Lillian Koch '21


Watching Project Runway to the Mount Mary CREO runway

As a young girl, Lillian loved creativity – drawing, coloring, painting, and crafting friendship bracelets. Her interest shifted to fashion when she discovered the TV shows Project Runway and Say Yes to the Dress, and she began to be more selective and thoughtful about the possibilities of her own wardrobe. Gifts of a mini sewing machine and dress form – and expert sewing instruction from her grandmother – soon followed. During her senior year in high school, Lillian attended Mount Mary’s CREO runway show. “I knew I wanted my own designs on that stage!”  

She enrolled in the Merchandise Management program to focus on the business of fashion, but switched to Fashion Design when she realized the hands-on creative process was a better fit. “I really love the idea of starting from nothing and sketching, patterning and constructing a beautifully finished garment.”   

Lillian accepts the challenges she faces in her various classes and understands the rewards of hard work. “I wouldn’t be able to grow as a designer if I didn’t have instructors who pressured me to do my best work.” 

The possibility of achieving success as a designer became evident when Lillian saw her first designs on the CREO fashion show runway. “The Mount Mary fashion shows are significant – so many fashion industry professionals attend and they notice quality work – which can lead to future opportunities!”   

A particularly gratifying experience for Lillian was to be selected among the top three student designers who competed in the American Heart Association’s Red Dress runway event in 2019. “I felt accomplished as a designer and broke down and cried, simply out of pure joy and excitement.”

Interning at Kohl's Corporate

Lillian felt well prepared for her 2020 summer internship at Kohl’s corporate office in Menomonee Falls. “As assistant designer in young women’s knit tops, I was amazed at the amount of work I accomplished in such a short time.” 

Lillian’s responsibilities required her to collaborate with Kohl’s designers in the areas of trend and sustainability research, creation of mood, fabric and color boards, and sketching in Adobe Illustrator. She learned Kohl’s software technology to share sketches and garment details with overseas vendors so they could render 3D image “samples” or create actual physical development samples.

“I improved my ability in the areas of sketching and presentation, and learned various tasks and responsibilities required in a real life job.” Lillian’s work was so impressive she’s already been hired to work at Kohl’s full time following graduation.  

“My education at Mount Mary really opened my eyes to the many job opportunities there are for a fashion designer!” For now, Lillian is excited by the prospect of creating “everyday apparel for the average woman – clothing that is realistic and sustainably sourced.” Her dream of one day designing for her own brand – or another luxury brand – will have to wait.

Advice to current students

Her advice to future fashion students is both practical and insightful. “Make checklists – trust me it will save your life!  Most importantly – take photos and document your design process to include in your future portfolio.” She recommends students shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions, take risks, and take advantage of all opportunities – to open doors and broaden your network.    

“College is NOT easy and there are times you may feel defeated and even cry. Take a breath, remember your goal and don’t give up. Make a plan and take it day by day!”

College is NOT easy and there are times you may feel defeated and even cry. Take a breath, remember your goal and don’t give up. Make a plan and take it day by day!

Lillian Koch