The Pasadena-based educator shares her knowledge and expertise in the field with APU students 


The Department of Design hosted fashion designer and educator Tracey Kuchenski on Thursday as a guest speaker at Design Night. 

Kuchenski, who shared her experience in the fashion industry, was featured on season six of “Project Runway” along with Nickelodeon’s “All In” with Cam Newton. 

Kuchenski’s passion for fashion began at a young age. Growing up with a mother and older sister who enjoyed sewing, she found herself wanting to be like them and also took up the craft. Soon after discovering an early interest in fabrics and patterns, Kuchenski started creating her own based on designs she saw at fabric stores.

Kuchenski received a degree in textile and fashion design from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM).

“I didn’t know my dissatisfaction with the designs that were out there would turn into a career,” Kuchenski said.

Kuchenski has always been drawn to the field of fashion, but her love for teaching developed after a car accident made working with high design tables hard on her back.

“This is the only career I know,” Kuchenski said. “I can’t do anything else.” 

Though she was hesitant to start, Kuchenski is confident that teaching is where God led her.

“I went back to FIDM after I graduated there and submitted my resume … someone had just quit mid-semester and they needed someone right away,” Kuchenski said. 

The Minnesota native is no longer at FIDM, but still teaches at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles. She works with sophomores on core curriculum classes of fashion design such as basic sewing. 

Kuchenski said she enjoys working with sophomores because things start to click that year. She said they often begin the semester grumbling about the process, but when they complete their first garment, they have an ‘aha’ moment.

“They say it’s too hard, and I say I don’t think you’re choosing the right word, I don’t think it’s immediately satisfying or you cannot see how this is going to be useful later, they don’t see it yet, but it quickly comes, and that’s what I just love about sophomores,” Kuchenski said.

At the event, Kuchenski lectured students on potential careers in fashion design, how she got her start and the many steps that are involved in the creation of a garment. 

Senior graphic design major Lily Graham enjoyed seeing the fashion design process come to life. 

“Being somewhat familiar with the fashion design process, being able to physically see the process from pattern sheets to prototype garments to the final product was exciting,” Graham said.

Though the Design Department hosted the event, students from other majors were also welcome to join. Senior music composition major Melody Hung attended as a part of her senior seminar class.

“It was interesting to hear her talk about her field and overarching concepts… it’s like a puzzle for her [and] that’s very much something I can relate to as a composer,” Hung said. 

Students also had the opportunity to ask Kuchenski questions. One student asked about the intersection of faith and fashion. Kuchenski admitted to struggling with this for a long time until speaking with her pastor, who reassured her that Christians belong in all fields.

“Be strong in your faith wherever you are, somebody might need you there,” Kuchenski said. “It’s just something inside of us that likes beauty [and] likes creating because we’re made by the Creator.”

Kuchenski strives to embody Christ in her work at a secular institution through the way she interacts with faculty and students.

“I don’t put the students down, I call myself their best cheerleader,” she said.