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FIDM Graduate Damien Terronez stands next to a menswear design he created

A Grad's Journey From Psychotherapy to Fashion

Born and raised in Fresno, California where he attended Sanger High School in the Central Valley, Damien Terronez earned a B.A. in Psychology and an M.A. in Social Work from California State University, Fresno. As a licensed clinical social worker, Damien has worked in private practice since 2015, and for the last two years, he’s worked full-time at a maximum security state prison. After learning about the impact fashion can have on someone’s psychological state, Damien decided to apply to FIDM to study Apparel Industry Management. After receiving his A.A. in 2020, he continued with the Advanced Study program in Menswear. We recently caught up with the psychotherapist-turned-designer to learn about his unusual journey to fashion. 

How did you first hear about FIDM? I had recently read an article about fashion and its effect on people’s self-perception. Knowing I wanted to better understand how to help others feel more positive about themselves, but understanding nothing about fashion, I typed “Best fashion schools” in Google and FIDM’s name came up.  

A book of fashion illustrations by FIDM Graduate Damien Terronez

When did you develop an interest in design? I will admit, I knew nothing about fashion prior to FIDM. I have always been a curious person. As a psychotherapist I noticed a person’s favorite shirt, skirt, or shoes had the ability to make even the most self-conscious person feel beautiful or handsome. It was not until I started talking with instructors like Kenneth Chang and Will Hoover that I began to understand the impact fashion had on a person’s psychological state. Design is more than creating a silhouette, it is also about choosing fabric that provides an experience for the wearer. 

What led you to the Menswear program at FIDM? The decision to apply to the Menswear program at FIDM was difficult, however because of the program’s outstanding, accomplished faculty I truly felt I would be missing out on an opportunity to learn from the best in the field. And, despite having a bachelor’s in psychology and a master's in social work, I can honestly say fashion school has been the most challenging endeavor to date.   

FIDM Graduate Damien Terronez poses next to a sign for the FIDM Menswear Student Exhibition

Tell us about your work for the recent Menswear Student Exhibition: For the exhibition I chose to focus on knitwear. The rise of Covid taught me a lot about what men wanted in clothing. My garment creations focused on the need for men to have clothing to meet the demands of their busy lives. Sophistication, beautiful fabric, and the flexibility to transition from business to nightwear was my focus.  

What is your unique design vision? I am driven to create a business casual knitwear line focused on making every man look and feel his best. This is emphasized by CH Sartorial’s motto: “Tailoring the Man You Were Meant to Be.” CH Sartorial believes fashion should be cruelty-free and ecologically conscious. 

FIDM Graduate Damien Terronez stands next to his menswear designs

What is a valuable lesson you’ve learned in this Advanced Study program? Surround yourself with people who are driven as you are. There will be plenty of people who will question your reason, drive, and ability to be successful. However, with the right people around you, you have the chance to make your dream a reality. 

Do you plan to pursue fashion as a career or part-time? My goal is to make fashion a full-time career. I see my mental health background influencing the customer service experience and marketing.

Colorful fashion illustrations by FIDM Graduate Damien Terronez

How is FIDM helping you get closer to your career goals? FIDM and its outstanding faculty gave me the education, guidance, and tools to aspire for something greater than I imagined. 

Anything else you'd like to share? While attending FIDM, I worked full-time at a maximum security prison, continued with my private practice, and during the Covid lockdown continued with the online classes for the Menswear program while helping my children with their online schooling. Through it all, my children were the inspiration that kept me going.

Categories:  Apparel Industry Management Menswear Alumni