The Orange Scholarship Fund Association awarded scholarships to seven outstanding high school seniors at its annual Awards Reception at the Case Memorial Library on June 11. The winners are Michael Cannata, Christopher Cassella, Jordan D’Onofrio, Mary Kate Fox, Brandon Liebnick, Katherine Meehan, and Stephanie Lin Satonick.
Before the awards were made, the audience was treated to a lively and inspiring talk by 1999 Amity graduate Sapna Shah, now a designer of luxury handbags. Tracing her pathway into the fashion industry from her high school graduation, Shah recalled her excitement at the world of possibilities that opened when she went to Tufts University. Though she started as pre-med, she was also deeply engaged with courses in painting and illustration and the other arts. Eventually the arts won out, and Shah graduated with a major in American Studies and minors in studio art and Spanish. Still uncertain of what she would do, she was led toward the fashion industry by her interest in “creating and applying art in a practical manner,” an interest bolstered by magazine summer internships. A first job designing sweat suits led to work at Coach, where she learned to design handbags. Shah called it “a perfect creative marriage of art and science,” making an item not merely pretty but functional, able to “hold a certain amount of weight and pass a series of tests”.
But eight years later, after moves to Calvin Klein, then to Rag & Bone, always increasing her knowledge and skills but also becoming disillusioned by the callous and glitzy aspects of the business, Shah was threatened with burnout. Rescue came with the chance to go to Swaziland, to work with native women artisans to develop a collection of handbags that incorporated their traditional weaving techniques with leather. “It was an opportunity to create elevated product and garner more income for the women and economic sustainability,” Shah said. The resulting brand, named Khokho, has now been successfully launched in New York.
Though she returned to New York, to design a handbag collection for Eddie Borgo, Shah has arranged to return to Swaziland annually to continue her work with Khokho. “Never be afraid to dream big,” she advised her listeners. “There is no right or wrong in one’s career but rather, finding the path that brings out your true potential.”
After presentation of the awards, guests mingled over punch and cookies.