watching YouTube clips of rugby games and looking up various soccer players during her free time.
Of the various projects Michalek works on, she loves working on international products. “To turn the television on and see my product on T.V., or on fans wearing it on the street, is very exciting,” said Michalek. She explained that the product has a function and is important culturally to many people. This is especially true now during the World Cup. Michalek loves the worldwide excitement the sport brings and how it is gaining popularity in the United Sates. “To know how important these jerseys are for the teams and the fans, what they represent, reminds me how special of an opportunity this is.”
Michalek truly enjoys working at Under Armour. She has the opportunity to travel; one that not many young professional get to have. In late June, she traveled to Colombia for her first visit to a factory. Under Armour is a company where the energy is felt – there is a can-do attitude throughout the campus. The majority of her colleagues are young, so making friends was not an issue. She tries not to take work home to separate office and home, giving her an opportunity to pursue her own creative outlets. She enjoys sketching and sewing her personal projects. As a relatively new resident of Baltimore, Michalek takes advantage of the events and activities the city has to offer. Although Michalek did not know anyone in her new city and all of her friends were moving to New York, she took the job and realized that like her decision to attend PhilaU, it was one of the best choices she ever made. She also realized that “Baltimore really ain’t that bad!”