Fashion student designs journey to success

By MARIA ANGULO

Patricia Ferrer is getting lots of attention for creating an apparel accessory that protects skin from the sun.

Originally from Dallas, Ferrer settled in Tucson and enrolled at Pima Community College to pursue a certification in fashion design.

At the end of her first course, she took home small pieces of scrap knit fabric. She manipulated a piece to cover the back of her hand, accidently creating a palm-free glove.

“This is when the ‘aha’ moment came, that I could create a palm-less glove,” she said.

Now, after the strike of serendipity, Ferrer is being honored with a Member of the Month award by Fashion Business Inc. in Los Angeles.

The FBI is a nonprofit organization that provides educational courses, training, networking and consulting to help apparel entrepreneur build their businesses.

“They help by providing tools and resources to build a successful business,” Ferrer said.

Ferrer will show her PalmFree Sunwear line in the FBI’s annual fashion show at Union Railway Stations in LA on Oct.18.

“It will be fun, educational and interesting to see other members and their designs,” she said. “I’ve never been to a function like this before, so it will be exciting.”

Fashion instructor Nancy Spaulding will also attend.

“I am going as her ‘assistant’ and, of course, mentor/instructor,” she said.

Spaulding recommended that Ferrer join FBI after coming across the group’s website and watching some of their videos.

“I recommend to Pat that she become involved in a nonprofit organization in LA that specifically caters to people starting their own apparel businesses,” Spaulding said.

“Through the consultancy of the FBI and the experienced fashion professionals who work with the FBI, Pat will gain further knowledge about the ins-and-outs of the trade,” Spaulding added.

Ferrer found out about the award from an FBI staffer who told her she was September member of the month.

Ferrer is also nominated as FBI member of the year, but remains modest. “I’m sure it will be tight competition,” she said.

Her instructor is rooting for her.

“She is the perfect example of a non-traditional student who came into our program to learn the things she needed to learn in order to start her apparel business,” Spaulding said.

Spaulding thinks Ferrer’s success sends a larger message. “It is never too late to learn new skills,” Spaulding said. “She inspires many people in our area, our community and college.”

Ferrer has been focusing on creating a line of sun protective apparel accessories, such as hats, sleeves and lightweight shrugs.

“Once this line is in place, I would like to expand on colors and focus on marketing,” she said.

Ferrer earned a bachelor of science degree as a physician assistant from the University of Texas Medical Branch and a master of physician assistant degree with a specialization in dermatology.

As a physician assistant, she treats skin cancer and pre-cancers daily in the clinic where she works. She has seen the damage that intense sun can inflict on the skin on the back of hands.

Her love for tennis also inspired her invention. Using sunscreen to protect her hands affected her playing because the grip on her racket was slippery.

“In an effort to protect the skin on my hands, I’ve always wanted a palm-less sun protective glove,” she said. “I tried the ones available but they are ‘one size fits all,’ either too big, too cumbersome or they have Velcro that snags everything and eventually no longer works.”

Ferrer has an active lifestyle that extends beyond designing.

In 2008, she and her partner Bruce decided to leave Tacoma, Washington. They sold their house and 95 percent of their possessions, and hopped into a van.

“We camped our way through the Northwest passage, Alaska, Yukon, British Columbia, the western U.S. states and ended up spending eight months south of the border in Mexico, Guatemala and Belize,” she said.

While driving through Mexico, they stopped in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas. Ferrer asked around for a medical volunteer opportunity.

She was told about Sergio Castro, who provides wound care to patients for free since Chiapas has no burn clinics or wound care facilities.

“The time I spent with him had a profound effect on me,” Ferrer said. “Since then, I have returned to help him annually, two weeks at a time.”

Ferrer did not know if she wanted to invest extensive work in her palm-less glove idea but  thought about creating a small business.

After one of her trips to Chiapas, she decided to move forward with the business. She donates her profits to Castro’s foundation, Yok Chij.

Ferrer is proud that her PalmFree Sunwear company has the Sunglove as a signature product.

“As a dermatology clinician, I see that many outdoor enthusiasts can benefit from this product to reduce their risks of skin cancers and photodamage,” Ferrer said. “This was created for tennis players, golfers and hikers, and can be worn when driving or cycling.”

The gloves are made with UPF50 fabric that can block up to 98 percent of solar radiation, according to Ferrer.

Meanwhile PCC’s Fashion Club is growing.

Members have numerous events planned for the year, including fashion shows, guest speakers, bake sales and field trips. On Oct. 29, a body scanning group from Washington D.C. will scan people to create custom dress forms.

“Exciting technology,” Spaulding said.

The fashion department is working closely with Arizona State University for transfer opportunities to a new bachelor’s degree in fashion design.

The department is also working to add at least one more certification, in event planning and styling.

To learn more about Pat Ferrer’s clothing business, visit palmfreesunwear.com.

Information about the fashion club is posted at facebook.com/West-Campus-Fashion-Club-1597032010531992.

For more information about the fashion program, visit facebook.com/pimafash

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