The University of Fashion, in partnership with the Alvanon dress forms and MOTIF, were proud sponsors of this year’s Sustainability Award presented at the annual International Textiles & Apparel Association (ITAA) conference Nov 16th – 18th. If you are unfamiliar with the ITAA, they are a professional, educational association composed of scholars, educators, and students in the textile, apparel, and merchandising disciplines in higher education. The association dates back to 1935, when the United States Office of Education cooperated with institutions of higher learning in studying the curricula. As a result of these curricula studies, conferences of textile and clothing professors have been held annually in the U.S. since 1944.
The recipient of this year’s Sustainability Award is Lynda Xepoleas, a Ph D candidate in the Fiber Science and Apparel Design Department at Cornell University, for her sustainable dress design entitled “Collision”. The Sustainability Design Award is a $3279 value and includes: 1) a one-year subscription to the complete catalog of Alvanon’s virtual AlvaForms via the Alvanon Body Platform, https://abp.alvanon.com/ ($2500 value). 2.) an all-access pass to the entire library of professional apparel courses on MOTIF https://motif.com ($590 value), and 3.) a one-year full access subscription to over 500 fashion design and business education videos via University of Fashion, https://www.universityoffashion.com ($189 value).
Lynda’s “Collision” dress design was borne out of an opportunity where she witnessed the ecological footprint of the fashion industry firsthand while visiting several manufacturing facilities in different regions of India. Lynda was surprised by the amount of textile waste created during the cutting process. This experience not only led her to undertake upcycled design scholarship using cut-offs (production scraps), but also to think about how sustainable practices could be incorporated within the cutting and manufacturing of mass-produced apparel.
Currently, sustainable fashion is quite exclusive and unattainable for most individuals who can’t afford to spend $100 on a t-shirt. Therefore, Lynda hopes to work with several manufacturing facilities in India to identify ways whereby they can work with local vendors to transform production scraps into products for the domestic market. For Lynda, this really embodies the nonlinear nature of the upcycle design process, which she feels often requires us to reshape and rethink how we approach apparel design. This is also something that is reflected in her Collision dress design, which she attempted to capture visually, by positioning each cut-off at a different angle to create the illusion of intersecting diagonal and vertical lines.
Like many of us who chose fashion as a career, Lynda has had quite a unique and interesting past. In her own words:
“Initially, fashion served as another creative outlet that allowed me to express myself in ways that differed from my association as a high-performance athlete and competitive tennis player. From the ages of 10-18 I trained 6 hours a day and attended school online. My decision to attend school online was based on the fact that I started to play tennis quite late. Most competitive tennis players start at the age of 4 or 5. I started around the age of 8, so I had a lot of catching up to do. In the end this paid off, I was one of the top ranked tennis players in the United States for my age and was sponsored by Wilson for a couple of years. The transition from high school to college was actually quite easy for me since I was already in charge of staying on top of all my coursework and assignments. A typical day for me would consist of two, three-hour training sessions, one in the morning and one in the afternoon with a one-hour lunch break in between. Afterwards, I would do about three hours worth of schoolwork every night. I didn’t have the chance to attend a school dance or anything like that, but I was able to travel the country and meet people from all over the world. I have trained with coaches and hitting partners from countries like Egypt, Uganda, France, England, Bulgaria, New Zealand, Australia, China, Japan, Thailand, Ecuador, Venezuela, and Bolivia.
“In my spare time, I would often make my own clothing to wear on and off the court. When faced with the decision to play on the professional tour or attend college, I decided to pursue a career in the field of fashion. I attended Purdue University on a full athletic scholarship and earned my B.S. in Apparel Design. Even though I enjoyed designing apparel, I was also interested in exploring the two-dimensional representation of fashion in art and photography. I decided to pursue a M.A. in Art History at Arizona State University. This experience allowed me to investigate the representation of fashion in 1930s fashion photography for my M.A. thesis.”
“As a Ph.D. student in the Fiber Science and Apparel Design Department at Cornell, I have begun to bring together my interests in apparel design and art history. My dissertation examines the ways in which several museum collections in New York City informed the design of early twentieth-century American fashion and simultaneously contributed to the normalization of cultural appropriation in the American fashion industry.”
As part of her Collision project, Lynda utilized Optitex fashion design software and found it to be quite user-friendly compared to other systems that she had used before. In the future, Lynda also plans to use CLO3D to identify additional methods for upcycling production scraps, since much of her design scholarship seeks to use technology as a means of identifying sustainable solutions for the design and manufacture of apparel.
Upon receiving her Ph.D. in Apparel Design, Lynda hopes to become an Assistant Professor in the field of fashion studies or apparel design. While conducting research for her dissertation, she discovered that the very practices and systems which have informed the development of fashion education in the United States, continue to perpetuate Western ideals related to beauty, race, sexuality, gender, and indigeneity. Her objective therefore is to create more inclusive teaching practices in hopes of destabilizing the exclusive foundation of fashion education.
On behalf of Alvanon, Motif and University of Fashion, we wish Lynda all the best for a successful and productive career in fashion!
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(Graphic courtesy Mark Higden: @mark_higden – www.markhigden.com)