Inspiring the Next Generation of Fashion Designers: Inside Philadelphia’s High School Fashion Program

24 November 2023

The Murrell Dobbins Career and Technical School cultivates young talent in the world of fashion design

The recent DesignPhiladelphia exhibition left attendees captivated and craving more. Among the talented designers showcased at the event, some of the most impressive creations were crafted by the youngest minds in the industry. Intrigued by their intricate designs, we set out to discover the creative forces behind these trendsetting looks. Our journey led us to the Murrell Dobbins Career and Technical School in Philadelphia, home to the city’s only fashion career and technical education (CTE) program. Under the guidance of Ms. Nadine Artis, these budding fashion designers are honing their skills and inspiring the next generation of fashionistas.

Nurturing Creativity in the Classroom

Ms. Nadine Artis, the head of the fashion program at Murrell Dobbins, has been molding young minds for nearly 25 years. In her classroom, creativity is not just encouraged; it is a prerequisite. The program offers a comprehensive curriculum that equips students with the technical skills necessary for success in the fashion industry. From operating industrial sewing machines to mastering hand sewing techniques, the program covers a wide range of skills. Tenth-graders learn the basics, while juniors delve into pattern making. By the time they reach their senior year, students are encouraged to explore their own unique design aesthetics and work independently.

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From Sketch to Sewing Machine

The students at Murrell Dobbins are graded on various aspects of their technical skills, including sketching and sewing. However, the true test of their abilities lies in their final collections. Each student is tasked with creating a cohesive and innovative collection that showcases their personal style and design prowess. What sets these young designers apart is their commitment to inclusivity. They strive to create garments that cater to individuals of all sizes, challenging the industry’s traditional standards of beauty and body types.

The Art of Adaptation

In the world of fashion, adaptability is key. Charm Lewis, an 11th-grader at Murrell Dobbins, exemplifies this quality. She proudly displays two garments that appear distinct at first glance. However, upon closer inspection, it becomes evident that they are derived from the same pattern. Lewis’s creativity and resourcefulness shine through as she explains how she transformed one design into two unique pieces. This ability to adapt and repurpose is a valuable skill that these young designers are honing in their formative years.

Embracing Individuality and Streetwear

For 11th-grader Sylen Batiste, fashion is an expression of individuality. Batiste’s love for streetwear and graffiti is evident in her designs, as she incorporates these elements into her garments. Her skirt, adorned with graffiti motifs, is a testament to her unique style and creative vision. By infusing her creations with personal influences, Batiste is breaking free from the constraints of traditional fashion norms and forging her own path in the industry.

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Inspiring the Next Generation

The impact of the fashion program at Murrell Dobbins extends far beyond the classroom. Through their participation in events like the DesignPhiladelphia exhibition, these young designers are inspiring their peers and the wider community. Their innovative and boundary-pushing designs challenge the status quo and offer a fresh perspective on the world of fashion. By nurturing their creativity and providing them with the necessary skills, Ms. Nadine Artis and her team are empowering these students to pursue their dreams and make their mark in the industry.


The Murrell Dobbins Career and Technical School’s fashion program is a beacon of creativity and inspiration in Philadelphia. Under the guidance of Ms. Nadine Artis, these young designers are honing their skills, pushing boundaries, and challenging the norms of the fashion industry. From sketching to sewing, they are mastering the technical aspects of their craft while infusing their designs with personal flair and individuality. Through their innovative creations, these students are inspiring the next generation of fashion enthusiasts and proving that age is no barrier to success. The fashion world better watch out, because these young talents are ready to make their mark.

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