Stevens – The Institute of Business & Arts is proud to be celebrating 75 years of serving the St. Louis Metropolitan Area this year. We got our start in 1947 as Patricia Stevens College – a modeling and finishing school for women. Over the years, we’ve evolved; adding degree programs, transitioning to a co-educational student body, and updating our course catalog to remain competitive with the needs of employers in the region. To commemorate this milestone, we’re looking back and sharing the stories of some of the alumni who have made us who we are today.
Class of 2014 graduate, Alexandria “AK” Brown, has used her eye for style and trends to build a unique brand and business that serves the local fashion industry. We’ve written before about her role as the Fashion Connector and her efforts to bolster African American fashion creatives in the St. Louis region through Black in St. Louis Fashion. The breadth of her experience in the industry, coupled with her entrepreneurial approach, made her a natural fit for her latest roles as a Siba instructor. We caught up with AK to reflect on this “full-circle” moment, as well as her experience as a student.
What year(s) did you attend Siba and do you remember the exact name of the school at the time? Where was the campus located when you attended?
I attended between 2012-2014. I went to Siba during their rebrand. At first it was called Stevens Institute of Business & Arts, and eventually became Stevens – The Institute of Business & Arts. Our campus was located in the current building in Washington Ave.
What program did you graduate from?
Retail Management/ Fashion Merchandising
What reason(s) did you have for choosing to attend Siba?
I wanted to go to a fashion school that would be more accommodating to my situation of being a new/young mother.
What do you remember about the classes you took?
They actually prepared me for what I planned on doing at the time which was a big thing for me. Even some of the computer/business classes like Database ended up being really useful.
Do you remember approximately how many other students were in your classes? Do you keep in touch with anyone you met Siba?
Our classes ranged from 4-12 students, very diverse. Sometimes up to half men and half women. I met two of my best friends at Siba and are still close to this day.
What are some of your best memories/experiences?
Student government – we started it up again when I was there and I was student president. It was fun and that’s where I found some lifelong friends.
Is there a lesson and/or instructor that sticks with you to this day?
Fashion Development & Merchandising Department Chair, Lynne Wasson, and Business Administration Department Chair, Ratesha Nicholson. Being able to say they are my coworkers now is beyond crazy. They care about their students, inside and outside the classroom, as well as after you graduate. But to be honest, all of Siba is like that. It’s an experience you will not get at a larger university.
Please describe any further education you pursued after Siba, how your career evolved between then and now, and the kind of work you do now.
To keep it short and sweet (because it’s a lot), during Siba I started my fashion blog, and almost 10 years later it has evolved into my role as a fashion influencer, public figure, and strategist in St. Louis. After Siba I pursued my Masters from Lindenwood in PR. For a short time, I owned a boutique fashion PR business. Now I offer strategy plans to businesses who want to gain visibility for their fashion brands. I also own a non-profit called Black in St Louis Fashion, and a studio/magazine called PinkMuse.
What advice would you offer current Siba students?
My advice is to never give up. It’s cliché but it’s true. I went to Siba at a time where I didn’t know what direction I was headed. I just had a baby and moved back home. No car, took the metro link and walked to school for almost a year in order to stay on track with graduating. It may not be easy but I promise you, it’s going to be so worth it in the end.