Martinez, creator of UC, resigns to pursue passion for fashion

The Southerner

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By Olivia Veira

Vincent Martinez has two letters tattooed to his ankle: UC.

“Your ink has the power to tell a story,” Martinez said. “UrbanCouture has been a part of my life for ten years and told a story,”

For 10 years, Martinez has worked tirelessly to hold fashion shows that showcase the work of Grady fashion designers in his program, UrbanCouture. After a decade of teaching fashion and art, Martinez has announced his resignation from Grady to pursue his interests in fashion.

“I have reached a point where I am ready to pursue opportunities which include everything from runway production to art direction to wardrobe styling,” Martinez said. “In order to pursue these career options, I had to resign from my job. It was also time. You know when the time is right and the time is right.”

Martinez’s coworker, John Brandhorst, saw Martinez’s resignation coming.

“I wasn’t surprised,” Brandhorst said. “He’s been involving himself at higher and higher levels in the fashion scene for the past few years.”

Martinez’s resignation did, however, come as a surprise to junior Sophia Smith,  who has been dreaming of becoming a senior designer since her freshman year.

Smith said she will miss Martinez, but is concerned there will not be a fashion program after Martinez leaves. She said he brings in a lot of publicity and resources through his connections and is worried that the…

Despite the setback, Smith said she will push to make sure that UrbanCouture lives on and would work to produce a student run show in the absence of a fashion teacher.

Martinez said he hopes the program will continue after he resigns. Even if he is not able to come back to oversee UrbanCouture next year, Martinez said he believes that the students, if not Dr. Murray, will try to keep the program alive.

“I can boast that my program can run itself for at least a full school year because I have taught my kids effectively and they know the expectations, the level of quality that we expect, so it’s very possible. It can be done. [The students] have what it takes.”

To ensure that UrbanCouture does not go away, Martinez offered to teach senior design parttime at Grady.

“Even though Dr. Murray loved the idea, a decision isn’t as easy as that,” Martinez said. “One thing I can guarantee is that Dr. Murray has the best interests of Grady in mind and I know he’ll do whatever he can do to keep UC alive.”

UrbanCouture has experienced much growth and change since its start. Martinez began with 40 students and two senior designers. He now has !!!

Principal Vincent Murray did not want to discuss Martinez’s resignation until it was final, but he said at the end of the school year the human resources department will place an ad on APS’s website advertising the opening. Shortly after, human resources will begin interviewing applicants for the position.

On Jan. 20 2012, Martinez received startling news: he owed APS $1,286 and had 10 days to decide how to pay it back. In a letter, APS informed Martinez that he could either return the money in installments over a 6 month period or repay the money all at once. Four months later, APS is threatening to take legal action against Martinez if he does not pay APS back.

“They’re mistaken,” Martinez said. “I don’t owe them anything, but APS refuses to look at individual cases. They just want money and they’ll go to any measure to collect money. Even if it’s unethical.”

Martinez said the recent APS pay scandal triggered the idea to resign, but that he ultimately decided to leave to pursue his other opportunities.

“My feelings for APS are different from my feelings for Grady,” Martinez said. “The district … well, they have their issues and they’re not pretty. I’m proud to say I’m a member of the Grady family. I would never say that about APS. Grady is just an amazing, incredible institution.”

Under Martinez’s direction, UrbanCouture has been praised by students, staff, and the community. The program has been featured in publications such as Jezebel, the Atlantan, Atlanta Magazine, the Sunday Paper, and the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Martinez said.

“[UrbanCouture] shot a pilot for MTV about four or five years ago,” Martinez said. “We also created and sponsored a charity event called Feed the Models, Save the World where the proceeds went to support the education of the dangers of eating disorders.”

The success of UrbanCouture has in turn created notoriety for Martinez. According to fashionado.net, Martinez was named teacher of the year in 2007 and received the Atlanta Families Award for Excellence in Education in 2010. Outside of school, Martinez has also been lauded. The Atlanta Fashion Awards named fashionado.net Best Fashion blog in 2010 and Martinez was named one of the best dressed Atlantans by the AJC’s Access Atlanta in 2011.

Although Martinez will miss Grady and UrbanCouture, he is excited about what he has planned for the future. The fashion program Martinez has nurtured since its inception has allowed Martinez to work alongside the most highly esteemed figures in the fashion industry. Since the start of UrbanCouture in 2001, Martinez created Doggies on the Catwalk in 2008, an annual fashion show that used to include the work of Grady students, but now showcases the designs of local stores such as Bill Hallman and Tootsies. Martinez also created a website called fashionado.net in 2009, and website has gained a lot of traffic since its inception. Martinez said he has readers across the country, in Europe and Asia. Martinez plans on doing freelance work in several aspects of fashion, varying from styling to art production.

“I’m laying down all the groundwork for a very successful summer and a very successful fall,” Martinez said. “I’ve got meetings with top modeling agencies, I’ve got meetings with reality TV celebrities, I’ve got meetings with successful wardrobe stylists. All these meetings are going to translate into employment.”

Brandhorst said he has enjoyed working alongside Martinez and hopes the fashion program will not end in his absence.

“I’ll miss him. I’ll miss his rhythm. We’ve spent a lot of years building a friendship,” Brandhorst said.

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