UW Fashion Student Receives the Olive J. Smith Fashion Scholarship
Lauren Hirt, a 2011–12 student in the Certificate in Fashion: Concept to Market, was awarded the first Olive J. Smith Fashion Scholarship. The scholarship is funded by the Seattle branch of Fashion Group International (FGI) a global, nonprofit, professional organization with 5,000 members in the fashion industry. The group’s generous gift to the UW will provide one full tuition scholarship each year to a student in the certificate program.
The scholarship is awarded in the memory of Olive J. Smith, a fashion trailblazer once considered a grande dame of Seattle fashion. For over 50 years, she helped shape Seattle style by bringing an international perspective to regional fashion. Described as “a legend,” “a woman of great grace,” she was tenacious at unearthing new trends. Born in New York City in 1917, Smith began her fashion career at Macy’s in Manhattan, and was later recruited to Seattle in the 50’s to manage women’s apparel for the Bon Marche. In 1961 she received a call from Lloyd Nordstrom to join the Nordstrom Best Company and oversee their newly acquired women’s apparel business after the Nordstrom acquisition of Best Apparel.
Smith was a leader in creating new concepts such as the pantsuit that proved successful at a time when women business leaders were scarce; and if they were, they were required to wear a dress or skirt suit. In 1974, she declared, “pantsuits are here forever,” and wanted them to become a staple in the Northwest. “Chinese women have been wearing them for centuries…Why not? They are versatile, chic and comfortable,” said Smith, who was among the first American business women invited to Beijing by the Chinese government.
Smith was a student of business, and authored the first historical account of the apparel and fashion industry in the Pacific Northwest, which included customer needs based on the founding of companies like Eddie Bauer, Pacific Trail and Filson. She retired from Nordstrom in 1979, and passed away in 1996.
Portions of this article were excerpted from the Seattle branch of Fashion Group International website.