Priscilla Ratcliff is an International Entrepreneur and Educator
Not only is she a revered educator with a doctorate degree, Priscilla Ratcliff is an international entrepreneur. Her passion for business, teaching, and travel has led to her successfully opening a boutique in Japan, establishing a nine-month fashion design course in Africa, and offering her students a global perspective by taking them to New York Fashion Week and on study tours to places including Milan, Rome, Dubai, and Japan. She lives and breathes the education of her students, and mentors them in their career paths.
EARLY INTEREST IN FASHION
Born in Houston, Texas, Priscilla Ratcliff, also known as “Ms. Priscy,” expressed an interest in fashion at a young age and caught the attention of her community. She was tasked with designing, sewing, and producing hundreds of outfits for her church choir. She officially launched her career as a fashion designer when she moved to Los Angeles and opened her first boutique. Her talent for design came naturally, but it wasn’t until she mastered entrepreneurship that she was able to make a name for herself in the fashion industry. Now, she uses her talent and experience to inspire others to do the same.
After receiving a bachelor's degree in Fashion Merchandising, a master’s in Education, with a specialization in technology based education, and a doctorate, Ms. Priscy started teaching at various art institutes and colleges in Los Angeles. Before endeavoring to teach full-time at Lennox Math, Science and Technology Academy in Lennox, California, she taught fashion and entrepreneurship at a women’s correctional facility in Lynwood, California. Her course, Essentials on Starting an Entrepreneurship Business, helped provide women with the knowledge and resources to build sustainable businesses.
Ms. Priscy has been teaching courses in fashion design and fashion careers at Lennox for the last three years. Her fashion course provides students with three college credits, which they can apply towards their college curriculum.
Dedicated to preparing high school students to enter into their chosen career field upon graduating, and to pursue a specialized education to jumpstart their career in fashion, design, and entrepreneurship, she encourages high school students to reach beyond the curriculum and develop their own sense of style and taste. This is the backbone of her curriculum, which dovetails with how FIDM prepares students for their careers in the creative industries.
By introducing many different career paths, Ms. Priscy is dedicated to helping her students discover their passion and career interests and put this passion into practice before graduating high school.
FIDM has helped her students achieve this model, by offering specialized majors including Apparel Industry Management, Beauty Marketing & Product Development, Fashion Design, and Merchandise Product Development, among others.
With the help of College Representative Cecile Fayen, Ms. Priscy incorporates FIDM presentations into her classes and club meetings, including “Behind the Design: Careers in the Apparel Industry,” “Design Inspiration: Where Designers Shop for Ideas,” and “Fashion Design: The Art of Fashion Illustration.” She also takes her students on an annual tour of the FIDM Los Angeles campus, FIDM Museum & Galleries, and FIDM Scholarship Store.
At each of her schools, Ms. Priscy starts a fashion club and brings in an industry professional as a guest speaker. She has partnered with FIDM Instructor, author, and fragrance designer Andre’ Barnwell to teach her students how to make perfume. When she takes her students to FIDM, they then get to see how perfume is packaged. As an official FIDM Fashion Club Advisor, she has introduced her students to over two hundred and fifty different careers in the fashion, design, beauty, and cosmetology industries.
She has helped countless students obtain internships in the industry, at companies including Sony Pictures and Paige Denim, and she has introduced her students to fashion designers, such as Aviva Stanoff, when she invites them as guest speakers.
Her goal is to instill in her students a passion for developing ideas and manifesting those ideas into a creative business model. “I teach my high schoolers just about the whole college curriculum, so that they can be well-rounded and know what they are going to do when they graduate,” Ms. Priscy commented, when asked how she ensures student success through her curriculum.
Her passion for business has also seen her partner with many companies that are willing to donate goods that she can then use for student competitions. Each of her five classes are assigned a window display, and they compete for the winning title. “When they [the students] come in and see the previous pictures from last year, or the products that we have to give away, I don’t have a problem with them doing their very best,” said Ms. Priscy. And, there is truth to this statement. Last year, Ms. Priscy had 67 high school graduates in her course Fashion Design & Merchandising: Beginning Clothing Construction.
This year, Ms. Priscy is teaching her courses online. She begins each class with music and trivia questions to motivate her students to “wake up and participate.” In late January of this year, Ms. Priscy had her students organize a virtual history of costuming show, Fashion Through the Decades, where students compared various fashion styles through history. She incorporated the high school’s english and music classes to provide speech and musical components to enhance the presentation. The show featured fashion from the 13th into the 21st century, with a focus on how fashion trends and styles are introduced and resurfaced throughout the decades. The presentation featured everything from the introduction of the turban into the fashion world by the late fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli, to the use of corsets in contemporary pop culture by Lizzo, Beyoncé, and Madonna.
To garner inspiration in a virtual classroom, Ms. Priscy asks students, “Don’t tell me what you can’t do, tell me what you like to do.” This model has helped her identify new vistas for her students, from engaging curriculum catered to student interests, to internships in the industry. “Don’t hide behind the virus. Don’t let it put you in a corner,” she said. “Your voice comes in many different manners - you can sing, you can do poetry, you can write, but there is a time to standup and you will be left behind if you do not learn how to speak up.”
EL CAMINO COLLEGE
Ms. Priscy also teaches at El Camino College in Torrance, California, where she conducts three different fashion classes, as well as hosts an annual fashion show. In 2019, for her cosmetology course, she hosted a holiday fashion show and incorporated Japanese artifacts donated to her by clients in Japan, including 24 carat gold kimonos, tapestry obi belts, and hair ornaments.
This past summer, she taught a Beginning Clothing Construction course at El Camino and personally donated all of the course materials, including her latest book, fabric, zippers, and thread, among other items. She also created an online fashion curriculum, based on her fashion books, with accompanying presentations to demonstrate how to cut out designs, and sew on various machines. The online resource provides a how-to section of where and how to purchase fabric, as well as cut-out patterns to make reversible vests, skirts, and even a kilt, a look made popular by Kanye West last year. Her newest book will focus on tailoring, redesigning, and fitting a collection.
She is looking forward to beginning classes in person again, as she enjoys being able to work one-on-one with her students utilizing the curriculum she designed.