CAMDEN, NJ — From the moment you walk into Terina Nicole Hill’s new digs at The Arts Pavilion in Camden it’s hard not to appreciate the space. Dark brown hardwood floors, glistening white sewing machines and large glass windows all add to the minimalist and inviting feel.
The Fashion Design Center of South Jersey — a new maker studio with space for small classes — will open its doors this weekend for the first time.
The grand opening will happen nearly a year after Hill was forced to push her debut for a number of reasons, including the coronavirus pandemic.
“I almost want to pinch myself,” Hill, 44, told TAPinto Camden. “At this point it still feels like a dream and honestly, until Saturday morning when people start walking in, I won’t believe it.”
Hill, a Camden mother of two originally from Essex County, graduated from the distinguished Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. After graduating she focused on a career in jewelry and accessory design – before opening a boutique in North Brunswick.
Before Hill set out to open her center at 1366 Haddon Ave., she was a design teacher — with stints at Moore College of Design and Perkins Center for the Arts. She’s also launched a line, Jypsea Leathergoods, hosted a podcast and contributes arts and culture pieces to the Philadelphia Gay News.
Now she’s channeling all her experience to her beloved Camden.
“I knew that it’d be an amazing thing if I could bring something to Camden that doesn’t exist,” said Hill, who named her son after the city. “An opportunity for people to learn how to make things with their hands that can allow them to be creative and in some cases start a micro-business.”
“There’s so much light in poverty and also so much talent,” she added.
The fashion center will have daily rates ($15) and monthly subscriptions ($60) — the latter includes a free workshop. Attendees can also take classes with Zoom, and have their supplies mailed to them ahead of time.
Due to the health crisis, Hill has required face masks and social distancing. Besides having hand sanitizer on hand, she will also limit classes to 5-6 students in order to ensure safe capacity limits are set.
Said rules will be in place this weekend when she launches with a “Customer Appreciation Handbag Painting” workshop, with help from Mt. Holly-based art center Thirsty Palette Paint.
With aspirations to ultimately open centers in other parts of the country – Hill floated North Jersey and South Florida – the business owner says the value of her space lies in its practicality.
“The concept of teaching people to make things is something that needs to spread in my opinion,” Hill shared while sitting in her new center. “My own daughter wanted to throw away a jacket recently because the button came off. She was like, ‘That’s it, I can’t wear it anymore.’ Sometimes we don’t think of the ramifications of all of those garments going to the landfill so it’s also about teaching people to take care of the things that they own and to make things that they want instead of going out and spending money.”
Hill hopes to unlock the inner designer in children throughout Camden who may not know they have hidden talents.
“How wonderful would that be…to see them go out and buy their own fabric and build something of their own,” she said.
Besides a few mannequins and a bookcase, a metal shelf holds plastic bins filled with buttons, elastic, zippers and jewelry findings.
Hill has also made it a point to pay homage to her fashion icons with placards along the wall. There, you could read about Tracy Reese (American fashion designer who specializes in women’s ready-to-wear clothing), Art Smith (among the leading modernist jewelers of the mid-20th century) and Duro Olowu (Nigerian born, London-based fashion designer known for his innovative combinations of patterns and textiles in feminine looks).
“I chose them all because they all have inspired me,” Hill said, “… I hope to do the same.”
To learn about the Fashion Design Center of South Jersey visit www.fashiondesigncentersj.com. You can make plans to attend “African Waistbeads GNO (Girls Night Out)” on Sept. 24 from 7 to 8:30 p.m., register for “Metalsmithing Mondays” with Master Metalsmith Nkrumah (starting Sept. 28) and find out more about adult and kids classed held every Saturday.
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