Fashion at the Oscars

Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max: Fury Road

Bear with me. I know we’ve turned the calendar to March, but I’ve got February on the brain. February, film, and fashion that is. Blame it on the Academy Awards.

Elegantly styled, cool blue and soft yellow dresses blanketed the red carpet at this year’s Oscars, but what caught my attention was contrary to the glamour and gold. It was Mad Max: Fury Road, winner of this year’s award for Best Costume Design. The distressed clothing in the film, intended for survival in a dystopian society, is proof positive that not everything about apparel design needs to focus on beauty.

Welcome to the world of Costume Design! Fashion Design’s first cousin doesn’t respond to the needs or whims of each passing season. Rather, it answers to a production house, director, or actor. Costume designers are imagination specialists. Instead of focusing on style and looking to set future trends, they typically reflect the past – or a fictitious future in the case of Mad Max – and gain inspiration from a specific time or place.

Both are storytellers, using fabrics and soft materials to express their point of view. Yet they each target a different audience. Fashion designers integrate their knowledge of textiles and clothing with what’s happening in the world around them, using current events and trends as their inspiration. Their intent is to generate sales and clothe the public.

University of Florida

University of Florida School of Theatre & Dance

Costume designers communicate the story of one individual at a time, informing us of a character’s lifestyle, wealth, and social status by the clothes on his back.

Most colleges and universities teach Costume Design as part of the Drama department, giving students full exposure to the world of theatre. If your teen has a passion for fashion, but also loves the stage – or history – make sure you include Costume Design as part of your college research. Each of the colleges listed below offers a BFA in Costume Design.

Break a leg!

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Carnegie Mellon University: School of Design

Touring Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in autumn is a great idea. I was fortunate to visit last week when the trees were starting to sparkle in all their autumn glory.

This private university’s persona is larger than life, but its undergraduate student body is a very manageable 6200. I’ve toured the campus before, so got to focus on the College of Fine Arts this time around, meeting with representatives from the School of Design and the School of Art.

School of Design

School of Design

The School of Design (SOD) has a stellar reputation. I often recommend taking rankings with a grain of salt, but these you should consider. LinkedIn named the school Best for Designers (October 2014) and Design Intelligence named it among America’s Best Architecture and Design Schools (2015).

Steve Stadelmeier, SOD Associate Head, defines designers as those who build things for the greater good; things that help individuals and companies tell their personal stories. Whether it’s the car you drive, the Netflix shows you watch, the graphics of your favorite app, or the layout at your favorite clothing store – they’re all influenced and guided by designers, and they all help you tell your own, individual story.

sophomore communications students

sophomore communications students

At CMU students gain that knowledge through a unique and interactive structure that mirrors real life. Freshmen begin studying across three concurrent areas: Communication Design (graphics), Product Design (industrial design), and Environments (virtual and physical). Sophomores continue in two of the three, juniors narrow it down to one, and senior year unites the entire cohort as they apply what they’ve learned to services and social innovation. Here, the application of design moves from focusing on one item to a grand and global scale. A junior explained it this way: “If you design a lawnmower as a sophomore, then junior year you’ll address the yard and lawn chemicals. Senior year you’ll question, “How can we change the system?” (Ex: how can we water lawns more efficiently to improve water usage?)

junior product models

junior product models

This is a rigorous program; with class time divided approximately 60/40 between design classes and general studies courses. That ratio is typically found at small art and design schools across the country, not large universities. Also similar to art and design schools, SOD teaches a number of design-related general education classes. Examples include design and economics or design and anthropology.

Applications – through the Common App – are directed to the SOD itself, not the university. Portfolios are a required part of the process. Images can be uploaded through SlideRoom as well as delivered in person. Personal interviews aren’t required but are highly encouraged.

Accepted students are the lucky ones. Approximately 650 applied to the program last year, with 35 matriculating. Graduates earn a Bachelor of Design (BDes), and according to Mr. Stadelmeier, all graduate with a job.

Want to learn more about the SOD? Drop me a note or contact the school directly. Have a preference for the School of Art? Stick around. I’ll share what I’ve learned next week.

What Is The Future Face of Animation?

Inside Out movie poster

Inside Out movie poster

Consider Pixar’s newest film, Inside Out, to be released on June 19th. The movie’s plot centers on an 11-year old girl and the many voices she hears inside her head. They’re the voices of her emotions, each one clamoring for her attention. It’s a clever way to build multiple characters into one. But the detail that you really don’t want to miss is the main character herself: an 11-year old girl.

Animation is changing before our very eyes, in part because of women and girls. We’ve witnessed strong and successful female characters in Pixar’s Brave and Disney’s Frozen. But changes are happening behind the scenes as well. Dreamworks Feature Animation got into the act earlier this year when they named two women as co-presidents.

What’s behind the change? Start with the fact that young girls are getting introduced to the world of animation through the rise in female characters in online gaming – something that wasn’t happening just a few short years ago. Simultaneously more and more women are attending college. A recent Los Angeles Times article puts these two together, detailing the trend of an increasingly female population studying this fast growing art form. 

The Incredibles

The Incredibles

If your daughter is leaning towards animation, she could be on the cusp of something big and transformational. Males still dominate in the workplace, but a shift is definitely afoot.

If you’re trying to determine where to start your animation program search, try here. The colleges I posted about are still at the top and worthy of your attention.

Obviously the next step to consider is a career path. Fortune Magazine lists the 100 Best Companies To Work For each year, and two to note are gaming companies, Riot Games (#13), and Activision Blizzard (#96). 

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Is Fashion Your Passion?

Display at The Fashion School Store

Display at The Fashion School Store

Fall is in the air. And so is fashion. Just as my fall sweaters are beginning to scream for attention, Marc Jacobs, Alexander Wang, and Michael Kors are parading their Spring/Summer 2015 designs at New York Fashion Week. Even Serena Williams is in this game. What’s a girl to do?

If fashion is your design passion you have a lot of top college programs to consider. Make sure The Fashion School (FS) at Kent State University is one of them. Located in northeastern Ohio, it’s consistently ranked among the best fashion programs in the country. In 2013 Fashionista.com called it “one of the top American fashion schools [that] keeps getting better.” And the esteemed Council of Fashion Designers of America ranked it in the top ten.

The program offers a BA or BFA in Fashion Design alongside a BS in Fashion Merchandising. And, if you’ve got your eye on an advanced degree and the business world, consider combining your BS with an MBA. This new, five-year program offers graduate level coursework in fashion theory, design management, and fashion research methods from the university’s College of Business. What a great way to launch a career…

When I sat down with J.R. Campbell, Professor and Fashion School Director, he said the school’s success and popularity have them bursting at the seams (no pun intended!). Since their founding in 1983 they’ve grown to a student population of over 1500.

Kent St fashion design school (7) chalk boardWhy so popular? Kent State offers the benefits of a focused, stellar program in a state university setting. That translates into acquiring the skills you’ll need to succeed in a down-to-earth environment. Students gain conceptual, technical, and production design knowledge as well as the problem-solving capabilities required to be successful in today’s fast-paced design industry. Resources are abundant, and include:

An extensive library collection of fashion, historic costume, painting, and decorative arts;

The Fashion School Store in downtown Kent, which sells clothing designed by Fashion School faculty and alumni, creating the opportunity for direct customer feedback in a live retail environment;

A satellite campus in the heart of it all, New York City’s Garment District, with studio and study space for 120 Fashion School students each year; and

Graduates with a high degree of confidence and a reputation for job placement over 90%.

What type of student will succeed at the Fashion School? According to Campbell, “motivated, focused, driven, passionate, and willing to work hard.” So, what are you waiting for?

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Guest Post: Studying Art – An Education In Critical Thinking

By Ellen Fraser

Elon fountain

Elon University

Like many students, when I went to college I had no idea what I wanted to choose as my major. All I knew was that I liked reading, writing, and history better than I liked science and math. A liberal arts college seemed like the best fit for me—a place where I could dip my toes into a lot of different disciplines. The first semester of my freshman year, I took an art history class. I decided this would be a good idea because I had always enjoyed history in high school. My favorite part of the subject had always been learning about the ways in which historical happenings influenced aspects of the culture in the place where these happenings, well, happened. Art—its genres, styles, and techniques—was included in this.

Often times, art history has this stereotype of being a class where students sit in a dark room, trying to prevent their eyes from glazing over as they stare at endless slides of ancient artworks that they are expected to memorize for a test at the end of the semester. Well, I went to college at a little school in North Carolina called Elon University, and at this school, I quickly learned that art history did not simply involve a dark room illuminated only by image slides.

logoThe art history program at Elon illuminated my mind. My classes and professors exposed me to art and artists from a variety of geographic locations and time periods. However, and more importantly, they aided in my learning of critical issues that occupy the minds of some of the greatest creators of all time, as well as the fact that works of art can be seen in a variety of ways, and that no way is more correct than another. Also, as a friend to many practitioners of studio art, I was always impressed with the way these students could articulate their concepts when showing their work at campus events. Not only were they talented creators, but they also knew how to talk about their creations.

I never was and (even after having finished my Bachelor’s degree in the subject) am still no artist. And by this I mean only not an artist in a literal sense of the word. Studying art in college taught me how to think critically, to see different perspectives, and to use my thoughts to be a better asker of questions and artist of the written word. These are all important skills to have as students leave college to work on being more aware participants in life. A degree in art, especially from a liberal arts university, can help to sharpen these tools.

Ellen graduated from Elon in the spring of 2014 and is now happily employed by a non-profit arts organization.

 

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