Pa Yeng Thao '19

Jockey International/Color & Pattern Designer (Textile Designer)


Developing a passion for the creativity and the business of fashion

Pa Yeng was quite young when she discovered she loved fashion. Her story is classic – she learned to sew stylish outfits for her Barbie dolls so she could “play dress-up.” 

When she was old enough to consider her future in fashion, Pa Yeng was intrigued by the business of fashion – yet remained passionate about the creative aspects of the industry. “I wanted to be in both worlds.” She discovered Mount Mary’s Merchandise Management program focused on business from a creative point of view. A successful buyer must also be imaginative – in the areas of trend forecasting, CAD for merchandisers, and product development. 

Choosing Mount Mary 

Her decision to enter the program was easy. “I liked Mount Mary’s small campus community that was close to home – and that it’s an all women university. I knew I wanted a more intimate learning experience in a place where I knew I would be safe and comfortable – a place where I could thrive personally and academically.”

Like many students in the fashion program, Pa Yeng recalls her participation in Mount Mary’s annual CREO runway show was a remarkable experience. Merchandise Management seniors help plan and execute the show, and collaborate with Fashion Design seniors to present their collections at this vibrant event. “It was amazing to see my peer’s fashion collections – and my own visions – come to life during the show.”

A turning point

Pa Yeng credits the Fashion Careers Strategy class as a personal turning point. “The experience made me realize that I am more than I think I am. It pushed me to really dig deep into what I wanted to pursue after graduation, and boosted my presentation skills to help me land my dream job.”

Although she remained committed to her studies in the Merchandise Management program, Pa Yeng knew early on that she didn’t want a career as a buyer. She was interested in visual arts and decided to explore hands-on creativity through fashion related surface and print design by adding a minor in Graphic Design. Pa Yeng was a talented artist, and her path to a fashion career was revealed – her combined degree prepared her to work as a textile color and pattern designer at Jockey International in Kenosha, WI. 

Weaving together graphic design & fashion

“My graphic design minor really supports the creative aspect of my job while the merchandising courses taught me trend research, market research, and anything data/analytical related to designing the right prints and colors for each season’s assortment.”

Pa Yeng continues to learn on the job and has discovered the wide range of design responsibilities that exist in the fashion industry. “Not all designers get to pick colors or prints for their designs. Although it varies from company to company, there may be a team of just color/print/CAD designers who create textile patterns, while the technical designers’ create detailed technical sketches and approve a garment’s fit. Other companies may allow the head designer to make all the decisions – approving color, pattern and fit.”

An inside look at textile design

For Pa Yeng, a typical work day can “lean more creative or data entry heavy depending on our progress in the design calendar for a particular season/year.” 

Mornings begin with checking emails and prepping for the day’s meetings. Next, she fulfills requests and completes tasks for other departments. Most of the day is spent on her laptop – designing and editing print development files – and collaborating with her team and other departments.  She also takes time to organize her team’s materials – fabric swatches and pattern/CAD printouts.

“Although my job is mostly creative, I also do a bulk of data entry into our PLM product development software system – to communicate our color and print comments to our vendors and fabric mills. I usually end the day with a recap to my manager – to report what I’ve completed and what tasks are outstanding for the next day or week.”

Advice to current students

Based on her personal journey, Pa Yeng has some advice for current fashion students. “Although you may not always know where your path will lead, always follow your heart – only then will you discover your passion.”  

Although you may not always know where your path will lead, always follow your heart – only then will you discover your passion.

Pa Yeng Thao '19