ISU fashion student Jennifer Flack works for designer during Market Week in Paris

AMES, Iowa -- Iowa State University senior Jennifer Flack got to experience the same Paris fashion excitement as Anne Hathaway's character in the film "The Devil Wears Prada" -- minus the ruthless and cynical boss. The Waterloo, Iowa native just returned from Market Week in Paris, where she worked for Marchesa -- a rising New York City fashion design company that focuses on high-end eveningwear and cocktail dresses.

And from that experience, Flack may have had a hand in one of Hathaway's future dresses, because the actress joined Jennifer Lopez and Natasha Richardson as celebrities who have recently worn Marchesa designs.

Flack received the Paris invitation following an internship last summer with Marchesa.

During her internship, her tasks included selecting fabric samples for dress designs, retouching pattern work, last-minute dress fittings, adjusting hems, and adding beading when necessary. She even filled in for the company's assistant designer on a few occasions.

"After putting in 12-hour work days as assistant designer, I was able to make the vision of a design happen. It was a very rewarding experience," said Flack, an apparel, merchandising, design and production major at ISU.

"This internship was a fashion experience of a lifetime," she said. "It helped me in understanding the process of the fashion industry and has immensely helped me in my own designs at Iowa State in seeing and coordinating fabric with my inspiration."

Invited to Market Week in Paris

Flack impressed Marchesa officials, who invited her to assist them with Market Week, which is when officials from European and Asian stores -- like Harrods, Neiman Marcus, etc. -- come to Paris to see the fashion collections and purchase the dresses that they'll feature in their stores.

Upon arrival in Paris, Flack immediately went to work unpacking the dress collections, dressing models, steaming and fixing dresses at night, and promoting Marchesa at various events. She worked directly with some of the runway models and continues to communicate with them electronically.

"My internship and trip to Paris made me realize there is more to fashion than just what's in the classroom," said Flack. "I felt that I was finally contributing to the fashion industry. I got to see the big picture and I enjoyed the experience."

And that experience was truly a rare opportunity for a fashion student.

"I'm really proud that Marchesa had such high regard for Jennifer's skills," said Ann Thye, an academic advisor in Flack's department at ISU. "We have had several student interns in the past who have been given the opportunity to help with Fashion Week at Bryant Park in New York City, but the special Paris fashion weeks are some of the most highly regarded events in the world for introducing new fashions," Thye said. "For an aspiring designer -- especially from the Midwest, which is so far away from the fashion centers -- it just doesn't get any bigger than this."

ISU New York City trip yields opportunity

Flack initially found the Marchesa opportunity during a New York City spring break trip, sponsored by ISU's textiles and clothing program. The field study exposed students to various aspects of the fashion industry through tours of a variety of companies. While attending an ISU alumni dinner on the trip, Flack learned about the internship when she met Jennifer Reicherts, assistant designer for Marchesa.

It's probably no surprise that Flack has found her calling in fashion. Her grandmother taught her to sew when she was five. And soon after, she started creating her own designs using Barbie doll fashion stencils.

As she finishes her senior year at ISU, Flack is putting all her new knowledge to use in both her portfolio and final design project, which can be seen at the ISU Fashion Show 2008 on Friday, April 25.

She is the daughter of Jim and Kathy Flack of Waterloo.