An accomplished university professor, business owner and mentor, Chajuana Trawick has a simple motivation in her career.
“I want to help young people who were like me, looking for somebody that looked like me, as inspiration to be a fashion designer,” said Trawick, program chair and associate professor of Fashion Business & Design at Lindenwood University.
The Normandy High School alum’s mentorship extends beyond the collegiate level. Prior to joining the staff at Lindenwood, Trawick worked for two years as a substitute at her high school alma mater. It was during this time she and fashion design teacher Desiree Green reconnected. When Trawick joined Lindenwood in 2012, she invited Green and the Normandy students to participate in fashion shows at the university. It was an opportunity for high schoolers to showcase their work alongside college students.
The partnership was the beginning of what would eventually become a dual credit program in Fashion Design at the high school. Through the Early College Start dual credit program, juniors and seniors can earn up to six credit hours toward a Fashion Design degree at Lindenwood.
“No other high school has this program with Lindenwood,” Trawick said.
Normandy also has a dual enrollment partnership with St. Louis Community College through the Gateway to College program.
“I remember getting three credit hours through the [University of Missouri-St. Louis] Bridge Program when I was at Normandy,” Trawick said. “It changed my life.”
A first-generation college student in her family, Trawick earned her doctorate degree in Textile and Apparel Management, with a minor in Black Studies and emphasis in 20th Century African American Business History from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She said she was the first African American accepted into that UMC doctorate program. She also has a master’s degree in Business Administration and a bachelor’s degree in Fashion Merchandising and Design, both from Fontbonne University.
Normandy’s Fashion Design program prepares students for the ever-changing world of work, which means not only college readiness, but also career readiness.
“It has enhanced our curriculum because the content area meets industry standards and prepares students for the required industry-based assessment,” Green said.
Normandy students in the Fashion Design track earned recognition for their achievements in the field, earning gold and silver medals in the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) Family Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) STAR Event Competitions. They have earned this recognition for two consecutive years.
As program chair, Trawick ensures that the Fashion Design curriculum provides her students with a well-rounded experience. She has developed a study-abroad program and travelled with students to Paris, France. In May 2018, they visited Château des Milandes, a Renaissance castle in the Périgord region of France where fashion icon and St. Louis native Josephine Baker once called home. She described it as a life-changing experience.
“They had all of her costumes from her performances on display and diploma on the wall from Sumner High School,” the 1992 graduate recalled. “It was absolutely breathtaking to see that beautiful woman of color and all this admiration surrounding her.”
In the fall of 2017, Trawick was instrumental in expanding the university’s Fashion Design program to include a Fashion Business and Entrepreneurship degree.
When meeting with students, she discovered some were not interested in the creative side of the industry.
“They didn’t want to sew and construct,” she said. “They wanted to own their own boutiques. They wanted to work as a merchandiser or buyer.”
As a business owner, she knows first-hand both sides of the industry. She launched her custom design and clothing company, Designs by CVT, in her parents’ basement. She found her niche designing prom dresses. Her latest home business venture, the Fashion and Beauty Historical Society, provides consulting services for young adults. Trawick says the society's mission is to preserve the past, promote the present, and prepare future African-American entrepreneurs in the fashion and beauty industries.
“Whether you’re starting your own business, working in the industry or any industry, navigating college or just needing someone to talk to,” Trawick said, “helping students build their future is where I find my joy.”