University of Fashion Blog

Category "Fashion Innovation"

Meet Anna Leighton – AI Fashion Design Pioneer

 

 

Anna Leighton –Top 10 fashion design winner from AI Fashion Week-Season 1 (Image Credit: Anna Leighton)

Anna Leighton –AI fashion design winner from AI Fashion Week – Season 1 & 2 (Image Credit: Anna Leighton)

If you’re an ardent follower of artificial intelligence and what this technology means for fashion designers, then you might already be ‘in the know’ about AI Fashion Week. Especially if you have been reading our blog for the past two years. AI Fashion Week was spearheaded by visionary minds at Maison Meta, the world’s first AI generative agency founded in New York City in 2022 by Cyril Foiret, in partnership with next-generation online retailer Revolve Group.

The UoF blog covered the First AI Fashion Week (AIFW-April 2023) and the Second AI Fashion Week, November 30 – December 1, 2023, which is where you would have learned about Anna Leighton, one of 10 fashion design winners from that show. I recently had an opportunity to interview Anna about how foray into AI fashion design and, I’m happy to announce, that  Anna will be creating an AI Fashion Design lesson series for UoF. Meet Anna:

The Interview

Francesca: Are you a formally trained fashion designer?

Anna: Yes, I went to Otis College of Art & Design in LA and graduated in 1996. I worked for a variety of companies and then in 2001, I started my own collection, making one-of-a-kind “eco-effective”dresses, called Annatarian. Then, in 2004 I started doing jewelry. With family in the jewelry business for 40 years, they helped me launch my jewelry collection called, Peace, Love, Earth by Annatarian.  In 2012, I started working with my husband who is a fine artist,and took a break from making one-of-a-kind pieces. I also realized that I needed business education and began taking business classes in sales and marketing. Soon I got my jewelry line in 75 stores, including Nordstroms.

Francesca: What computer skills are necessary to become an AI Fashion Designer?

Anna: In 1996, I took a Photoshop class at Otis then hired a one-on-one Photoshop expert to teach me and that is what got my foot in the door at a lot of the fashion companies after graduation, since I had really good technical skills. Then in 2015, I got a VR headset because I wanted to start a VR fashion project. I then learned 3D design using Browzwear and got connected in 2020 (I discovered them in 2018 or 2019) with Amsterdam-based The Fabricant, a digital fashion house using CLO 3D, where I did some of their community events, and was asked to become their community manager in 2021. This is where I became more involved in the 3D art world. My husband is a tech genius, artist and filmmaker who created an app whereby through augmented reality, you can see his paintings come to life. Since I started working with him in 2012, I started to see the potential of augmented reality for fashion. I started working in Tilt Brush (an open-source VR painting app) with VR headgear and dabbled in Gravity Sketch (a free 3D sketching and design software), which I think is going to be huge for the fashion industry soon. You can design using your headgear or you can do it online too, you don’t have to be in virtual space.

Anna Leighton and her husband and I created a public art project for the City of LA, which is up indefinitely at Angels Flight in Downtown LA

Anna Leighton and her husband created a public art project for the City of LA which is up indefinitely at Angels Flight in Downtown LA, called Angels in LA. (Image Credit: https://downtownla.com/explore/grand-ave-augmented)

Francesca:  What other programs do you use to create AI-inspired fashion? 

Anna: Through another community, based out of Amsterdam called LoveKraft, I started working with an AI product called GauGAN and that was my first experience in AI, three years ago. It blew my mind because you could draw a crude little house and get something really magical. A few months later GauGAN got really good. Then along came Midjourney AI (a tool that allows you to create high-quality images from simple text prompts from the browser of your computer or phone, no special software needed), which at the time was invitation only and I was one of the first to use it. Then came DALL-E, an AI system that can create realistic images and art from a description in natural language. I was able to get myself and my community passes to DALL-E. Using DALL-E, my husband and I created a public art project for the City of LA, which is up indefinitely at Angels Flight in Downtown LA, called Angels in LA. We initially generated the imagery using Dall-E. However, as Midjourney AI surpassed Dall-E, we switched to Midjourney.

Anna Leighton is Top 10 winner with her Magical Mystery Core Collection - AI Fashion Week Season 1 (Image Credit: Anna Leighton)

Anna Leighton is Top 10 winner with her Magical Mystery Core Collection – AI Fashion Week Season 1 (Image Credit: Anna Leighton)

Francesca:  How did you become involved in AI Fashion Week?

Anna: Through The Fabricant,I learned about the first AI Fashion Week (April 2023). I had to give them some ideas, get approved, build my collection and then get people to vote on my collection. I did that for both AIFW Season 1 and 2. For AI Fashion Week Season 1, the designs from my Magical Mystery Core Collection made the Top 10.

Anna Leighton’s Annatarian Harmonia Collection - Makes Top 20 at AI Fashion Week Season 2 (Image Credit: Anna Leighton)

Anna Leighton’ s Annatarian Harmonia Collection – Makes Top 20 at AI Fashion Week Season 2 (Image Credit: Anna Leighton)

Anna: And then for AI FW Season 2- they changed the ranking to Top 20, from Top 10,  and my Annatarian Harmonia Collection made it again.

Inspired by the strength and grace of female athletes, Anna blends couture fashion with the spirit of women's basketball

Inspired by the strength and grace of female athletes, Anna blended couture fashion with the spirit of women’s basketball. (Image Credit: Anna Leighton)

Francesca:  Can you discuss how important having ‘hands-on’ design skills is when creating AI fashion?

Anna: While it’s very appealing to do sci-fi and things that can’t exist, because where else can you do that but in AI? However, I really wanted to see these collections come to life. Therefore, my fashion design skills and knowledge are very important to the process. I’d love to have a chance to being the next designer at Chanel. I am also inspired by my mom who was a big vintage person in the 80s, and my grandmother, who is 99 and once worked for Mr. Blackwell and Travilla as a sample maker and is a stickler for sewing properly. I love draping and I love textiles and hand sewing. All of that is important to me. When working with 3D designers on various projects where they were using CLO 3D and were good at putting it together but didn’t know the drape and construction often it would be a bit “off”. I wasn’t as expert on that software, but I was able to say, “I think you need to curve that line right there on the pattern to get it to drape this way,” and it would work out.

Image of book Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things by Michael Braungart & William McDonough

Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things-  a book by by Michael Braungart & William McDonough

Francesca:Can you describe your inspiration for creating AI fashion?

Anna: I contemplated how I had started my Annatarian dress collection in 2001, when 911 happened, and my jewelry line Peace, Love Earth in 2004. I reflected on my time working in the fashion industry, which had its highs and lows. I got to travel quite a bit, but I also got to see how things were manufactured and wasn’t very comfortable it. What we do to countries, how things get recycled, and how polluting the fashion industry really is. I am more focused on artistic design than traditional career paths. Once I read Cradle to Cradle by Michael Braungart and William McDonough and met William McDonough, I realized that I wanted to create that kind of fashion – using the ideology that raw materials are not thrown away [from cradle to grave] but are reused indefinitely or serve as “food” for new products. Incorporating eco-effective design principles, I often use textiles and jewelry collected from my travels to Egypt, Armenia, Europe, China and Thailand as the story behind my design concepts.

A look from Annatarian's AI Fashion Week Season 2 Harmonia Collection using DALL-E. (Photo Credit: AI Fashion Week)

A look from Annatarian’s AI Fashion Week Season 2 Harmonia Collection using DALL-E. (Photo Credit: AI Fashion Week)

Francesca:  Can you describe the design concept for your AI Fashion Week Season 2 collection? 

I started with a concept. For example, I had just gone to Athens, Greece and saw graffiti everywhere, juxtaposed against ancient walls. It was so beautiful and fascinating to me. At the same time, the crisis in Ukraine and Israel-Gaza was taking place. When I started working on the Harmonia collection, it was about bringing in the textiles that I had collected in my travels and putting stories together and adding the runway with a background of Athens. And what I did with Annatarian was put stories together like making peace within a dress. I’d combine fabrics from combining cultures that were in conflict and make peace. So, the dress above had a story. 

A look from Annatarian's AI Fashion Week Season 2 Harmonia Collection

A look from Annatarian’s AI Fashion Week Season 2 Harmonia Collection 

Francesca:  Can you discuss the technical process for creating an AI fashion piece? 

Anna: For the Annatarian dress collection, I started by manually inputting specific parameters into the AI, (DALL-E and Stable Diffusion for the face), such as color schemes, model types – what kind of model, my textiles, my Athens location images, lighting, camera angle and design styles. There are positive prompts, negative prompts, image inputs, and so much more. These parameters guide the AI in generating the initial design. And, like ChatGPT, I refine it. 

For me, from the first day, I have really been able to speak to AI in a way that is very natural to me and reminds me of when I used to travel to different countries and they would say, “I really understand your English, but when so and so speaks, I can’t understand them.” So, maybe I understand how AI thinks or what it can understand and so maybe that’s it. 

 

Annatarian- Blouse & Pant

Annatarian- Blouse & Pant from AI Fashion Week Season 2 Harmonia Collection (Image Credit: Anna Leighton)

Francesca:  Is there much tweaking in AI for a particular design project? 

Anna: Yes, sometimes I’ll make a spreadsheet to keep track of what inputs worked and what didn’t. I go through multiple iterations to tweak and refine it. Yes, sometimes hundreds-to make sure the design aligns with my personal aesthetic. Often, the AI-generated designs don’t fit my style initially, so I spend a significant amount of time refining the prompts and making adjustments until the design truly reflects my vision and brand. I will also go into Photoshop to adjust colors, tweak the design, or even change the model’s face. 

My alter ego – a woke cowboy named Dusty Trials, came to me in a dream. I created a song and it took me 160 tries. I made it using AI available on iTunes  https://music.apple.com/us/album/boy-lost-in-queens/1749932341?i=1749932342  and Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/track/5hsxYJyeNykLPvMDHHakNl?si=dc13868fa9c6493d. I am currently making a Dusty Trials music video.  

Francesca:  Are these AI generator tools expensive and are they Mac and PC compatible? 

Anna: I use both my PC and my Mac to create AI content. Stable Diffusion is free, and I use it and my VR headset on my PC. I use Midjourney on my Mac and it’s approximately $30 a month. I also use DALL-E on my Mac, which is now within ChatGPT, and I pay $20 per month .

 

Anna Leighton’s Annatarian Magical Mystery Core - AI Fashion Week Season 1 (Image Credit: Anna Leighton)

Anna Leighton’s Annatarian Magical Mystery Core – AI Fashion Week Season 1 (Image Credit: Anna Leighton) 

Francesca: What kind of knowledge base do you need to create AI-inspired fashion?

Anna: You need be computer savvy and have patience. Knowing programs like Adobe Photoshop, have a background in fashion design & costume history, and possess talent & a taste level help a lot.  

Francesca: Will you be creating more content for AI Fashion Week – Season 3? 

Anna: Yes. I want to create designs that can be easily produced and sold. This next time I will do something that is not as complex and therefore not so expensive to produce. 

Francesca: Will AI-generated patterns be next? 

 Anna: Yes, it’s only a matter of time. 

 Francesca: What is next on your horizon? 

Anna: I’m interested in designing for a major fashion house. Additionally, I’m excited to be creating an AI fashion design lesson series for the University of Fashion. I’m passionate about exploring the intersection of technology and creativity, and these projects allow me to push the boundaries of what’s possible in fashion design. Sustainability is a key focus for me, and I integrate eco-effective design principles into my work, creating fashion that not only sustains but also gives back, makes a difference, and transforms the industry. 

So tell us, how excited are you to learn how to create AI fashion?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7 Inspiring Fashion Exhibitions to Explore in Summer 2024

Yuima Nakazato, collection Atlas (Photo Credit: Yuima Nakazato, FashionUnited)

Yuima Nakazato, Atlas collection (Photo Credit: Yuima Nakazato, FashionUnited)

From breathtaking designs to influential cultural trends and historic events, the world of fashion is as vast as it is captivating.

One of the best ways to understand the factors that have shaped modern fashion and to appreciate the work of influential designers is to see their creations up close. This summer, there are many exciting museum exhibits worldwide, offering a deep dive into these fascinating aspects of fashion.

Here, we’ll highlight seven exciting exhibits. Whether you live nearby or are planning a cultural addition to an upcoming trip, these exhibits offer a unique opportunity to explore the evolution of fashion and the stories behind the designs. Read on to discover which fashion exhibits to add to your itinerary this summer and prepare to be inspired by the diverse history and innovative designs in the world of fashion.

Yuima Nakazoto: Beyond Couture

Museum of Lace and Fashion, Calais, France

June 15, 2024, – January 5, 2025

Japanese designer Yuima Nakazato has created an innovative and visionary world by merging tradition with a use of new technologies and textiles. As an advocate for crafting a sustainable world through fashion, he uses innovative materials and methods and draws from nature for inspiration to create his bespoke designs. Nakazato’s exhibition offers a step inside his futuristic vision and commitment to eco-conscious fashion.

Yuima Nakazoto: Beyond Couture image of red dress

From Yuima Nakazato’s Autumn/Winter 2023 Magma collection at the exhibition entitled Nakazoto: Beyond Couture. (Photo Credit: Victor Jacques Sebb-Yuima for Museum of Lace and Fashion, Calais and mannequin Madeleine Bax)

More: Yuima Nakazoto: Beyond Couture

 

Balenciaga: Character

Cristóbal Balenciaga Museum, Getaria, Spain

March 1, 2024 – January 19, 2024

The Cristóbal Balenciaga Museum has curated an exhibit to showcase Balenciaga’s influential brand from an “unexplored perspective.” With a display of 90 different garments, museum goers can examine and appreciate the structural nature and technical detail that have set Balenciaga apart.

More: Balenciaga: Character

Looks from the Balenciaga: Character exhibit (Photo Credit: Cristóbal Balenciaga Museum)

Looks from the Balenciaga: Character exhibit (Photo Credit: Cristóbal Balenciaga Museum)

 

NAOMI: In Fashion

Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK

June 22, 2024 – April 6, 2025

Opening in the end of June, this exhibit will give a deep look into model Naomi Campbell’s impressive career. This exhibit will give a unique look at the fashion industry through highlighting designers and creatives that played a role in Naomi’s career, including Azzedine Alaïa, Vivienne Westwood, and Jean Paul Gaultier. With around 100 looks from top designers, this exhibition celebrates Campbell’s cultural impact and activism, offering a glimpse into four decades of fashion and influence.

More: Naomi in Fashion

looks from NAOMI: In FashionVictoria and Albert Museum, London, UK June 22, 2024, - April 6, 2025

Looks from NAOMI: In Fashion at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK (Image Credit: Victoria and Albert Museum)

 

Icons of British Fashion

Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, UK

March 23, 2024 – June 30, 2024

Don’t miss out on Blenheim Palace’s largest exhibit to date, which highlights many of Britain’s most influential names in history. Giving a room to each designer, this expansive exhibition will show visitors not only a wide selection of designs, but the history and impact of each designer, including Vivienne Westwood, Jean Muir, Terry de Havilland, Bruce Oldfield, Turnbull & Asser, Zandra Rhodes, Lulu Guinness, Barbour, Alice Temperley, Stella McCartney and Stephen Jones Millinery for Christian Dior – an impressive list!

More: Icons of British Fashion

Vivienne Westwood exhibit at Blenheim Palace (Photo Credit: Paul Allen, Forbes)

Vivienne Westwood exhibit at Blenheim Palace (Photo Credit: Paul Allen, Forbes)

 

Modern Ritual: The Art of Mary McFadden

Drexel University, Philadelphia, USA

May 11, 2024 – October 11, 2024

Explore the world of American fashion icon Mary McFadden at Drexel University this summer/fall. From her signature Marii pleating to hand-painted textiles, this exhibition showcases 40 meticulously crafted garments as well as drawings that show the stories behind the pieces. Visitors will leave with deeper insight and appreciation into McFadden’s influence on American fashion.

More: Modern Ritual: The Art of Mary McFadden

Look from the Mary McFadden Fashion exhibit at Drexel University (Photo credit: Drexel University)

Look from the Mary McFadden fashion exhibit, Modern Ritual: The Art of Mary McFadden at Drexel University (Photo Credit: Drexel University)

Joyce J. Scott/ Walk a Mile in My Dreams

Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, Md.

March 24, 2024-July 14, 2024

American artist Joyce J. Scott comes from a long line of makers in her family who created beautiful, functional objects in their quest for freedom out of slavery, sharecropping, migration, and segregation. Scott uses mediums including beadwork, sculpture, textiles, jewelry and printmaking to address challenging yet important topics such as racial and social inequality. This exhibit showcases her prolific career through nearly 140 different objects. Immerse yourself in her world, vision and storytelling at the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Joyce J. Scott, Buddha Gives Basketball to the Ghetto is a humorous exaggeration of the myth that Black Americans are gifted as naturally superior athletes. (Image Credit: Baltimore Museum of Art: Instagram)

 

The Birth of Department Stores

 Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, France

April 10, 2024- October 13, 2024

Illustration of a Parisian Department store (Photo credit: Musée des Arts Décoratifs)

Illustration of a Parisian Department store (Photo credit: Musée des Arts Décoratifs)

Visit the Musée des Arts Décoratifs (MAD) in Paris to learn about one of the systems that today seems commonplace, but played a significant role in shaping consumerism and the fashion industry: department stores. This exhibit highlights the rich historical, political, and social contexts from 1852-1925 and showcases how these played a role in reshaping consumer perceptions, purchasing behaviors, and industry trends that greatly shaped the world of fashion we know today.

More: The Birth of Department Stores

 

So tell us, which fashion exhibit are you excited to see for yourself this summer?

Looking for a Unique Wedding Dress? Why Not Try a 3D Printed Version?

 

Iris van Herpen first 3D printed wedding dress 2024

Brazilian lawyer, Mariana Pavani, wearing a first-of-it-kind 3D printed wedding dress designed by Iris van Herpen (Photo credit: Yahoo.com)

In the exciting world of fashion where imagination meets reality, a revolution, that has taken more than a decade to gain traction, is finally unfolding. Once a futuristic concept, 3D printed clothing is beginning to literally reshape the very ‘fabric’ of the industry. This cutting-edge technology allows designers to transcend traditional limitations, crafting garments that are not only visually stunning, but also customizable and sustainable. And now, the Queen of 3D, Iris van Herpen, has created the first 3D printed wedding dress. This one-of-a-kind garment required 600 hours to actualize, 41 hours of printing and yielded a file size of 216.7 MB. There are no seams. You could not do this with a typical pattern,” said van Herpen, who used the program ZBrush to draft the bodice design.

IRIS VAN HERPEN

CRYSTALLISATION - Iris van Herpen - 2010

Iris van Herpen created her Skeleton Dress (left) in 2020 but her first 3D-printed pieces were from her 2010 Crystallisation collection (right)(Image Credit: Pinterest.com) 

3D-printed dress for Dita Von Teese in 2013 by Michael Schmidt and Francis Bitonti. (Photo Credit: Dezeen)

“In 2013, the first fully articulated 3-D printed gown was created for burlesque icon, Dita Von Teese, using Shapeways 3-D technology; Francis Bitonti was the dress’s architect and Michael Schmidt, designer. The gown had nearly 3000 unique articulated joints and was adorned with over 12,000 Swarovski crystals”, according Francesca Sterlacci, co-author of  the Historical Dictionary of the Fashion Industry and founder/CEO of University of Fashion.

In an industry where trends move at lightning speed, when it comes to technology however, it’s been a slow crawl. For example, 3D design software (such as Browzwear & CLO 3D) has taken decades to be integrated into the design and manufacturing process. And the same is true for 3D printed wearable fashion. In our tech-phobic industry, it is finally happening though, thanks to some very ambitious and tech savvy designers who are implementing cutting-edge technology into their collections. Let’s take a look:

 

ANOUK WIPPRECHT

Spider Dress 2.0 by Anouk Wipprecht. (Photo Credit: Anouk Wipprecht)

Anouk Wipprecht stands out for her innovative use of technology in fashion. Her Spider Dress 2.0,  is a prime example. It features robotic spider legs that respond to the wearer’s environment. Similarly, her Smoke Dress interacts with its surroundings, emitting smoke when someone gets too close. These designs are more than just clothing; they are interactive experiences that showcase the potential of 3D printing combined with robotics and smart technology.

THE ETHEREAL INCUNABULA DRESS

Incunabula Dress by Kaat Debo, Alexandra Verschueren and Tobias Klein. (Photo Credit: i. Materialise)

Kaat Debo, alongside collaborators Alexandra Verschueren and Tobias Klein, introduced the Incunabula Dress, a masterpiece of organic design and 3D printing. The dress, with its intricate patterns and fluid form, exemplifies the potential for 3D printing to bring complex, nature-inspired designs to life in ways that traditional methods cannot.

MARINA HOERMANSEDER AND JULIA KOERNER

Smock Corset by Marina Hoermanseder and Julia Koerner. (Photo Credit: AP Photo)

The Smock Corset by Marina Hoermanseder and Julia Koerner is another example of how 3D printing can transform traditional fashion items. This stylized corset combines historical design with futuristic technology, offering a glimpse into how 3D printing can revolutionize not just aesthetics but also the structural aspects of fashion.

threeASFOUR’s INTERDIMENSIONAL AND LAURA THAPTHIMKUNA’S VORTEX DRESS

Interdimensional by threeASFOUR. (Photo Credit: Schohaja)

threeASFOUR’s Interdimensional collection uses 3D printing to explore the boundaries of wearable art, creating pieces that seem to exist in multiple dimensions at once. Laura Thapthimkuna’s Vortex Dress, on the other hand, uses 3D printing to craft a garment that visually represents the dynamic flow of energy, offering a striking example of how fashion can convey abstract concepts through design.

Vortex Dress by Laura Thapthimkuna. (Photo Credit: Laura Thapthimkuna)

GEMS OF THE OCEAN

Gems of the Ocean by Melinda Looi with Samuel Canning. (Photo Credit: i. Materialise)

Melinda Looi’s Gems of the Ocean, created with Samuel Canning, showcases the potential of 3D printing to bring nature-inspired designs to life with stunning precision. This collection captures the beauty of marine life, translating it into wearable art that blurs the line between fashion and natural history.

ADA HEFETZ

Two of the wedding dresses created utilizing 3D printing by Ada Hefetz. (Photo Credit: Stav Peretz)

Ada Hefetz’s 3D printed wedding dress is a testament to how this technology can transform even the most traditional of garments. The dress features intricate lace patterns that are both delicate and robust, offering brides a unique blend of elegance and innovation.

GERT-JOHAN COETZEE

Gert-Johan Coetzee created a 3D printed dress for the Miss Universe pageant. (Photo Credit: Notebook Check)

South African designer Gert-Johan Coetzee took 3D printing to the global stage with a stunning dress at the Miss Universe pageant. This design highlighted the versatility and spectacle that 3D printing can bring to high-profile fashion events.

JULIA DAVIY

A look from Julia Daviy. (Photo Credit: Julia Daviy)

Julia Daviy is a pioneer in sustainable fashion, using 3D printing to create biodegradable garments. Her designs prove that fashion can be both eco-friendly and cutting-edge, addressing the industry’s environmental impact while still pushing creative boundaries.

DANIT PELEG

Danit Peleg Craftbot 3D printed dress. (Photo Credit: Danit Peleg)

Danit Peleg is known for her fully 3D printed fashion collections which she makes available for purchase online. Her work demonstrates the potential for 3D printing to democratize fashion, making high-tech, bespoke garments accessible to a wider audience.

JESSICA ROSENKRANTZ

Jessica Rosenkrantz’s Kinematic Dress. (Photo Credit: Sculpteo)

Jessica Rosenkrantz’s Kinematic Dress is a marvel of design and engineering. Using a system of interlocking pieces, the dress moves and flows like fabric, showcasing the unique capabilities of 3D printing to create flexible, wearable art.

VIPTIE 3D

3D printed ties developed by Viptie 3D. (Photo Credit: Viptie 3D)

Even men’s fashion is getting a 3D printed makeover, with Viptie 3D leading the charge. Their intricately designed ties offer a glimpse into how this technology can bring a new level of personalization and creativity to men’s accessories.

As designers continue to explore the possibilities of 3D printing, the future of fashion looks more innovative and exciting than ever. So tell us, if  you have experimented with 3D Printing?

Silk Through Time – From Ancient Luxury to Modern Sustainability

19th Century Silk Dress from Present-day Uzbekistan, Bukhara (Photo Credit: The MET, Islamic Art collection, “Robe”)

19th Century Silk Dress from Present-day Uzbekistan, Bukhara (Photo Credit: The MET, Islamic Art collection, “Robe”)

SILK – a fabric steeped in legend, with tales of secrets and smuggling along the ancient Silk Road, now finds itself at the heart of modern controversy. Luckily, as a luxurious, durable, and biodegradable fabric, there are ways that we can prioritize the benefits of this fabric and leave the rest behind.

Early History & Expansion of Silk

Silkworm caterpillars feeding on leaves (Photo credit: Storyteller.com, IOM/Begüm Başaran)

Silkworm caterpillars feeding on leaves (Photo credit: Storyteller.com, IOM/Begüm Başaran)

Legend traces silk’s origins back to the Chinese empress Leizu around 3000 BCE, who, according to myth, discovered the fabric by chance as a silkworm’s cocoon fell into her tea. While the truth of this tale remains shrouded, silk undeniably began its journey in China, flourishing into a prized commodity for its luxurious feel and ability to hold vibrant color.

Silk’s expansion beyond China’s borders was spurred by the Silk Road, transforming it from a closely guarded secret to a global treasure. However, the production of silk remained largely a secret that only China held until around 550 CE, when the emperor of the Byzantine Empire convinced two monks to smuggle silk worms out of China. From those clandestine caterpillars grew the silk production of Europe. As a lightweight, vibrant fabric, it quickly became a status symbol, adorning the elite from Asia to Europe.

Today’s Ethical and Environmental Concerns in Silk Production

Silk Moth Image

Silk Moth (Image by Dan Burchmore from Pixabay)

Contrary to the name silkworm, silk doesn’t originate from worms but from caterpillars, who weave their cocoons out of these long silk fibers before emerging as moths. Where the fibers would naturally be broken as the moth emerges from the cocoon, traditional silk production involves boiling or steaming the cocoons to kill the moth before it has a chance to emerge to preserve the long strands. The most common kind of silk is Mulberry silk, named after the tree the caterpillars feed on, and is typically processed this way.

This process is deemed unsustainable and unethical by some due to its impact on the silkworms. Raising silkworms also has a toll on the environment: silk production demands vast quantities of mulberry leaves, necessitating extensive land use, water consumption, and fertilizer application.

Weaving a Sustainable Future: Innovation and Alternatives

Eucalyptus silk dress from brand Green Cult (Image credit: theGreenCult.com)Eucalyptus silk dress from brand Green Cult (Image credit: theGreenCult.com)

In response to ethical and environmental concerns, alternative solutions are gaining popularity within the silk industry.

Ahimsa silk, or “peace silk,” refers to a process where silkworms are allowed to complete their life cycle naturally, albeit with a slightly rougher texture of the finished silk as the fibers are broken. Unfortunately, not every brand that claims to use peace silk is truly upholding these values, so it’s important to read about the individual brands to ensure. But, when followed, this process can benefit the moths. Additionally, organic silk ensures that the trees where the caterpillars grow are not treated with harmful chemicals that impact the environment and ecosystems around them.

Another alternative to traditional silk is semi-synthetic fabrics with silk-like properties. Made from eucalyptus fibers, these offer a cruelty-free, eco-friendly alternative. Produced through more sustainable processes, these fabrics, like lyocell or Tencel, maintain silk’s luxurious feel while minimizing the environmental impact.

By embracing these traditional silk alternatives and advocating for transparency and ethical practices throughout the supply chain, we can pave the way towards a more sustainable silk industry and ensure that silk can be enjoyed in harmony with our planet.

So, tell us, which future-forward silk are you excited to try out?

Move Over Hollywood- There’s a New Act in Town

Apple TV+’s  production of  The New Look, is one of a growing number of fashion entertainment projects. LVMH is now developing its own film production company. (Photo Credit: Apple TV +)

If you are an avid follower of fashion then no doubt you’ve have already watched all 10 episodes of  The New Look (Apple TV+). The clothes, the history, and the acting were all superb (despite its 57% average Rotten Tomatometer score). And, if you haven’t already viewed these 12 other must-watch fashion films, well…what are you waiting for? Get out the popcorn and get going: Cristóbal Balenciaga (2024-Disney+), Westwood: Punk Icon, Activist (2018-Amazon Prime); McQueen (2018-Amazon Prime, Hulu, Apple TV+); Saint Laurent (2014-Amazon Prime, Hulu, Apple TV+); Coco Before Chanel (2009-Amazon Prime, Apple TV+); Martin Margiela: In His Own Words (2019-Amazon Prime, Apple TV+); Lagerfeld Confidential (2007); Dior and I (2014- Apple TV+); Valentino: The Last Emperor (2008); House of Gucci (2021- Amazon Prime, Apple TV+); and although Bill Cunningham wasn’t a fashion designer, he was instrumental in putting many a young designer on the map, including UoF’s founder, Francesca Sterlacci, so you’ve got to watch The Times of Bill Cunningham (2020).

Image of Bill Cunningham movie

The Times of Bill Cunningham a film by Mark Bozek (Image courtesy: Greenwich Entertainment)

 

It was only a matter of time that the fashion industry, who have been dressing Hollywood’s glitterati for decades, would cross-over into the world of film making. One could argue that the  MET Gala started it all with their coverage of fashion’s version of the Oscars, which is live-streamed on DirecTV, Fubo, Hulu + Live TV and Sling. The MET turned their bi-yearly fashion exhibitions into red carpet media productions, with reported costs for mounting each exhibit upwards of $7 million. This year they raised $26 million just from the Sleeping Beauties show Gala. Ticket sales for the exhibition itself will be icing on the cake! By the way, if you ever wondered what goes into the making of a MET exhibition be sure to watch The First Monday in May (2016- YouTube) documentary

FASHION BRANDS TAKE ON HOLLYWOOD

Once confined to runways and glossy pages, fashion companies are now venturing into the entertainment industry and capitalizing on the connection between fashion and film. From established luxury houses to avant-garde designers, the allure of storytelling through film has become a captivating new frontier. Let’s take a look at how some of the biggest names in fashion are effortlessly infiltrating the entertainment space.

TOM FORD

Nocturnal Animals is Tom Ford’s second film. (Photo Credit: Focus Features)

Renowned for his impeccable taste in fashion, Tom Ford has made a remarkable mark in the world of cinema. Transitioning effortlessly from designing stunning couture to crafting compelling narratives, Ford has proven himself a visionary filmmaker. With critically acclaimed films like A Single Man (2009) and Nocturnal Animals (2016), Ford’s unique blend of style and substance has captivated audiences worldwide. His films not only showcase his talent for storytelling but also serve as an extension of his distinctive aesthetic, making him a true icon in both fashion and film.

SAINT LAURENT PRODUCTION COMPANY

The poster for Strange Way of Life, a new film by Pedro Almodóvar. Photo (Credit Saint Laurent: Productions)

Saint Laurent, the epitome of Parisian chic, has expanded its influence beyond the runway with its own production company. Led by creative director Anthony Vaccarello, Saint Laurent Production Company delves into the world of film with a focus on creating visually stunning content. From short films to documentaries, each project reflects the brand’s signature edgy glamour. With a roster of talented directors and actors, Saint Laurent’s foray into filmmaking offers a fresh perspective on the intersection of fashion and cinema.

The company screened three films at this past Cannes Film Festival, including David Cronenberg’s The Shrouds, which stars Diane Kruger and Vincent Cassel, and Jacques Audiard’s Emilia Perez with Zoe Saldana and Selena Gomez. It’s a clever way to strengthen a company’s Hollywood ties while recruiting prospective brand ambassadors.

LVMH’S 22 MONTAIGNE

Antoine Arnault will lead LVMH’s new Hollywood production company called, 22 Montaigne Entertainment. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

When two icons meet, the world pays attention. LVMH, with its constellation of 75+ luxury brands, and Hollywood, with its global influence, are joining forces to create something truly spectacular. The name itself, 22 Montaigne, resonates with heritage and prestige. It’s the address of the iconic Dior headquarters in Paris, a symbol of elegance and creativity. And now, it’s making waves in the world of entertainment.

22 Montaigne Entertainment is not just about fashion. It’s a groundbreaking collaboration, in partnership with Superconnector Studios. Co-founders Jae Goodman and John Kaplan will work with LVMH North America Chairman/CEO Anish Melwani to find the right match between its brands and creators, producers and distributors. LVMH will co-develop, co-produce and co-finance these entertainment properties. Directors, writers, actors, and fashion designers will be working hand in hand to craft immersive experiences that captivate audiences on and off the screen. It’s a fusion of storytelling and style, where every detail, from costumes to set designs, becomes a work of art.

NICK KNIGHT’S SHOWSTUDIO

Step through the looking glass and backstage with Naomi Campbell in this Nick Knight and SHOWstudio fashion film. (Courtesy of Nick Knight’s SHOWstudio)

At the forefront of fashion innovation, Nick Knight’s SHOWstudio is a digital playground for creatives. Through groundbreaking projects and collaborations, SHOWstudio explores the intersection of fashion, art, and technology. From live-streamed photo shoots to experimental films, Knight pushes the boundaries of visual storytelling. With its dynamic online platform, SHOWstudio invites audiences to engage with fashion in a truly interactive way, bridging the gap between virtual and reality.

KERING

Salma Hayek with François-Henri Pinault whose company Kering now owns CAA Talent Agency. (Photo Credit Getty: Images)

Beyond its portfolio of luxury brands, Kering has diversified its reach by acquiring CAA Hollywood Talent Agency. With a roster of A-list actors and directors, CAA represents some of the biggest names in entertainment. By merging fashion and film under one umbrella, Kering has created a synergy that opens up endless possibilities for collaboration. From red carpet appearances to brand partnerships, Kering’s presence in Hollywood solidifies its status as a powerhouse in both industries.

Hollywood and Fashion find a new synergy with Kering’s acquisition of CAA Talent Agency. (Photo Credit: The Wrap)

The convergence of fashion and entertainment has given rise to a new era of creativity and collaboration. Whether it’s through filmmaking, production companies, immersive retail experiences, or talent agencies, fashion companies are leaving an indelible mark on the entertainment industry. As these boundaries continue to blur, one thing is certain: the marriage of style and cinema is here to stay, captivating audiences and inspiring creatives around the world.

So, tell us, do you have a fav fashion film?

 

 

 

HONORING EARTH DAY- The Rise of Fast Fashion: How Did We Get Here, and Where Do We Go?

image of planet and with text Planet vs. Fashion

In honor of Earth Day 2024, on April 22, we thought we might take a look at the rise of fast fashion and what we can do about it. As fashion students, designers, educators, retailers and as citizens of the world, we owe it to our planet!

 

The Rise of Fast Fashion

Neutral-colored clothing hangs on a store rack (Photo Credit: Pexels/Rachel Claire)

Neutral-colored clothing hangs on a store rack (Photo Credit: Pexels/Rachel Claire)

Did you know that over 100 billion new garments are manufactured globally each year?

Unsustainable practices, like overproduction and unethical manufacturing, have become commonplace in the world of fast fashion. Today, fast fashion is a prevalent part of our world, but it wasn’t always this way.

The good news is, it doesn’t have to stay this way, either. In this article, we’ll explore how fast fashion rose to prominence, the issues that came with it, and how we can make change to create a more sustainable future for fashion, where ethical and sustinable practices become the new norm.

The Origins and Expansion of Fast Fashion

Fast fashion companies prioritize rapid production methods to make inexpensive, low-quality clothing. They typically copy popular styles of other designers and make them at lower costs through mass production.

Before the Industrial Revolution, new clothing was mostly handmade by skilled workers, accessible primarily to the wealthy classes. With the rise of new technologies in the early 20th century, fashion production began to see big changes. Manufacturers found ways to lower costs through new machinery and outsourcing to low-paid workers.

Men pull racks of clothing through the Garment District, New York City, in 1955 (Photo credit: World Telegram & Sun photo by Al Ravenna)

Men pull racks of clothing through the Garment District, New York City, in 1955 (Photo credit: World Telegram & Sun photo by Al Ravenna)

In the mid-20th century, fashion companies shifted to global manufacturing, leveraging overseas production to pay workers lower wages. This sparked a new wave of clothing production, where clothes were made faster and at a lower cost.

By the 1990s, this trend was accelerating rapidly. One notable player is Spanish fashion brand Zara. Founder Amancio Ortega began his company by making lower-cost versions of already popular designer looks, which were created in small batches to get them into stores as fast as possible.

Rows of jackets hang in a Zara manufacturing facility (Photo credit: Business Insider/Mary Hanbury)Rows of jackets hang in a Zara manufacturing facility (Photo credit: Business Insider/Mary Hanbury)

In 1989, shortly after Zara expanded to New York, the New York Times referred to the company as “fast fashion,” thereby naming the movement.

In the years that followed, fast fashion would come to drastically change the industry: the clothing itself, the societal view of clothing, as well as the impact on the planet as a whole.

Environmental Issues and Social Impacts of Fast Fashion

As clothing prices changed, so did societal attitudes. The view of clothing changed from something to be cared for to something to be disposed of.

This leads to increased consumption and higher waste, which is especially problematic given the high environmental toll that fast fashion practices take: an estimated 2-8% of annual global carbon emissions come from the fashion industry alone.

Fast fashion also prioritizes the use of cheaper fabrics. While both natural and synthetic fabrics can be used sustainably,fast fashion companies opt for cheap and low-quality options. This often means non-organic cotton, which is referred to as the world’s dirtiest crop due to the high amounts of pesticides used, or cheaply made synthetics like polyester, which rely on high amounts of virgin fossil fuels and cause microplastic pollution.

Fast fashion is also harmful to garment workers. It’s estimated that only 2% of fashion workers worldwide are paid a livable salary, and many work in unsafe or unhealthy environments.

Transitioning Towards a More Sustainable Future

Though the current state of fast fashion may seem grim, as awareness begins to grow around these issues, times begin to change.

Advocacy groups like Fashion Revolution and Good On You bring light to these issues and highlight brands that produce clothing more ethically.

Woman holds a bag made from Econyl, a recycled textile (Photo credit: econyl.com)

Woman holds a bag made from Econyl, a recycled textile (Photo credit: econyl.com)

 

Innovative materials are having an impact as well. For example, Econyl and rPET (recycled polyester) are creating new fabrics from post-consumer waste, like recycled fish nets and water bottles.

Yellow jacket by Danish brand Ganni made in collaboration with Polybion from their bio-based textile, Celium. (Photo credit: Ganni/Polybion)

Yellow jacket by Danish brand Ganni made in collaboration with Polybion from their bio-based textile, Celium. (Photo credit: Ganni/Polybion)

Sustainable alternatives to leather and pleather are also on the rise. One example is Polybion, which is growing a plant-based leather alternative from fermented fruit waste.

As consumers, there are steps we can take to avoid fast fashion as well. From learning how to identify ethical companies to supporting small-scale designers, even a small step is a step in the direction of a more sustainable and ethical fashion future.

So, tell us, how will you choose to embrace sustainable fashion?

 

 

 

UoF Launches Adaptive Fashion Series

Poster frames of UoF 5 lesson Adaptive fashion seriesUniversity of Fashion launches their 5-part Adaptive Fashion Series taught by Tracy Vollbrecht of Vollbrecht Adaptive Consulting (Photo courtesy: University of Fashion)

Did you know that there are more clothing options available for dogs than there are for people with disabilities? It took a long time coming, but the fashion industry is finally addressing the needs of the disability community, which is known today as Adaptive Fashion.

Thanks to our expert Tracy Vollbrecht, the University of Fashion is launching its 5-part Adaptive Fashion series to help educate the industry in the Adaptive Fashion marketplace. Our new series covers: the history adaptive fashion, how to design & develop adaptive fashion and how to merchandise and market product for the adaptive fashion consumer.

Headshot of Tracy Vollbrecht - instructor at UoF

Tracy Vollbrecht of Vollbrecht Adaptive Consulting and University of Fashion instructor (Image courtesy: Vollbrecht Adaptive Consulting)

Our series begins with the terminology used when referring to various types of disabilities. Ms. Vollbrecht also offers a downloadable Terms and Definitions document to help understand  appropriate language and terms used is this specialized market segment.

Molly Farrell, a white woman with brown hair, is shown in this photo wearing ULEX, one of the brands Tracy designed and helped launch. Molly is wearing a royal blue wrap cardigan and gray pants, while seated on bleachers. She is smiling brightly and her pink forearm crutches are visible in the photo.

Adaptive fashion designed by Tracy Vollbrecht for Yarrow featured on the Canadian TV show Fashion Dis (Image courtesy: Tracy Vollbrecht)

Ms. Vollbrecht’s history of the adaptive market covers such innovators as Helen Cookman, who in 1955, began researching the market potential of adaptable clothing at New York University’s Institute of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation after being recommended for the role by New York Times style editor Virginia Pope. Cookman would spend the next four years developing a collection called Functional Fashions, which was a collection of 17 items designed to help disabled people dress independently. However, Ms. Vollbrecht explains that upon the passing of Helen Cookman and Virginia Pope the functional fashion movement began to fade and was replaced with clothing intended to make dressing easier for the elderly. It wouldn’t be until 2004-2007 that The Adaptive Fashion Showroom and the company Wheeliechix-Chic, founded by Louisa Summerfield, came into being and would take adaptive fashion to the next level.

Monica Engle Thomas, a white woman with curly auburn hair, is shown in this photo wearing a white Yarrow sleeveless button down that Tracy designed. Monica sits in her black and white manual wheelchair. She also wears sunglasses and jeans, while holding the leash to her small dog.

Monica Engle Thomas wearing a white Yarrow sleeveless button down designed by Tracy Vollbrecht (Image courtesy: Yarrow)

Tracy Vollbrecht Interview

UoF founder  Francesc Sterlacci sat down with Tracy Vollbrecht to learn why she became interested in designing for the adaptive market and her thoughts on where the market is headed.

Francesca: Were you formally trained as a fashion designer and if so, where? What motivated you to pursue a career in adaptive fashion?

Tracy: I am! I graduated from Kent State University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Fashion Design. At Kent, I had the opportunity to conduct research on adaptive fashion, which was still in its second-wave infancy. I say second-wave as there was a first wave of adaptive fashion in the 60s (check out the history of adaptive fashion lesson to learn more!). Within the research I conducted, I spoke to over 75 people with varying disabilities to learn about their challenges with clothing. My research culminated in a universally designed collection shown at Kent’s annual fashion show, a published research paper, and presenting my research at various conferences, including the International Textile and Apparel Association’s annual conference. The work I did at Kent showed me that clothing challenges weren’t just an issue my dad, who had MS, had experienced, but an issue that so many people face. This motivates me every day to continue the work I do – clothing should allow everyone to express themselves and feel good, not just some of us.

Francesca: How in demand are designers with adaptive fashion expertise? How did you connect with the companies that you have designed for in this space?

Tracy: Unfortunately, adaptive fashion is still very much a niche portion of the fashion industry, which is what myself and others are working to change. There isn’t a high demand for adaptive fashion designers yet. I’m hopeful that the niche will grow and there will be more demand for designers, merchandisers, buyers, marketers, etc with adaptive fashion experience. The companies I’ve worked with have either sought me out, were referred to me, or that I connected with them through network connections.

Francesca: Can you name the companies that you have designed for and/or who you are currently working for? Are their dedicated online and brick & mortar stores exclusively selling adaptive fashion?

Tracy: My first adaptive fashion role was with Juniper Unlimited where I designed and helped launch their brands’ Yarrow and ULEX. In my consulting work with Vollbrecht Adaptive Consulting, I’ve developed training resources for Target, taught lectures at IFA Paris, conducted research for Open Style Lab, and more. I can’t share who I’m working with at the moment, but I am definitely excited for what’s to come! At this stage, adaptive fashion is almost exclusively online. As we talk about in our merchandising lesson, online shopping has both pros and cons for the Disabled consumer. It’ll be great to see brands start to carry adaptive products in store, where the shopper can find them organically.

Francesca: What are the biggest challenges in designing for people with physical challenges?

Tracy: The biggest challenges for creating adaptive fashion are the variety in needs and the fashion cycle. Within the disability community and even within the same disability (physical or not), there is so much variety in clothing needs, body shape, and challenges. No two disabilities are the same, which is why it’s so important for brands to work with people with disabilities. However, the time and effort needed to properly develop clothing that actually works for all is at odds with the fast-fashion, trend driven nature of the fashion industry currently.

Molly Farrell, a white woman with brown hair, is shown in this photo wearing ULEX, one of the brands Tracy designed and helped launch. Molly is wearing a royal blue wrap cardigan and gray pants, while seated on bleachers. She is smiling brightly and her pink forearm crutches are visible in the photo.

Molly Farrell wearing a top designed by Tracy Vollbrecht from ULEX- one of the brands she helped launch (Photo courtesy: ULEX)

Francesca: Do you see the adaptive market growing since companies like Tommy Hilfiger and other big brands have become more inclusive?

Tracy: Definitely! There is so much potential for brands to tap into the unmet needs of consumers with disabilities. Just because a few brands have gotten into the space doesn’t mean there isn’t room for more brands, all brands really, to get into the market. There will be “enough” adaptive fashion when consumers with disabilities have the same amount of choice in brand, price, and style as consumers without disabilities.

Francesca: What advice do you have for our students who may be interested in designing adaptive fashion?

Tracy: My advice to any student is that adaptive fashion is more than just adaptive design. Every role within the fashion industry (merchandising, product development, buying, marketing, etc.) is needed to make sure adaptive fashion gets into the hands of the consumer. If you have an interest in adaptive fashion, pursue it! Follow Disabled creators on social media; stay up to date on what brands are doing; volunteer for fashion shows. For designers specifically, adaptive fashion is still fashion. Getting experience working for fashion brands is essential. Since the adaptive market is still growing and there aren’t many adaptive design roles, take advantage of learning the process of design and development for non-adaptive fashion as that process still applies to adaptive fashion.

To learn more about Tracy Vollbrecht:

Cell: 732-632-7071

Website: www.vollbrechtadaptiveconsulting.com

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/tracy-vollbrecht/

Company LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/vollbrecht-adaptive-consulting

Learn More About the Adaptive Market

Read the book: All About Adaptive by Michele Chung

Learn how a new store in Pasadena, California caters to Adaptive Fashion consumers: Sewn Adaptive

So, tell us, how will you be pursuing a career in the Adaptive Fashion market?

Spotlight on Sustainable Designer: Eudora Tucker

image of Eudora Tucker

Eudora Tucker – New York City sustainable fashion designer (Image credit: Eudora Tucker)

This week’s blogpost is dedicated to Custom Collaborative’s latest success story, NYC-based sustainable fashion designer, Eudora Tucker. But first, a bit about Custom Collaborative (CC).

Custom Collaborative is a Harlem-based non-profit 501(c)(3) founded in 2015 by Executive Director Ngozi Okaro. The organization provides free training and ongoing support for women from low-income and immigrant communities through their entrepreneurship and workforce-development programs. Their Training Institute teaches the art, craft and techniques used in sustainable garment-making, as well as ethical business practices in the fashion industry.

 CC’s mission is to help women professionalize their sewing and design skills, overcome barriers to employment, and, ultimately, bring greater equity and inclusivity to the business of fashion.

University of Fashion partnered with Custom Collaborative in 2020, gifting full access to our fashion education content library. Since then, Custom Collaborative has graduated 10 cohorts of ‘fashion-preneurs’ who are making their mark by starting their own sustainable fashion brand.

Last week, I had the chance to interview Eudora and learned about her studies at CC, her design philosophy and her career aspirations. Here goes:

 Eudora Tucker’s Graffiti dress

Eudora Tucker’s Graffiti dress (Image credit: Camila Falquez)

Francesca: Tell me about your journey into fashion. Are you NYC born and raised?

Eudora: I was born and raised in Brooklyn. As a Native New Yorker, fashion has always been on my radar. I knew I wanted to be a fashion designer early on and attended The High School of Art and Design to study fashion illustration and then went on to study at FIT. Unfortunately, life happened, forcing me to pivot, but fashion has always been a huge interest. I started seriously getting back into fashion when my idol, Prince, died in 2016. As a lifelong fan, I was devastated when he passed away and I started making Prince themed jean jackets and outfits as a tribute to him. I wore them to different Prince related events that I attended. People seemed to love and admire my designs and complimented me on my creativity. That reignited my passion and pushed me to seriously pursue my dreams of being a fashion designer again. I was hand sewing and using adhesives to create my designs, which meant there were constant repairs and maintenance needed. I knew finding sewing classes would be the next step if I wanted to seriously start making custom designs for others.

Eudora Tucker’s Embellished Purple Vineyard Jacket (Image credit: Eudora Tucker)

Francesca: Can you tell me about the program at Custom Collaborative? How rigorous was it and what types of things did you learn?

Eudora: The program is a 15-week course that meets Monday through Friday from 9am to 3pm. It was a serious commitment, and it was truly intense. I had never used a sewing machine before so when our instructor, Delia Alleyne, showed us how to thread the needle on the first day, my head nearly exploded. I didn’t think I would ever be able to thread the machine, let alone sew something together. Fear and self-doubt overcame me, and I was questioning why I ever signed up. Delia encouraged and helped us overcome our fears and by the end of the day, I was able to successfully thread my machine. I knew it was going to be a tough road ahead, but I was up for the challenge. During those 15 weeks there were many tears shed out of frustration, but also with happiness when I was able to get through another tough lesson. In the end I completed the course with the ability to design and sew; a portfolio of work including illustrations for two collections, which included inspiration, mood and fabric boards; an awesome business plan that I wrote, and most importantly, the knowledge and confidence to go forward in pursuit of my dream.

Eudora Tucker’s Rocket Man Jacket (Image credit: Eudora Tucker)

Francesca: How were the University of Fashion lessons utilized at CC?

Eudora: We constantly referred to the University of Fashion lessons while studying. We used them to reinforce lessons that Delia taught us and to complete projects on our own. I am a visual learner, so it was a tremendous help and resource for me. The videos that were the biggest help were the lessons on the invisible zipper, pattern making and layout, and draping. These were life saving for me. Due to time constraints, and the amount of projects we covered, it was impossible to learn and complete everything in class. The videos allowed us to review the task, step by step, on our own time to complete the projects correctly.

 

Eudora Tucker’s Incomparable Lady Day Shirt Dress

Eudora Tucker’s Incomparable Lady Day Shirt Dress (Image credit: Eudora Tucker)

Francesca: Can you tell me about your capstone project at CC?

Eudora: My capstone project was a hand painted, full length gown with a train. My design was inspired by the feelings of fear, uncertainty and sense of lawlessness in NYC post Covid-19. With the closing of so many businesses, the graffiti artists had once again transformed our city’s landscape with their artwork, reminiscent of the late 1970s and 80s. Using donated fabric that I treated to create the Ombre effect, the design ascends from darkness to light, reflecting the transitioning of Oppression and Anarchy, rising out of Out Rage and Despair, through Faith and Unity, to ultimately arrive at Love and Peace. My design was chosen as the finale of Cohort 9’s graduation runway show and was also featured in both Vogue Business and Harper’s Bazaar articles. Not only were these very proud moments for me, but they also serve as a testament that my perseverance and hard work are truly paying off.

Eudora Tucker’s Queen Bee Jacket (Image credit: Eudora Tucker)

Francesca: What made you want to focus on upcycling and sustainable design?

Eudora: Custom Collaborative is an organization that is built on the principles of fashion sustainability. I never heard of fashion sustainability and, to be honest, I was a consumer of fast fashion without even knowing it. I had never heard of the term “fast fashion” until I came to Custom Collaborative. Once I found out what it was and how it affects the planet; coupled with the unfair labor practices that affect the seamstresses that work in the factories, I quickly got on board. I started changing my purchasing habits and decided to focus on upcycling and sustainable design. I truly enjoy taking a “pre-loved” garment and repurposing it into something new and creative. It allows me to create one of a kind, statement pieces that make my clientele feel special when they wear it.

Eudora Tucker’s Dear Mum Jacket (Image credit (Eudora Tucker)

Francesca: What is the hardest thing about being a sustainable fashion designer?

Eudora: The most challenging aspect of being a sustainable designer is figuring out how to alter an existing garment. When you are locked into a design it is sometimes hard to come up with creative ways to change the garment to fit your new design. You have to use your imagination and become an out-of-the box thinker and really think about the techniques to use in order to execute your new design with the least amount of complication and in a timely manner.

Eudora Tucker’s Ode to Jean-Michele Jacket (Image credit: Eudora Tucker)

Francesca: What is your ultimate goal, or goals, as a designer in the fashion industry?

Eurora: I would like to continue creating one-of-a kind statement pieces and growing my fashion sustainability brand, Princess Arabia’s Atelier. I also plan to partner with environmental agencies in NYC to offer fashion sustainability workshops to teach others what they can do to reduce their carbon footprint through more mindful fashion practices. My ultimate goal is to travel around NYC and neighboring states to educate as many people as possible and bring awareness on how the fast fashion industry continues to proliferate the amount of waste in our landfills and how it is fueling the profound negative effects of climate change. This is my small way of giving back to the planet and carrying out my duty as a good global citizen.

 Follow Eudora on Instagram: @princessarabia9

The Rainbow of it All Vest

Eudora Tucker’s  The Rainbow of it All Vest (Image credit: Eudora Tucker)

Are you a woman from a low-income community interested in starting a career in fashion? Apply to our Training Institute.

If you are interested in providing paid internships for their students write to us at: CS@UniversityofFashion.com

Are you a small or start-up clothing business? Apply to their Business Incubator. They provide services including manufacturing, technical assistance, and consulting for those who need it.

Want to volunteer? Sign up here. They’re always looking for folks to help as teacher’s assistants, guest speakers, graphic designers, special event coordinators, or fabric inventory sorters.

Want to donate fabrics, machines, or supplies? Complete this form.

To support their work in supporting striving women. Donate today.

 

JUNETEENTH: Celebrating African American Quilters & Creatives

 

(Image Credit: Louisville Black Creatives – Facebook.com)

Juneteenth marks the day when General Gordon Granger of the Union Army strolled into Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865, to announce that the last of the 250,000 remaining enslaved people in the Confederacy were freed from the shackles of slavery, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

To celebrate Juneteenth, this week’s blogpost is dedicated to African Americans artisans, both past and present, who use their creativity to tell stories through the art of quilting. We will also highlight African American quilters and artisans who, through textiles and handcraftsmanship, are modern-day griots, these creatives are continuing the tradition of African tribal storytelling to preserve the genealogies and oral traditions of their culture.

Fashion has always held an important role in the evolution of mankind, whether to express status or as a vehicle for social change. But the art and craft of fashion, specifically quilting, has held an even deeper meaning for the African American community and is as almost as old as the history of America.

One of the first enslaved African women to be officially recorded in the colony of Virginia in 1619 was Angela (likely born in present-day Angola). Angela is considered one the ‘First Africans” and like many Black women to follow, were charged with spinning, weaving, sewing, and quilting on plantations for their enslavers, while often weaving their own family’s clothing to keep warm and survive.

Over time, some African American household slaves became highly skilled in creating quilts and while very few examples of these early quilts survived due to the heavy wear they received, what was initially a tool of oppression became an expression of liberation.

Hidden in Plain View by Jacqueline L. Tobin and Raymond G. Dobard

UNDERGROUND RAILROAD QUILT CODES

The Underground Railroad (UCRR) was a network of people and places that assisted southern slaves escape to free states in the North and Canada prior to the start of the Civil War in 1861. According to legend, a safe house along the UCRR was often indicated by a quilt hanging from a clothesline or windowsill. These quilts were embedded with a kind of code, so that by reading the shapes and motifs sewn into the design, an enslaved person on the run could know the area’s immediate dangers or even where to head next.

In the book entitled, Hidden in Plain View: A Secret Story of Quilts and the Underground Railroad, the authors reveal how enslaved men and women made encoded quilts and then used them to navigate their escape on the Underground Railroad. Quilts with patterns named “the Charleston Code,” “wagon wheel,” “tumbling blocks,” and “bear’s paw”, contained secret messages that helped direct slaves to freedom.

Example of a Charleston Code Quilt – helped navigate slaves to freedom via the Underground Railroad

When slaves made their escape, they used their memory of the quilts as a mnemonic device to guide them safely along their journey. For example: a bow tie meant “dress in disguise to appear of a higher status; a bear paw was an instruction to “follow an animal trail through the mountains to find water and food; and a log cabin warned “seek shelter now, the people here are safe to speak with”.

Example of a Log Cabin quilt with an embedded code to help slaves to freedom.

At the end of the Civil War, African American women continued telling their stories through quilting, maintaining the long-standing cultural significance and its profound roots of ‘woven’ resistance. For more on the history of African American quilting as folk-art visit: http://www.womenfolk.com/quilting_history/afam.html

HARRIET POWERS

Quilter Harriet Powers

Harriet Powers 1837-1910 (Image credit: Museum of Fine Arts Boston)

Born into slavery in Athens, Georgia in 1837, Harriet Powers created quilts once she was emancipated. She used quilting as a catalyst for change and to inspire conversations about race. Her storytelling quilts made use of appliqué techniques and the textiles of Western Africa and are notable for her ability to transmit, through the fabric, her religious faith depicting biblical stories, local events, and celestial occurrences. Powers debuted her first exhibit in 1886 at the Cotton States and International Expo.

For much of the 20th century Powers was erased from the art historical canon, but today she is deservedly considered one of the most accomplished quilt makers of the 19th century.

Only two of Powers’ story quilts have survived: the Bible Quilt which hangs in the Smithsonian Institution and her Pictorial Quilt which is on display at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

Harriet Powers – Bible Quilt circa 1886 (Image credit: Smithsonian Institution)

Weaving scraps together became a metaphor for threads of resilience stitched together to preserve remnants of culture, faith, and hope in the African American community. Though often not attributed with bringing the tradition of quilting to the U.S., Black women are among the originators of today’s needle and thread technique.

From navigating the Underground Railroad to telling a family’s story, quilts are more than an heirloom to African American families—they are an act of woven resistance.

Close-up of African American ‘Pine Burr’ quilt circa 1920 found in Selma, Alabama. For sale on 1st Dibs $7,500

One of the most beautiful quilt patterns is the Pine Cone or Pine Burr, which is a three dimensional quilt made of overlapping triangles. These triangles are put in a circular pattern starting at the center, giving the look of a pinecone. The quilt pictured above was made by an African American of unknown provenance. It took weeks to make and was found in Selma, Alabama circa 1920. It is for sale on 1st Dibs for $7,500.

QUILTERS OF GEE’S BEND

Gee’s Bend Quilters Jennie Pettway and Jorena Pettway, 1937 (Photo credit: Arthur Rothstein).

Among the most important quilt contributions to the history of art were made by quilters in the isolated African American hamlet of Gee’s Bend, Alabama in the 1930s. Gee’s Bend quilters developed a distinctive style and are known for their lively improvisations and geometric simplicity.

In 2003, 50 quilt makers founded the Gee’s Bend Collective, which is owned and operated by the women of Gee’s Bend and their work has been exhibited in museums across the country, the most notable in 2004 at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Gee’s Bend quilters working a quilt 2005 (Photo credit: Wikipedia.com)

In 2015, Gee’s Bend quilters Mary Lee Bendolph, Lucy Mingo, and Loretta Pettway were joint recipients of a National Heritage Fellowship awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts, which is the United States government’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts.

And in 2023, the Gee’s Bend quilters collaborated with generative artist Anna Lucia to create digital works of art on the blockchain in a project called Generations.

Quilt by Anna Lucia of Gees Bend Quilted physical NFT on a clothesline in Alabama 2023 (Image credit: rightclicksave.com)

 

FAITH RINGGOLD

Faith Ringgold in front of her quilt Tar Beach 1993

Faith Ringgold in front of her quilt Tar Beach 1993 (Image credit: Wikipedia.com)

Faith Ringgold is an artist, activist, quilter, educator and author of numerous award-winning children’s books. Tar Beach, her first children’s book, based on a quilt of the same title, has won over twenty awards including the Caldecott Honor and the Coretta Scott King award for the best-illustrated children’s book of 1991. Ringgold has made a career-spanning commitment to social justice and equity through a variety of media including oil paintings, tankas, soft sculptures, story quilts and prints. If you are in LA, be sure to catch her show at the Jeffrey Deitch Gallery from May 20-August 12.

 

BISA BUTLER

Artist/quilter Bisa Butler – Quilting for the Culture (Image credit & video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_P3_61nh3xo)

Bisa Butler has been called a modern-day Griot, but instead of using words to tell stories, she uses stitches and cloth. Her quilts have graced the covers of magazines, have been the subject of numerous exhibitions and she created the striking illustration for the book “Unbound,” the memoir of activist and Me Too movement founder Tarana Burke. Her show entitled “Bisa Butler: The World is Yours“, is currently showing in NYC from May 6 to June 30, 2023 at 18 Wooster Street. You will be dazzled! Here’s a link to the show info: https://deitch.com/new-york/exhibitions/bisa-butler-the-world-is-yours

 

Artist/Quilter Bisa Butler (Image credit: YouTube)

In my work, I am telling the story— this African American side— of the American life. History is the story of men and women, but the narrative is controlled by those who hold the pen. My community has been marginalized for hundreds of years. While we have been right beside our white counterparts experiencing and creating history, our contributions and perspectives have been ignored, unrecorded, and lost. It is only a few years ago that it was acknowledged that the White House was built by slaves. Right there in the seat of power of our country African Americans were creating and contributing while their names were lost to history. My subjects are African Americans from ordinary walks of life who may have sat for a formal family portrait or may have been documented by a passing photographer. Like the builders of the White House, they have no names or captions to tell us who they were.” ~ Bisa Butler

AFRICAN AMERICAN CRAFT INITIATIVE

The African American Craft Initiative – a division of the Smithsonian Artisan Initiative (Photo credit folklife.si.edu)

The African American Craft (AACI) Initiative works to expand the visibility of African American artisans and ensure equitable access to resources. Established through a consultative dialogue process with African American makers and organizations, and the mainstream craft sector in the United States, AACI outlines concrete actions for sustainable change.

Through collaborative research, documentation, and public programming, the initiative builds upon the relationship between craft and community by amplifying and supporting the efforts of African American makers to sustain their craft practice.

QUILTING & THE FASHION INDUSTRY

A$AP Rocky and Rihanna 2021 Met Gala

A$AP Rocky and Rihanna at the Met Gala 2021 (Image credit: GraziaMagazine.com)

Quilting continues to provoke conversations and contemplations around identity, heritage, and healing within the African American Community. African textiles are often central to quilters and fashion designers at large.

 

To learn more about African textiles check out these UoF lessons:

 

To learn more about quilting and various quilt patterns visit Quilt Index https://quiltindex.org

To find out where to purchase African fabrics visit: https://www.quiltafricafabrics.com/collections

Have you viewed our West African textiles lessons yet?

 

UOF Instructor Update: Jessica Krupa

The success of University of Fashion has always been about the talent and expertise of our instructors, their lessons and the high level of our video production. Now, in our 14th year as the first and largest online fashion education resource, we thought it would be of interest to share with our subscribers what a few of our very talented instructors are up to these days. Over the next three weeks, we will be spotlighting three of these very talented instructors and how they have continued to expand their creativity as entrepreneurs and artists. First up…Jessica Krupa.

JESSICA KRUPA

 Jessica Krupa is a graduate and former instructor at the Fashion Institute of Technology. With over 15 years of experience creating swimwear and intimate apparel collections for Fortune 500 companies, including Li & Fung, Jessica was awarded a bra design patent for innovation during her tenure at Victoria’s Secret. Needless to say, Jessica has tons of cred.

So, it’s no surprise that Jessica is crushing her new business venture, Panty Promise, the first seamless, certified organic cotton panty imported from Italy.     

UoF instructor and designer/founder of Panty Promise (Image courtesy: Panty Promise)

In 2020, Jessica identified the need for better panty options for women without risking their feminine wellness and was driven to solve this; enter Panty Promise. Jessica consulted with top NY Gynecologist Dr. Alyssa Dweck to make her vision come to life and took a year developing the best fabric and design, thus creating the first seamless certified organic cotton panty imported from a high-end mill in Italy.

Jessica’s design eliminates pesky panty lines and uncomfortable seams, like traditional cotton panties, resulting in a smooth and ultra-comfortable look and feel. Her design is Utility Patent Pending in the USA, Canada, EU and UK to keep the innovation and design protected against knockoffs.

Jessica Krupa launched her new brand Panty Promise in 2020 (Image courtesy: Panty Promise)

 

 

 

 

Jessica Krupa and NY Gynecologist Dr. Alyssa Dweck (Image courtesy: Panty Promise)

Panty Promise packaging/laundry bag (Image courtesy: Panty Promise)

Panty Promise strives to be a leader in the biodegradable and sustainable mission to keep the Earth clean. They’re research and testing proves that their panties will biodegrade back into the earth in just 4-6 months, meanwhile synthetics take over 200 years and breakdown into harmful chemicals.

Jessica Krupa ‘s Panty Promise – the first seamless certified organic cotton panty imported from a high-end mill in Italy (Image courtesy: Panty Promise)

Panty Promise is proud to be an affiliate of Cotton Incorporated, where the brand is a Cotton Leads Partner, ensuring ethical global harvesting of cotton trading and manufacturing through the commitment of Cotton Inc.

Jessica likes to say, “We’re saving the planet one panty at a time.”

Panty Promise panties sized XS-4X and in a variety of skin tones and styles: low, high, and mid-rise both in covered and bare bottoms. (Image courtesy: Panty Promise).

Panty Promise exhibits at the Curve Trade Show – Los Angeles 2023 (Image courtesy: Panty Promise)

In her first year of business Jessica exhibited at the Curve Trade Show, which helped catapult the brand to over 65 retailers after winning the New Brand Audience award during Curve’s Pitch off Competition.

Panty Promise is currently sold throughout the USA, Canada, the Caribbean, South America, Iceland and the Middle East, in body positive sizes XS-4X and in a variety of skin tones. Panty Promise wholesale price points range from $11-$14, with style offerings from low to high rise in both covered and bare bottoms.

We are proud and fortunate to include Jessica as one of our very talented and accomplished instructors. Catch her extremely popular 9-part swimwear series:
Drawing A Bandeau Swim Top
, Drawing A High Waist & Hipster Swim BottomDrawing A One Piece Plunge Halter With Shelf Bra, Drawing An Underwire Swim Top, Creating A Swimwear Tech Pack In Illustrator, Drawing A String Bikini Bottom, Drawing A String Bikini Top, Drawing A Swimsuit Block Template In Illustrator and Drawing A Push Up Swimsuit.

Big congrats to Jessica for her talent, expertise & entrepreneurship!