University of Fashion Blog

Category "Fashion Education"

Posen Shutters His House As the UoF Opens Doors for Future Designers

Fashion times, they are a changin’.

In just the past few weeks alone, once fashion darling Zac Posen has closed his doors and the iconic retailer Barneys has closed its remaining doors, two more signs that fashion design and retail operations as we’ve known them for so many years are in fact yesterday’s news.

To Posen’s credit, he can claim the story many emerging designers have aspired to. With semesters spent at Parsons and Central Saint Martins, a long line of celebs who have worn his gowns on the red carpet and fame as an expert judge on Project Runway, some would claim that Posen’s run in the fashion world is the stuff an emerging designer’s dreams are made of. And truthfully, Posen lasted much longer in a crumbling model than most. He even starred in his own documentary, House of Z, detailing the behind the scenes successes and struggles over the years.

In 2008, when my fellow fashion school graduates and I landed in NYC after graduating from the Academy of Art in San Francisco, several of us were overcome with jealousy when one of us scored an internship with Zac Posen. It was a tough economic time in which fashion companies were laying off employees, and so many of us had given up on the thought of getting a “real job” in fashion and instead were fighting for unpaid internships with the hope that they would lead to paid positions.

Even then, I can remember the bright fashion stars I had in my eyes beginning to dim as I watched my talented classmate drape his heart out for Posen, often leaving our apartment at 6:30 am to make it to the studio by 7:00 am, not to return until well after 7:00 pm (and without pay). When one of my classmate’s creations ended up on Posen’s runway, we thought for sure, this would be his big break. But as was (and may still be) commonplace with companies headed by a singular famous face, my classmate’s “internship” was over once the season was over and Posen’s runway show was complete. Posen was on to the next group of eager “interns.” And my classmate? He was left with crippling student loans to pay and still, no job.

I share this story because it illuminates the reasons why we are finally seeing a real shift in the fashion industry. And why we’ve got to let go of what has been been considered success in the fashion industry in the past (fame, celebrity, elaborate shows season after season) and instead look toward a more sustainable future in fashion for emerging designers. Posen himself (guided by his mother) saw how unsustainable the fame-party-celebrity red carpet style of designing and running a business was back in 2010. Posen’s decision to branch out into collaborations and more affordable mass market options in order to keep the sought after design dream alive was detailed in WSJ. And yet even with this forethought, Posen’s high end business ultimately couldn’t survive.

Fast forward to today and even educators from top fashion schools (in fact, my former director, Simon Ungless at the Academy of Art in San Francisco), have started to question their own fashion programs, wondering if they are in fact preparing their students for what the fashion world holds. Ungless recently suggested that fashion schools are preparing students for an industry that doesn’t exist (read Ungless’ full interview here) and that if students aspire to celebrity as a fashion designer, they should “make a sex tape.”

Aside from the fact that today’s students in traditional fashion design programs are still striving for that final fashion show in hopes of being noticed by industry professionals (which ultimately may happen to a select handful of graduates), the college debt load students are accumulating is real. A single semester at Parsons, including tuition, books, room and board is approximately $60,000 and at FIT, around $45,000. Multiply that by the number of semesters it takes to graduate and we are talking upwards of $200,000 spent on an education that may or may not pay for itself.

And while we will never say “we told ya so,” the University of Fashion was conceived and developed years ago as a direct response to the issues we are seeing today, including:

• the prohibitive high cost of a traditional fashion education
• the lack of jobs/opportunity in the fashion industry to make a high-cost education pay off
• the changing skills/mindset needed to “make it” as a fashion designer in today’s fashion landscape

Maybe Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, et al. have a point—forego college and invest that money in your own start-up. Learn fashion design at UoF, get your technical skills and then use your money to launch and advertise your own brand. Imagine the possibilities when you let go of the idea that you must have a degree from Parsons, an internship with Marc Jacobs and celebrity status as a 20-something designer with a Hadid wearing your brand on Instagram.

There are so many ways for emerging designers to “make it” in the fashion industry of tomorrow, because the industry is yours to create. Instead of aiming for super stardom and spending a fortune on a traditional fashion education, get creative with different ways to break into the fashion industry. Use online resources to create a niche design item and learn how to market yourself via social media. Follow a path that feels authentic and genuine to you and think outside the box. We truly believe designers CAN make a living at what they love through research, social media savvy and creative thought. How about a new young designer pop-up store collective? Already paving a new path forward in the fashion industry? We want to know about it! Inspire others by sharing in the comments below.

GOING GREEN, HOW DENIM LABELS ARE EMBRACING SUSTAINABILITY

M.i.h. Jeans practices denim sustainability. (Photo Courtesy of WWD)

Climate change, global warming, plastic in our oceans, these are all real threats that have not just Millennials and Generation Zers worried, but should be a concern for people of all ages. As Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s “Green New Deal” is receiving plenty of publicity, we as a design community must realize that we are among the top polluters of our planet, actually, according to Ethical Unicorn, we rank #5. Not a number that we should be proud. So, what can we do as an industry to lower our ranking? Who are the brands who are leading the way?

Well, while there are literally thousands of fashion brands and companies around the world, there are not as many as there should be in our industry moving towards sustainability and who are consciously making an effort to reduce waste and pollution that our industry causes.

We’d like to give a shout-out to two ‘green’ advocates, Stella McCartney and Christopher Raeburn. These designers were among the ten fashion companies that have recently received the inaugural CO10 Leadership Award, an award that recognizes companies that have set down a pathway towards sustainability.

Christopher Raeburn fitting a model in one of his looks. (Photo Courtesy of WWD)

The award is presented by Common Objective, a network that connects more than 10,000 professionals in the fashion, retail and textile industries that share knowledge and best sustainability practices. Other companies that were honored were, Osklen, Bottletop, Indigenous, Outland Denim, Mayamiko, Sonica Sarna Design, Ethical Apparel Africa and The Rajlakshmi Cotton Mills.

“The industry has seen an incredible amount of traction over the past year, from increased consumer demand and government engagement, to the abundance of new entrants that focus on sustainability,” said Harold Tillman, former chairman of the British Fashion Council. The overall CO Leadership Awards are given to fashion brands that champion innovation in sustainability.

On December 10, 2018, Stella McCartney launched a program during the Katowice Climate Change Conference in Poland, which addressed various issues in the fashion industry, such as pollution, deforestation, low carbon production methods, and toxicity in products. Another goal for McCartney is to create awareness among students and designers that there are more environmentally-friendly ways to create collections. Today, more than ever, customers are aware and looking to purchase from brands that are focused on sustainability.

Stella McCartney at the Katowicw Climate Change Conference in Poland (Photo Courtesy of WWD)

Denim Sustainability News

While the majority of the population would love to purchase clothing that is environmentally-friendly, let’s face it, many cannot afford Stella McCartney’s hefty price point. But environmentalists will be happy to hear that everyone’s favorite closet staple, denim, is helping to lead the way towards sustainability.

Denim is one of the most popular fashion items around the world, but the mass production of this wardrobe staple has turned into an environmental nightmare. Remember the footage from China when a river turned blue from a nearby denim factory? Clearly denim dyes and water consumption are both harmful to the environment. However, today, the industry is searching for ways to help clean up the process and build a more sustainable supply chain. The denim industry is slowly joining together to create an ecosystem focused on sustainability practices.

Denim dyes damage the environment (Photo Courtesy of Forbes)

This past February at the Première Vision Textile Trade Show in Paris, a group of experts from the denim world gathered together for a panel hosted by Isko, a leading Turkish denim mill. The topic… the “Unlimited Possibilities of Responsible Denim.” Panelists included: Ebru Ozkucuk Guler (CSR executive at Isko), Miles Johnson (designer at Stan Ray denim and and previously at Patagonia and Levi Strauss & Co.), Rachel Pearce (director of denim consultancy firm Denimhand) and François Girbaud (owner Marithé + François Girbaud).

Isko’s sustainable denim panel Première Vision Textile Trade Showin Paris. (Courtesy Photo WWD)

Consumers today are intelligent. They want more transparency about the clothing and products they are purchasing. According to Miles Johnson, “it is high time, with all the confusion over certification, for governments to start implementing standards.”

The panel was in agreement that the idea of phasing out cotton was not realistic, but embracing new approaches to the cotton supply chain and implementing dye and waste management practices are vital for the industry’s survival.

Here’s what the panelists said: 

“We’re not going to stop doing cotton jeans, so let’s just do it better. But you have to have a big idea for 25 years down the road that everyone signs up for, and then we can all start trekking toward the same spot. Unfortunately we’re not there yet, and it’s all still a bit scattered,” Johnson said. Adding that “Cotton now has a bad name, like plastic. If people hear plastic now they go, ‘Ooh, bad.’ It’s not bad, the world just isn’t set up so that we can handle recycling, because we haven’t invested in waste disposal, so we’re not catching plastic at the end and turning it back into fiber.”

Pearce added, “We can grow cotton better, we can be more responsible with cotton, but our biggest enemy is the amount that’s going to landfill, to waste. But the cotton that’s going to landfill, it’s going to biodegrade; it’s the polyester we should be worried about, it currently stays in our environment for up to 120 years before breaking down.”

“We are in an incredibly wasteful industry, [but] I do commend everyone in the denim industry because at least we’re a step ahead of the sportswear industry,” concluded Johnson. “People are having these conversations a lot more in denim than they are in anything else.”

Blue + Denim practices denim sustainability. (Photo Courtesy of WWD)

 

Here are some possible solutions: 

Case in point, this past October in Amsterdam at the Kingpins Fair Trade Show, sustainability in denim was a key issue being tackled by experts. Posters detailing water-saving processes, potassium permanganate-free finishes and recycled fabrics were in front of most stands, and they were easy to spot from afar thanks to their symbolic green and blue hues.

M&J Group, a Bangladesh-based manufacturer, added green tags to each garment, that labeled the level of water, gas or chemicals used for the conception of each denim piece. Meanwhile, at Global Denim, the manufacturer promoted EcoloJean technology. Their posters illustrated a regular pair of jeans next to a pile of water bottles, explaining that it takes 20 liters of water to dye a single pair of jeans. The EcoloJean technology, said the poster, boasts zero water discharging.

Another big initiative in going green is fabric made from recycled plastic bottles.  “We’ve just sourced a fabric called Repreve, made from recycled plastic bottles,” said Tara Jessop, who was attending with Rebekah Hough, a fellow designer at Fundamental, a British denim manufacturer that counts the Arcadia group among its clients. “We’ve just sourced a fabric called Repreve, made from recycled plastic bottles,” said Tara Jessop, who was attending with Rebekah Hough, a fellow designer at Fundamental, a British denim manufacturer that counts the Arcadia group among its clients. “We keep seeing the green plastic bottle tags on every stand. They are an amazing marketing tool; they help the customer understand the process,” she added.

(Photo courtesy Reprove.com)

(Photo courtesy Reprove.com)

Thankfully, more affordable denim mills are now taking steps towards sustainability.  “We’ve been going round to each stand to ask them what they’ve been doing from a sustainable angle,” said Lee women’s designer Natasha Goforth, who added that the brand was looking to make its carryover fabrics more sustainable. “But we’re looking at every single element: fabrics, trims, finishes. It’s not just about the sustainability of the fabric itself, but rather how we can bring in more elements of sustainability to our brand,” she added.

DL 1961 Denim practices sustainability when producing denim. (Courtesy Photo)

Australian’s Outland Denim is facing challenges managing sudden rapid growth due to the brands ethical focus, The brands founder James Bartle stated “Integrity is everything to us as a business. The goal is to be a big part of changing the fashion industry for good. Our strategy is to be product-focused, to not be a charity and to create a genuinely sustainable business model that changes people’s lives and the environment at the same time.”

Outland Denim (Commercial Photography Cambodia)

ABLE Denim has adapted to sustainability practices. (Photo Courtesy of WWD)

TO ALL OF OUR UOF DESIGNERS AND MANUFACTURERS – HOW ARE YOU MAKING A DIFFERENCE TO BECOME MORE SUSTAINABLE? WE’D LOVE TO FEATURE YOU IN OUR BLOG. LET US KNOW

 

Future of Textiles: Color-Changing Fabric Controlled with an App?

Color Changing Threads (Photo Courtesy of CNBC.Com)

Color changing threads (Photo Courtesy of CNBC.com)

Imagine the cave man’s reaction going from animal skins to the advent of textiles. Around 5,000 BCE, textiles made from wool, cotton and silk fibers were being woven in Egypt, India and China. Those fibers and methods of weaving were the mainstay of the industry until the advent of man-made textiles like rayon in 1855, viscose 1894 and acetate in 1910. Then, along came the big disruptors…synthetic fibers. These included nylon (1931), polyester (circa 1941), modacrylic (1949) and acrylic (1950). Then there was a trend in creating fabric out of more sustainable fibers and materials such as bamboo, corn, pineapple and even plastic bottles and of course silver nanoparticles used used to impart antimicrobial properties to cotton fibers to aid in the healing of wounds.

Now… enter the 21st century and the latest version of textile disruption …technology. In our blog last week, we discussed the innovative possibilities of 3D and laser printing and the growing list designers who are embracing a futuristic approach to fashion. Let’s check out how technology is affecting and shaping the world of textiles.

This past spring, college researchers in Florida created a temperature-controlled color-changing fabric  known as ChroMorphous. Consumers will now have the ability to change the color and pattern of their handbag or scarf, so that it matches their outfit…all possible with a tap of their smartphone.

This backpack can change its color on demand to match your mood. (Image Courtesy of UCF)

This backpack can change its color on demand to match your mood. (Image Courtesy of UCF)

Dr. Ayman Abouraddy, professor of optics and photonics at the College of Optics & Photonics at the University of Central Florida (CREOL), stated that the age of user-controlled color-changing fabric is here. “Our goal is to bring this technology to the market to make an impact on the textile industry,” he said.

So, how does ChroMorphous work? How can fabric change color and pattern? According to Dr. Abouraddy, “each woven thread is equipped with a micro-wire and a color-altering pigment. You can use your smartphone to change the color or pattern of the fabric on-demand, as the wire can alter the temperature of the fabric in a quick and uniform way. The change in temperature is barely noticeable by touch.”

Abouraddy and Josh Kaufman have been working on optical technology for over a decade at CREOL, but it has only been in the past couple of years that they have veered away from that work, to produce this new kind of fabric. “This is the culmination of our work,” said Kaufman. “We developed different fabrication techniques. This is our first foray in taking those optical fibers into fabric.”

Color Changing Fabric That Can Be Controlled With A Smartphone (Photo Courtesy of CNBC.Com)

Color and pattern changing fabric that can be controlled with a smartphone (Photo Courtesy of CNBC.com)

In the past, color-changing fabrics contained light-emitting diodes, better known as LED’s, that release light in a variety of colors. But ChroMorphous’ technology enables innovative capabilities, in that consumers can control the color as well as the pattern in woven fabrics and cut-and-sewn products.

The threads are made from a synthetic polymer. Within each thread there is a thin metal micro-wire. Electric currents flow through these micro-wires, changing the thread temperature, slightly higher. But don’t worry they do not touch the customer’s skin. Embedded in the thread are special pigments that respond to the change in temperature by changing the thread’s color.

Just think of the infinite possibilities this advanced technology gives designers and consumers. ChroMorphous allows the user to control, both when the color change happens and what pattern they want to appear on the fabric. All this is possible with just a simple press of a button on your smart device.

“Can we expect an ever-expanding range of functionalities from our clothing? These were the questions we asked when creating the ChroMorphous technology that we began developing in 2016,” Abouraddy said. He claims that the technology is scalable at mass-production levels via a process known as fiber-spinning and is currently produced in Melbourne, Florida, with CREOL’s collaborators at Hills Inc. Founded in 1971, Hills Inc. is a well-known innovator in multi-component fiber extrusion technologies.

The CREOL team is working closely with Hills Inc. to minimize the diameter of the threads in order to produce fabrics for the wide-scale market. This innovative fabric can be used in everything from clothing and accessories to furniture and home decor.

So, I’m sure you want to know…how is the fabric charged and how can it be washed? Well, the fabric is powered by a rechargeable battery pack that is hidden inside the clothing. The texture of the fabric is like denim, and it can be washed and ironed.

Abouraddy stated that he expects mass production to begin within the next year. At the moment, the threads are too thick for clothing, but they will work with bags, scarves, and backpacks. “We would reduce the threads in the future to make it more comfortable for a shirt,” Abouraddy said. “It’s not just for things you would wear. It could be used for upholstery, wall decorations for a room … you could change it to darker and more soothing colors.”

Your handbag can change its color thanks to ChroMorphous. (Image Courtesy of UCF)

Your handbag can change its color thanks to ChroMorphous. (Image Courtesy of UCF)

This product is the result of a decade’s worth of research with the past year and a half focused on textiles. It may have taken centuries to get here but wow, the future of textiles has never been more exciting than it has been in just the past decade. Wonder what the future has in store?

So tell us, are you ready to embrace the future of technological textiles?

 

5 Surefire Ways to Get Inspired Today

I’ve always wanted to teach a class on how to find inspiration as a fashion designer. I’ve often thought, “How dreamy to spend my days finding and exploring what inspires me, never mind the satisfaction that would come from fostering inspiration in others.” For me, finding inspiration is the most thrilling part of what we get to do as designers. Read More

A Proud Look Back and a Sneak Peek into What’s Ahead at the University of Fashion

Happy 2018, U of F designers! 2017 has wrapped, and our hope for you in 2018 is that you take a moment to look back and recognize your accomplishments over the past year with as much excitement as you look forward to your new goals.

So, what are your top 3 proudest moments of 2017?

And your top 3 plans for 2018?

We’re asking ourselves the same questions. Read More

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons:

Art of the In-Between  

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibit

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibit

 

Is fashion art? This has always been a debate among the creative crowd, but a walk through this year’s Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute spring 2017 exhibit, the answer is clear.  The exhibition focuses on the avant-garde works of Rei Kawakubo, the reclusive founder and designer behind the cult label Comme des Garçons. The fashion forward exhibition, Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between, is on view from May 4 through September 4, 2017.

The show examines Kawakubo’s obsession with the space between boundaries. Her aesthetic can be viewed as unsettling at times, but upon close examination, her work wavers on creative genius. Kawakubo challenges the conventional perception of beauty, good taste, and fashion. A thematic exhibition, rather than a traditional retrospective, this is The Costume Institute’s first single-subject show on a living designer since the Yves Saint Laurent exhibition in 1983.

“Rei Kawakubo is one of the most important and influential designers of the past 40 years,” said Andrew Bolton, Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute. “By inviting us to rethink fashion as a site of constant creation, recreation, and hybridity, she has defined the aesthetics of our time.”

 

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibit

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibit

Walking through the exhibit it is clear that Kawakubo has blurred the line between art and fashion. She is pushing us to think differently about clothing. Her creations are sculptural, intelligent and creative. She deconstructs fashion to the core. Her genius is that she is challenging us to think differently about fashion and beauty. According to Francesca Sterlacci, the Founder/CEO of University Of Fashion, “She challenged the status quo meaning of clothes and succeeded in disrupting the notion of  ‘traditional beauty.’ In light of the controversy over body fat and body shaming, Kawakubo sends a powerful message.”

 

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibit

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibit

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibit

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibit

 

The exhibition showcases approximately 120 examples of Kawakubo’s womenswear designs for Comme des Garçons, dating from her first runway show in 1981 to her most recent collection. The white-walled exhibit is broken into nine dominate and recurring aesthetic expressions in Kawakubo’s work: Absence/Presence, Design/Not Design, Fashion/Anti-Fashion, Model/Multiple, High/Low, Then/Now, Self/Other, Object/Subject, and Clothes/Not Clothes. Each section examines the “in-betweenness.”  The exhibit guidebook suggests a pathway through the circular layout inhabited by puzzle-piece-like structures framing the looks, but guests also are encouraged to choose their own adventures and let their imaginations go wild.

 

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibit

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibit

In her career, the 74-year old designer has been hailed a revolutionary; she has managed to break down the imaginary walls between these dualisms, exposing their artificiality and arbitrariness. Her fashions demonstrate the endless possibilities to rethink the female body and feminine identity. The exhibit reflects Kawakubo’s enduring interest in blurring the boundaries between body and dress.

Studying Kawakubo’s work it becomes clear, she loves to experiment with forms and clearly ignores the norm — she is in a constant search for “newness.” Her clothes are sculptural objects, non-functional at times, but maybe we should forget about clothing and we should view Kawakubo’s work as a true contemporary artist whose tools involve fabrics, utility and the body.

Rei Kawakubo said, “I have always pursued a new way of thinking about design…by denying established values, conventions, and what is generally accepted as the norm. And the modes of expression that have always been most important to me are fusion…imbalance… unfinished… elimination…and absence of intent.” A hallmark of the Japanese philosophy of wabi-wabi.

 

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibit

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibit

To learn more about Rei Kawakubo and other key players in the fashion industry, pick up the second edition of “The Historical Dictionary of the Fashion Industry” (due out in August) by UoF’s founder Francesca Sterlacci, as well as checking out Google’s latest project “We Wear Culture” – Now the world will get to see Kawakubo’s genius.

 

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibit

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibit

 

 

 

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibit

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibit

 

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibit

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between Exhibit