After three years at St. Thomas More, Caitlyn Beczkiewicz (STM ’16) had to make a tough choice. She could pursue a fourth year in Project Lead the Way engineering or enroll in AP Studio Art. The two classes shared the same time slot, so taking both was not an option. She liked her past engineering classes, but with hopes of pursuing a career in fashion design, she chose AP Studio Art, taught by Ms. Jodi Brzezinski.
“Ms. Brzezinski impacted me a lot, more than I realized until later,” said Beczkiewicz, who also took Brzezinski’s Art Fundamentals, Fibers, and Photography classes. “She was always very open to your ideas and what you wanted to do, even if it wasn’t necessarily what she was thinking.”
Her dream of being a fashion designer led her to the School of Human Ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she majored in Textile and Fashion Design. Since she was in third grade, Beczkiewicz wanted to design her own clothing, but after taking a weaving course early in her college career, she learned that the fashion industry had many more opportunities to pursue than just apparel.
Beczkiewicz credits Brzezinski’s Fibers class for giving her the foundation to excel in college art courses. “We didn’t have looms at St. Thomas More, but I was always using yarns and trying new things,” Beczkiewicz recalled. “Fibers is where I learned to crochet and dye fabrics, which I did a lot in college. Ms. Brzezinski taught me the fundamentals that I continue to use now.”
The COVID-19 pandemic hit during Caitlyn’s final semester, creating a massive disruption in her senior thesis. With only half of her collection completed, she could no longer access the university’s resources and equipment she needed for her project. She adapted, using her mother’s sewing machine to finish her collection.
Although the pandemic moved her senior fashion show from an in-person celebration to a virtual format, Beczkiewicz found a silver lining in this change. Her father, Craig Beczkiewicz (TM ’82), who is legally blind, could participate in a more accessible way.
“My dad always comes to my shows, but just being in the stands, he can’t see it,” Beczkiewicz explained. “The virtual show was good for him because he could look at the TV and actually see what I had made, and I could present to him in person what I had created.”
In August 2021, Caitlyn started a job with Chicago-based startup 511 Capital, which owns a portfolio of consumer brands. She expected to be designing belts and luggage, but on her first day at the job, she was handed dog harnesses and asked to create patterns for them. “I seem to take unconventional routes; I’m interested in doing the things that nobody thinks of.”
Beczkiewicz even utilizes her STM engineering classes in her position. “I got to use Inventor and other software, and now I’m using Autodesk Fusion 360 and a laser cutter, so the engineering background has been helpful.” Although she hopes to eventually work with clothing, Beczkiewicz is enjoying her first design job. “My favorite part is when my coworker brings in her dog, and she tries on something I made. I like creating things that look like art but are also functional.”
More of Caitlyn’s designs will hit the market in the coming months. They can be found on pawmob.com.
About the Author
Dan Steffes (TM ’03) is the Development & Alumni Director at STM. He has worked at St. Thomas More since July 2007 and has been head track & field coach since 2009.