Windham man dressed for success in NYC

Sunday News Correspondent
January 25. 2014 1:54AM

Mikael Priestley, a Windham resident and 2010 graduate of Salem High School, is a fashion student in Manhattan and an intern at a prestigious luxury goods company. (COURTESY)

He won't graduate until May, but Windham native Mikael Priestley is already taking his bite of the Big Apple.

Priestley, a senior fashion merchandising major at LIM College in New York City, has gathered an impressive resume in several short years living in the city.

He's interned for such legendary fashion houses as Halston, Barney's New York, Intermix, Calvin Klein and Diane von Furstenberg, and is now five months into an internship in men's merchandising with Italian luxury goods company Salvatore Ferragamo.

Earlier this month, the fashion-forward college student achieved another milestone when he was awarded a $5,000 scholarship during the YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund Geoffrey Beene Awards ceremony, held Jan. 8 at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York.

The nonprofit association was founded in 1937 to promote education of the fashion arts and business by granting scholarships to talented students and facilitating internships, mentorships and career programs, according to Meredith Finnin, spokeswoman for LIM College.

Priestley, who graduated from Salem High School in 2010, said he realized his career path during his junior year.

"By then I had a good understanding of my goals," he said during a phone interview. "I knew I wanted to explore my creativity while studying business and the fashion industry has constant movement."

A visit to LIM College, located in midtown Manhattan, sealed his plans.

"It was a great fit for me," Priestley said. "Coming to New York was the smartest decision I could have made, as I hope to stay here after graduating this May."

LIM College is one of a select group of educational institutions nationwide that participate in the YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund competition. Other participating schools include Barnard College, the University of Pennsylvania, Cornell University, and Harvard University.

According to Finnin, scholarships are awarded based entirely on merit, taking into consideration multiple criteria: the applicant's grade-point average; the completion of a case-study project; an essay detailing personal aspirations, work experience and community service; and an interview with an organization ambassador.

Having now worked for a variety of famous industry legends, Priestley said it's hard to say which one was his favorite, though he's definitely enjoying his experiences at Salvatore Ferragamo, where his internship duties have placed him in direct contact with fashion buyers.

"They're always asking me to do things that interns don't often get the chance to do," Priestley said. "At the same time, they keep in mind that I'm a student and I'm still learning."

A three-month stint as an operations and logistics intern with von Furstenberg in 2012 left Priestley particularly star-struck.

The American luxury designer's office is located on the top floor of the label's New York City headquarters, and Priestley said she maintained a warm presence with her employees ... and also her interns.

"You see her in real life and she's just so warm in person," he said.

On one occasion, Priestley said, von Furstenberg brought him upstairs to share the label's new brand book with him and fellow employees.

"She went through each and every page and let us all ask questions," Priestley said. "It was amazing to be in the same room, interacting with such a famous person."

Priestley's own fashion preferences are somewhat less mainstream, with the clothing produced by Belgian designer Dries Van Noten among his personal favorites.

"He does some amazing work with multimedia, and his use of prints is astonishing," Priestley said. "What I like most about Van Noten is, he's not owned by a major corporation, and his work speaks for itself."

Looking toward the future, Priestley said he hopes ultimately to work as a buyer for Bergdorf Goodman, a high-end department store on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue.

Marla Green, Priestley's fashion merchandising professor, said she believes Priestley has a bright future ahead of him.

"Mikael has a very, very intuitive sense of the industry," Green said. "He understands the numbers as well as the products. He's going to be a great buyer."

Priestley credits his parents, Swan and Scott, for encouraging him in his journey.

"They taught me a lot, while at the same time standing back and allowing me to take some risks," he said. "I'm still learning who I am as a person, but I'm lucky to have had parents that gave me this ability to meet new people, enjoy work and enjoy life in general."

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