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Former high-fashion designer on St. Catherine committee

Designer Erich Biehle with students in the design lab.
Designer Erich Biehle with students in the design lab.
Photo by Anupama Pasricha.

Swiss textile designer, turned sought-after consultant, Erich Biehle is the newest member of the Apparel Design and Fashion Merchandising Advisory Committee at St. Catherine University. 

In his 40-year career, Biehle has worked with Yves Saint Laurent, Givenchy, Gucci, Prada, Calvin Klein, Armani, Chanel and Michael Kors. He has also served as executive vice president for Bally International and president of the board of directors and CEO of the Abraham Group with companies in Zürich, Paris and New York.

“It’s great to have Erich on our committee,” says Anupama Pasricha, chair of the Department of Apparel, Merchandising and Design. “He brings an international and European perspective to our advisory group, and just like the other committee members, he is interested in the progress of our programs.”

Recently, the Swiss Federal Office for Culture selected Biehle to receive the 2014 Swiss Grand Prix Design for lifetime achievement. The annual award recognizes well-known designers who “constantly question, test and reinterpret design history and offer new ideas that inspire Swiss design.”

Tapping industry experts

St. Catherine University’s Apparel Design and Fashion Merchandising Advisory Committee was formed in 2009 by department faculty to strengthen the fashion merchandising and apparel design program. Members, who meet once a year, are made up of industry leaders from diverse backgrounds.

“The committee members help to ensure that our coursework is relevant and aligns with industry trends,” explains Pasricha. “At the first meeting, for example, we sought their feedback on industry expectations for our two programs — and based on their input, plus additional data from student exit interviews, we have made significant changes to our curriculum to better prepare students for jobs.”

The department faculty presented the revised plan of study to the committee this past March. Further changes were made based on new suggestions at that meeting.

“The advisory committee’s input is invaluable,” she says. “It is because of their advice that we have a strong retail math component and initiated the process of a program revision.” St. Catherine is the only university in the Associated Colleges of the Twin Cities with two fashion majors: apparel design and fashion merchandising.

Biehle met with St. Catherine students on the St. Paul campus earlier this year. In addition to providing senior portfolio critiques, he gave a public presentation and met with faculty to review the fashion curriculum. The St. Catherine University Internationalization Council funded his two-day visit.

Other advisory committee members include:

  • Amanda Bush-Natzel ’06, fashion designer
  • Anna Lee, technical designer/process engineer, Target Corp.
  • Anne Granger ’84, talent acquisition manager, Target Corp.
  • Audra Simmering ’93, senior director of product development and sourcing, Illume
  • Jill Renslow, vice president of business development, Mall of America
  • Josh & Delayna Sundberg, owners, Cliché boutique
  • Judy Jordan, Judy Jordan & Co.
  • Kim Pehle, director of retail development, Revman, International
  • Mary Kaufman, general manager, Goodwill Retail Store
  • Nancy Karason, OSKA Edina and Seattle, NAK Retail Mgmt. INC
  • Suzanne Hendricks, professor emerita, St. Catherine University
  • Susan Metzger, fashion designer
  • Jenele Grassle, vice president of merchandising, Bluestem Brands, Inc.

Read more about St. Kate's apparel design and fashion merchandising programs, and alumnae, in “Fashion Forward.” (SCAN, February 2012)

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June 25, 2014 by Pauline Oo

See also: Faculty, Leadership, Liberal Arts, Students