When he was growing up in Haiti, John Wesh said young people were expected to pursue careers in law, medicine, or engineering.
However, his mother designed clothes for a time. Beginning at age eight, Wesh sat next to her sewing machine, raptly watching her create everything from school uniforms to beautiful dresses.
“She inspired me because she made her clothes really different from everybody else,” he said. “I could see myself doing that, too.”
After moving to Queens, New York, to live with his father during high school, Wesh maintained a flicker of his dream to become a clothing designer. When it came time to choose a college, Wesh was attracted to Buffalo State for its strong fashion and textile technology program (FTT) even though his father thought he should keep his options open.
“After I got to campus and learned more about the program, I decided to follow my dream and choose the FTT major, along with a minor in fiber arts,” Wesh said. “I started in fashion merchandising and then took a sewing class and fell in love with design. Sewing is like my therapy. When I get to put everything together for a piece, I come alive.”
"Now, I know I will be successful in the future doing what I want.”
Experiencing Fashion Through Study Away
That feeling was only enhanced after Wesh participated in Buffalo State’s Siena Program. He and 19 other students joined FTT lecturer Erin Habes in Siena, Italy. Along with taking such classes as History of Costume and Survey of Fashion, he got to attend Fashion Week in Milan and take side trips to Paris and Amsterdam.
“It was a great experience,” Wesh said.
Before and during the Siena trip, Wesh said Habes helped him recognize his own creativity.
Now, Wesh is a confident student-designer whose favorite style is haute couture.
“I love evening wear and high-fashion dresses,” he said. “It’s more detailed and more fun.”
Involved Outside the Classroom
Outside of the classroom, Wesh got involved on campus as a junior resident assistant in Neumann Hall his first year and in the community as an AmeriCorps volunteer at Lafayette High School.
In the former role, he encouraged students to get involved in residence hall activities.
“Sometimes that meant going door-to-door to the students’ rooms,” Wesh said. “It really helped me get out of my comfort zone and become who I am today.”
In the latter role, he’s helped middle school students with their homework in an afterschool program and guided adults in their citizenship requirements in weekend classes.
“They called me ‘teacher,’ which was nice,” he said. “I chose to do this because I wanted to have a different experience and see more of the community.”
Wesh reflects on his choice of major:
“Being a fashion student has made me realize my own style, what I want to wear and want to create,” he said. “As a freshman, I did what my parents wanted. Now, I know I will be successful in the future doing what I want.”
He said he’d advise students new to Buffalo State to take a similar approach to learning—make college their own experience both in and out of the classroom.
“Buffalo State is a really diverse campus. Find where you fit in,” he said. “Take risks and make bold moves. Get outside your comfort zone and meet people because people are really nice if you give them a chance.”