FROM 'JUST A DREAM' TO THE RUNWAY AND FAIRWAY
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February 5, 2024
Best buds from Notre Dame Prep get together to create an innovative brand of fashion for the golf industry.
During the last full week of January, Notre Dame Prep alums Julia Pagnucco and Raegan Kerr, both from the Class of 2016, were in Orlando, Florida, at the PGA Show, one of the biggest national events of the year for the business of golf. They were there to introduce The Garde, a women’s sporting and lifestyle brand they both launched recently from "just a dream."
"Since high school, we have always talked about creating a fashion brand someday," Pagnucco said on the eve of the Orlando show. "Raegan and I have always bonded over our interest in fashion and wanted to create something that reflected our own personal styles."
Kerr played on the varsity golf team all four years at NDP and while she enjoyed the sport, her favorite part of golf had always been the fashion part. Back then, according to Pagnucco, Kerr's best friend, creating a brand and business was "just a dream" they talked about but with no real idea of how they were going to make it happen.
"Eight years later, after college and grad school, we realized that we were in a great position to act on that dream," added Pagnucco, who graduated from the University of Michigan in 2020 with a degree in computer science. "We felt it was a matter of 'now or never' and decided to go for it. Looking back, The Garde really is a culmination of everything we've been working toward, even before we knew what exactly that was. Now we are really excited to see where this journey takes us!"
The fairway as runway
The Garde is a made-in-the-USA women’s sporting and lifestyle brand that Kerr and Pagnucco said is focused on updating traditional aesthetics with modern details. They believe they've hit the bulls-eye by "making the fairway the new fashion runway."
More from a recent press release: "Inspired by the intersection of game and lifestyle, The Garde designs functional but fashionable garments that allow women to easily transition from the golf course to the boardroom to happy hour. The Garde is carving a space for in-the-know women, offering a collection that challenges the status quo of traditional, outdated sportswear and opening doors for a new era of elegant athleticism."
Pagnucco said their start-up is direct-to-consumer through their website, the-garde.com, and will soon be found in select retailers across the country starting this spring.
"We also are planning a trunk show road trip for later this summer," she said, adding that all their clothing is made in New York City. "Keeping our development and production domestic was something that was important to us from the start."
IB influence at Notre Dame Prep
The two women said the Florida show went well and they're still trying to catch up. And while both of these young entrepreneurs are looking forward to big success with The Garde and long and rewarding careers in business, they can’t help but look behind to what likely helped make that possible.
"When I was at NDP, like most of my classmates, I had no idea where I would be at this point in my life, but I know that my time there had a major influence on who I am as a person today," said Kerr, a graduate of Miami University and the Parsons School of Design in New York City. "I learned to stay true to myself, follow my passions, and to appreciate and lean on the people who have been there for you since the beginning. Notre Dame Prep faculty, staff and families are still our biggest supporters, even eight years later."
Pagnucco, who also works at Google as a software engineer, was equally appreciative of her time at 1300 Giddings Road.
"In high school, I actually thought I was going to be a doctor," she said. "Although my path changed quite a bit, what I learned at NDP was how to work hard and persevere."
She said the International Baccalaureate program definitely influenced her way of thinking and to especially and always keep an open mind. "I think discussion-based learning helped me understand others' viewpoints, which was very important in college.
"The relationships I formed at NDP are still at the center of my life — Raegan still is my best friend and I met her there. I also am still very close with many others I met there, and I fondly remember all the teachers being amazing influences and resources.
"In my career as a software engineer and now as a new entrepreneur, I find my time at Prep gave me the tools to succeed — the math skills, the leadership skills, the critical-thinking skills, and most important, the confidence-in-myself skills!"
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About Notre Dame Preparatory School
Notre Dame Preparatory School is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. Notre Dame Preparatory School's upper school enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame Prep's middle and lower schools enroll students in pre-kindergarten through grade eight. All three schools are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDPMA is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the National Association of Independent Schools. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School, visit the school’s home page at www.ndpma.org.