Finalists, including Jeremy Kalteux, center, pose on stage during the 2019 Fashion Scholarship Fund Awards Gala on January 10, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Fashion Scholarship Fund )

With a new year comes new accomplishments, and one student at the University of Georgia is setting the bar as the first student from the university in history to be a finalist for the YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund.

Jeremy Kalteux, a junior fabric design major from Woodstock and one of the eight finalists for the fund, is the proud bearer of the prestigious title.

The YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund, a nonprofit organization founded in 1937, still stands true to its mission: to identify young, emerging talent in the fashion industry and help them succeed in the industry through providing scholarships, education and employment opportunities, according to the organization’s website.

“It starts with helping these young talents … and being with them even after they become alumni of the scholarship and they continue along their career path,” said Peter Arnold, the executive director of the FSF.

"I knew that I needed to apply for the scholarship, even if I didn’t win. I could tell that this organization genuinely wanted to help people who want to get out there in the fashion industry."

-- Jeremy Kalteux, YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund finalist

Spanx and swimwear

Kalteux found out about the FSF through a conversation with one of his fashion merchandising professors who suggested he apply for it.

“I started doing my research, and I knew that I needed to apply for the scholarship, even if I didn’t win,” Kalteux said. “I could tell that this organization genuinely wanted to help people who want to get out there in the fashion industry.”

The application process includes a written case study competition in one of the four following categories: marketing and merchandising, design and product development, technology and analytics or supply chain management. This year’s case study topic was globalization in the fashion industry. 

“It’s a very defined program and a group of over 600 judges will review the applications and decide on the winners,” Arnold said.

Kalteux chose to enter the contest in the design and product development category and he developed digital designs for a swimwear line for Spanx, a brand known for its shapewear technology. 

“I wanted to create something that truly wasn’t on the market,” Kalteux said. “It was a bunch of sketching and a bunch of research, and most people spent around 100-150 hours on their case studies.” 

"To be in the top eight from all across the nation was a dream and an honor. I brought something to the table and I earned it."

-- Jeremy Kalteux, YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund finalist

 Finals and finalists

Kalteux received news that he was a finalist for the scholarship during his final exams this past December.

“I had taken two finals and I had three left, so it was a really good time to find out [the results] because it gave me some motivation for sure,” Kalteux said.

Out of all the applicants, this year, 196 of them were selected to be general scholars and eight were finalists, Arnold said. General scholars each received $5,000, finalists received $15,000 and the winner received $35,000. This year, the competition was stiff and two winners between the finalists received the grand prize.   

With the scholarship money, Kalteux hopes to help pay off his student loans and also use the money during the summer for his pending internship in New York.

“[Living in New York] is obviously very expensive, so that money will definitely go toward paying for housing,” Kalteux said. 

Students who won the scholarship were also invited to attend the FSF Awards Gala from Jan. 9-11 in New York City, which included networking events with company recruiters, a career fair and the awards dinner.  This year’s honorees included Hal Lawton, the president of Macy’s, Martha Stewart and Ryan Seacrest. 

“The room is filled with 1,300 industry supporters that include wholesalers, designers and retailers who love the mission of our organization and contribute by supporting and funding the scholarships that we provide,” Arnold said.

For Kalteux, attending the gala was a once-in-a-lifetime experience he will never forget.

“It was a grand ballroom with a massive stage, and there were these huge screens that had the finalists’ names blown up across them,” Kalteux said. “We were treated like celebrities … and we even met celebrities such as Jake T. Austin from ‘Wizards of Waverly Place.’”

Kalteux plans to apply again for the scholarship next year as a senior and is excited to see what the future has planned for him in fashion.  

“To be in the top eight from all across the nation was a dream and an honor,” Kalteux said. “I brought something to the table and I earned it.”