Iowa State student receives $25,000 Geoffrey Beene fashion scholarship

AMES, Iowa -- Danielle Sponder now knows what it feels like to be rewarded in New York's famed fashion district for her creative ideas.

A senior apparel merchandising, design and production major at Iowa State University, Sponder was awarded a $25,000 YMA Geoffrey Beene National Scholarship at a dinner earlier this month honoring the scholarship recipients in New York's Marriott Marquis. The dinner is annually attended by designers and fashion industry officials. (YMA was formerly the Young Menswear Association.)

"I am very excited for this scholarship," said Sponder, who is from Maple Grove, Minn. "I worked very hard to get it and hopefully it will allow me to begin a career in the fashion industry."

Sponder was one four students honored nationally with one of YMA's top scholarship awards. This year's other winners were from Cornell University, Philadelphia University and Parsons the New School for Design. The scholarships were funded, in part, through a bequest from the estate of famed designer Geoffrey Beene.

"This is a very prestigious award given on a national level," said Ann Thye, academic advisor to Iowa State's apparel merchandising, design and production students. "It has brought a lot of pride and recognition to Iowa State showing that the university can be seen as one of the top fashion schools in the nation."

After receiving a $5,000 scholarship from the YMA Fashion Fund for the 2007-08 academic year, Sponder was selected by faculty to represent Iowa State in this year's $25,000 scholarship competition. The scholarship required applicants to create a sustainable clothing line case study and business plan.

Sponder began her presentation months before the Dec. 1 application deadline by researching sustainability and meeting with textiles and clothing and business professors, as well as fashion industry professionals. With a second major in business marketing, she was able to strengthen the business approach to her sustainable clothing line design. She was the only finalist who used recycled fiber material rather than organic material.

After being selected as one of the eight finalists, Sponder presented her 25-page case study and business plan to the YMA board of directors, comprised of fashion industry executives, in New York.

"When the time came to present, I wasn't too nervous, I was ready," said Sponder. "I developed the clothing line for a long time and was very excited to show it to YMA."

Sponder and four other Iowa State apparel merchandising, design and production students -- Iman El Khatib, Mandy Meyer, Allison Ledger and Francesca Skwark -- were honored at the dinner for the $5,000 YMA scholarships they had received. The ISU students have all held professional internships at such premier fashion companies as LaCoste, Tommy Hilfiger, Tobe Report, Glamour Magazine, Women's Wear Daily, Target Corp. headquarters, Lee Jeans and Kenneth Cole.


Iowa State's YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund recipients (from L to R): Allison Ledger, Mandy Meyer, Danielle Sponder, Iman El Khatib and Francesca Skwark.

The scholarship fund dinner was hosted by Tim Gunn, co-host of TV's "Project Runway" and creative director for Liz Claiborne, and attended by nearly 1,000 top fashion industry professionals. Designer Zac Posen received a special award at the dinner. Supermodel Iman and Patricia Fields, stylist for "Sex and the City," also attended.

"One of the coolest things about being a finalist was that I got to go backstage into the press room and mingle with these influential people of the industry," said Sponder. "It's definitely something I'll never forget."

Sponder gives credit to her study abroad experience in Valencia, Spain, her internships with Women's Wear Daily in New York City and Target Corp. in Minneapolis, and her academic work at Iowa State for her award-winning success.

"All of these experiences have given me many opportunities to understand the industry, take part in photo shoots, merchandise planning, analyzing inventory and fashion forecasting," said Sponder.

"I've been able to continue my passion through my college career and am able to bring art, design and creativity into my work," she said.

Recently featured in the ISU student publication Trend magazine as one of the most fashionable students on campus, Sponder is planning a career in fashion marketing.