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School of Fashion Design and Merchandising News and Events

“Project Runway” Winner Among Designers to Critique Portfolios

Posted Mar. 7, 2011

On Wednesday, March 16, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., the Kent State University Jerry Silverman and Shannon Rodgers School of Fashion Design and Merchandising will play host to three designers who will critique 49 senior fashion design students’ senior projects.

The critiques will take place throughout the day in the Atrium of Rockwell Hall, located on the corner of Main and South Lincoln Streets at 515 Hilltop Drive on the Kent State campus. Parking is free, and the event is free and open for observation from the second floor of the atrium. Reservations are not required.

This year’s critics are: Jeff Bergus, who has designed for the likes of Geoffrey Beene, IZOD and JCPenney; Leanne Marshall, known by most as the 2008 “Project Runway” winner; and Jeff Mahshie, senior designer for Lord & Taylor.

Kent State’s School of Fashion is one of only 13 member schools in the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). Each of the students will get about 15 minutes of the designers’ time. Each student will display four to five outfits sewn in muslin, a test fabric, on a combination of dress forms and models. The Fashion School was recently ranked third in the United States and 13th in the world by the highly regarded fashion website,

“The time the students have with the critic lends a professional interaction that challenges the student to adapt and grow to an open-ended design process,” said Noel Palomo-Lovinski, Kent State associate professor of fashion design. “Design is about creating pieces that work within the confines of a market and season and must fit the needs of a customer. This is often one of the most difficult lessons which a student must learn.”

The final designs will be featured during Portfolio, the school’s annual fashion show, slated for April 16 in Cartwright Hall.  Tickets for the fashion show are $65, $45 or $30 and will go on sale March 20 at

The Senior Design Critics Endowment was made possible by Mr. Ronald E. Teare of Cleveland. The program’s purpose is to bring together senior students in the fashion design program with renowned professional designers. 

For more information on Kent State’s School of Fashion Design and Merchandising, visit


Jeff Bergus
Jeff Bergus studied fashion at Austin College in Texas with a semester at the Institute of European Students in Vienna, Austria, and an internship with fashion designer Todd Oldham. He then went on to the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City to further his design education. After graduating from FIT in 1989, Bergus began his career as an assistant designer to Andrew Fezza. In 1990, Bergus moved to Geoffrey Beene Retail, a division of Phillips-Van Huesen as a men’s wear designer. By 1996, he had been promoted to Design Director for Geoffrey Beene, overseeing 11 men’s and women’s product categories. While filling his post at Beene, he also began work as a design consultant to Gant, developing the spring 1998 show for New York Fashion Week. Gant was later sold to LVMH, and Bergus moved on to work with IZOD to rejuvenate the then ailing brand. Bergus was successful in tripling the wholesale business during his tenure with IZOD. In 2001, he joined the Arizona Jean Company at JCPenney as the Corporate Product Development Director in charge of branding in all product categories. While at JCPenney, Bergus was instrumental in developing a highly successful college internship program, and it was at this time that Kent State was first lucky enough to work with Bergus. In 2005, he joined the EPIC GROUP in Hong Kong. As the Corporate Creative Director, he consulted with Fortune 500 companies to help them rebrand their existing private label brands as well as providing collections for all product categories. Bergus now consults from his own company, JMB Studios, and has embarked on a new business venture in the restaurant business allowing him to be closer to home. As a designer critic in 2008 and again in 2011, his expertise and industry knowledge has greatly benefited Kent State students, bringing an understanding of fashion as a business and as an art form.

Leanne Marshall
Leanne Marshall was born and raised in California having aspirations of a career in fashion design at the early age of 12. As an undergraduate, she won a scholarship that enabled her to attend the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in San Francisco. After graduation, Marshall worked as a graphic designer to support herself, working in fashion as a sideline. In 2006, she moved to Portland, Ore., where she became involved with the local fashion scene, participating in Portland Fashion Week. Recognizing that fashion was too strong of a pull, Marshall increased her fashion focus, working full time to create her first fashion line, “Leanimal.” In 2008, she was lucky enough to be chosen as a contestant on Bravo Network’s “Project Runway.” As part of the final episode, Marshall showed her collection during New York’s Fashion Week in Bryant Park, winning the competition. She has since moved to New York City where she continues to work on her own label, Leanne Marshall, showing in New York Fashion Week Fall 2009, Spring 2010 and Fall 2010. She is also active in creating one-of-a-kind wedding gowns. She has focused much of her fabric choices around sustainable fabrics with a firm commitment to use more in the future. Her work will be included in Sustainability Fashion: Exploring the Paradox exhibit in the Kent State University Museum. This is Marshall’s first time as a critic for Kent State, bringing an artistic and conceptual design experience for the students.

Jeff Mahshie
Jeff Mahshie went to the prestigious Parsons School of Design in New York City in 1988 and began working as a design assistant to iconic fashion designer Giorgio di Sant’ Angelo upon graduation. Di Sant’ Angelo proved to be a significant design influence on Mahshie, helping to refine his burgeoning aesthetic and design philosophy. By 1992, he had moved to Los Angeles to pursue opportunities in Hollywood with celebrity clientele, a practice that he continues today. In 1998, Mahshie accepted the post as Chaiken’s Creative Director, working to expand their product line to include maternity and eveningwear. Simultaneously, he worked as a Freelance Creative Director at Halston, another legendary name in fashion. Mahshie began to design stage costumes in 2003 for Off-Broadway and Broadway theater productions, including “Touch” and “Hurlyburly,” productions that earned him a Drama Desk nomination for outstanding costumes in 2005. His theater work continued on Broadway with “The Little Dog Laughed,” “Mr. and Mrs. Fitch,” and “The Kid.”  Mahshie dressed Kent State theatre alumna Alice Ripley for her recent lead actress Tony award in “Next to Normal,” currently on U.S. tour. Adding to his experiences, Mahshie has been working as Creative Director for Lord & Taylor for the last three years and has been a member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America since 2000. This is Mahshie’s first time working with Kent State students who have benefited from his diverse creative background and a great understanding of the American fashion market.

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Media Contacts:
Effie Tsengas,, 330-672-8398
Emily Vincent,, 330-672-8595