Featured Alumni Stories

Learning a New Language Abroad: Fashion

Amanda Pastyrnak set off for Zaragoza with an open mind and open eyes, and what she found there has kept them open since.

Surpassing the highest Spanish course offered in her high school, Pastyrnak found herself in conversational AP Spanish with native speakers by her sophomore year. When she learned about SYA, she decided it was the logical next step in her path.

Her life in Zaragoza certainly helped shape her future. As she says, "making a life in a foreign country and growing to feel at home there opened the world up to me in a very real way. After that, the thought of entering a new environment didn't seem scary anymore. Whether it was going to Boston College, spending my junior year in Paris, or more abstractly, embarking on a entrepreneurial career. SYA taught me that the unfamiliar can become dear very quickly if you are open to let it. I think it surprised me how quickly Spain felt familiar, and like home, actually."

It was also in Spain that she first set roots in the fashion industry. Resident Director Griffin Morse ES'04-'11RD ES'13-'14RD connected Pastyrnak with a clothing manufacturer who let her help in the atelier before school and work in the retail store after school. And, "because all of the teachers took such a personal interest in our passions and hobbies, one of my other teachers, Angeles [María Ángeles Errazu], offered to sew one of my designs for me, and I ended up wearing it to my high school graduation back in Massachusetts." Pastyrnak's time in Zaragoza became the first time she merged her academic pursuits with her love of fashion design and creation.

Pastyrnak started her brand, Olga Pastyrnak, in 2014 after working briefly at another contemporary clothing brand and realizing that her love wasn't for fashion, exactly, but for creating and promoting a new idea of dressing for women. That passion couldn't be fulfilled anywhere but with her own brand. While most fashion brands are understood based on physical characteristics, Olga Pastyrnak is built on a message, meaning Pastyrnak is "careful that each piece represents this message well, whatever the physical product looks like."

"When creating the brand," Pastyrnak says, "I would think of all the formidable women I've ever met — meaning the smartest, the wisest, the most successful, the most generous, the most confident, the most humble ... and I create the ideal woman based on these characteristics, and then I try to imagine what THAT woman would wear. Olga Pastyrnak promotes the idea that a woman should value her inner assets above her physical assets, and her physical appearance should indicate this, including her wardrobe."

Just as she embraced the language in Zaragoza, Pastyrnak has embraced the language of fashion. Pastyrnak sees her job as creating the clothes that communicate a positive message that a woman can take pride in. She said, "My goal is to engineer garments that are sharp, chic, and elegantly simple, so that one associates the woman with these characteristics as well, and allows her to best represent herself."

Learn more about Pastyrnak's fashion line here.