Columbia College Chicago

Annual Report 2011

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Caren Oliver

BA ’12, Fashion Design

Noteworthy Accomplishment
  • Winner, BET’s Lens on Talent Fashion Competition, 2011

Columbia has been my door to opportunity and success.

When Caren Oliver was a child, her parents dressed her and her nearly identical younger sister in similar outfits. But a strong sense of individuality led Oliver to change her dress or hair so she would stand out.

Perhaps that—and early exposure to live fashion shows at Columbia by way of high school field trips—is why she is already making a name for herself in the fashion industry.

Raised in Naperville, Illinois, Oliver came to Columbia in fall 2010 after receiving an associate’s degree. One year later, she won the BET Lens on Talent fashion competition, which awarded a $10,000 prize for her designs. Those winnings went right back into her studies by buying fabric for her senior thesis project, an evening wear collection inspired by the idea of “turning dreams into reality.”

After graduating in May, Oliver moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the fashion industry.

Oliver credits Columbia with giving her the framework to apply her skills, providing a realistic outlook on the industry, and allowing her to learn from professionals still working in the field of fashion. “The Fashion Department is set up to teach us every aspect of what it takes to complete a project, so we learn everything from the textiles to actually designing our garments,” she says.

“Columbia has been my door to opportunity and success and is somewhere where I know I can go back to if I ever need anything.”


Play Caren Oliver video

Caren Oliver discusses the perks of being an award-winning fashion designer.

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