Freshman working at Paris Fashion Week this summer

Sitting around a picnic table and giggling with her friends, Makenzie Tokes, a freshman majoring in apparel and textiles design, described her enthusiasm for hopping on a plane and heading to her favorite place for the summer. Only Tokes won’t be hitting up the typical tourist destinations when school gets out. Instead, she’ll be working behind the scenes at one of fashion’s hottest events: Paris Fashion Week.

Tokes recently scored a Fashion Week internship with Camille de Dampierre, a French wedding dress and ready-to-wear fashion designer. 

“I’ve never met someone that loves Paris as much as Makenzie,” said Katie Evans, a sophomore accounting major and one of Tokes' close friends. “I think the first day I met her she talked about how she wants to be a designer in Paris. She told me that she already had her brand name, and she told me everything about it. And I was like ‘This girl. She has her life planned.’”

From a young age, Tokes dreamed of living in Paris, starting her own brand and opening up a storefront. This goal attracted her to apply for an internship at Paris Fashion Week. She traces her fascination with the city back to her childhood when her parents travelled there and told her all about it upon their return.

“Ever since I was about 8, I became obsessed with Paris,” Tokes said. “I said for my 16th birthday I wanted to go there, and I did. When I was around 12, I sang a solo to a French song, and even my bedroom at home right now is decorated all French. So it’s kind of travelled with me.”

Tokes will be spending the month of May with Dampierre, learning her trade and preparing for the main event.

“I would hope that I take away a lot of skills from [interning] and learn how she started up her own brand by herself — she’s her own, free designer,” Tokes said. “I want to take those skills to start doing that not only within my classes at the University, but with just getting ahead so that when I do leave college, I will have a brand established.”

Not only does Tokes aspire to make a name for herself in the fashion industry, she wants to use her talents to help the less fortunate as well. Tokes plans to use leftover materials from her designs to craft clothing for young girls in need.

“She’s persistent, she works harder than anybody her age, and I feel like she wouldn’t give up on something that’s her dream,” said Emily Faulkner, a junior majoring in exercise science and health. “Since I’ve met her, I know [her fashion career] is a lot of what she’s talked about and spent so much time on and worked so hard for, so there’s no reason she shouldn’t be successful.”

Tokes applied for her internship online before Thanksgiving Break and spent almost the rest of the school year participating in phone interviews as the pool of applicants was slowly narrowed down. Once the final students were chosen, they were matched with designers based on their similarities and interests in the realm of design.

“She specifically picked me out of my profile,” Tokes said. “They had to get some of my work that I’ve done and some of my drawing and sewing [samples] — what I’ve done so far at the University. She picked my stuff and thought we were similar and wanted me to come and work under her. So, basically I’ll be kind of an assistant to her.” 

Tokes was drawn to Dampierre’s vision. 

“She’s very feminine, and it’s extremely delicate design,” Tokes said. “So her wedding dresses are all just like frilly, very girly and everything is just kind of light and simple in a way. Everything has a floral aspect on it, and it just has a lot of girliness.” 

When Toke’s friends were asked how they would describe her own style, they mentioned words like chic, classy, poised, and very pink—all adjectives that fall in line with the work of Dampierre.

Those who know her best believe that Tokes’ long-held love of fashion and France has set her up for success. Molly Martin, a freshman biology major, emphasized Tokes' industrious attitude.

“I don’t know anybody else that’s as determined as Makenzie,” Martin said. “She’s going to get her way. And when I met her, she told me she wanted to go back to Paris, too — I think that’s a common theme. She told me that she was going open up all these stores and everything, but anyways, yep, she’s designing my wedding dress. She’s going to be great.”

Evans agreed that this internship should serve Tokes well, and she echoed the hopes of her friends for Tokes’s success.

“Not many people have such a passion for something, I feel like,” Evans said. “And literally, this is Makenzie’s life. This is what she wants for her entire life, so I want her to be able to do it and be successful.”

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