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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Swimming in the Pool of College Applicants: How Your Artsy Teen Can Be a Winner

Olympian Ryan Lochte

The time of year always brings it out. Start with a mix of winter cold and overcast skies, add in some snow, feelings of being cooped up together indoors, and presto: apprehension, pressure, and anxiousness about college options and choices rear their ugly heads. The phenomenon is common for high school sophomores, juniors, and their parents alike. No wonder; there are so many parts and pieces to this puzzling process. They each require thoughtful attention. It can be exasperating and exhausting.

But let’s step back a minute. Beyond grades, test scores, and all those other requirements the question needs to be addressed: what will really differentiate your artsy teen from the rest of the college applicant pool?

I believe the answer lies in considering the bigger picture and focusing – now – on your teen’s demonstrated interest. In college-search terminology “demonstrated interest” mostly refers to a teen’s exhibited desire to attend a particular institution. How many times has your son been in contact with the college? Has he attended an on-campus information session or met with the admissions representative? There are numerous ways to reach out and “touch” a college or university, but I’m not referring to that type of expression here. What I’m talking about zeros in on your teen’s passion for art and design, their dedication and drive to create. Whether their focus is on a variety of visual arts or just one specific craft, demonstrating the desire to spend time making art is key.

Rapt Studio, California

Ask yourself, does your daughter repeatedly lose track of time to her detailed drawings? Does your son spend countless hours sketching and studying fashion trends? Is either one clamoring to attend another summer art program? That’s demonstrating interest, and passion. The objective here is to capitalize on that focus.

I’ve put together a few tips for you to consider.

  • Take advantage of all that your high school offers,
  • Research after school and weekend art classes,
  • Search for volunteer opportunities that will let your teen apply her creative talents,
  • Network for internships in a design firm or art museum, and
  • Encourage artistic self-exploration.

Yes, these will enhance that high school resume, but isn’t that, in part, what we’re talking about? It may also seem like I’m just piling onto the “must do” list. The reality is – here’s a chance to put your teen’s interest and dedication to the test. The value will be apparent in an engaged teenager who will have a more in-depth comprehension of a potential college major and career path. Their focus will help them stand out in the applicant crowd and improve their chances of getting accepted to the colleges they want to attend.

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Meet Fiber Artist Liz Robb

Every once in a while I come across a young artist whose creativity, vision and talent elicit a compelling and audible “wow” from me. Liz Robb is one of those artists.

A friend of mine introduced me to her work and I was immediately intrigued. Clearly, I needed to learn her story first hand.

basket of yarn2

Tools of the Trade

A fiber artist, Liz began her career as a fashion designer, and is now charting a new path as a fine artist. She holds a BFA in Fashion Design from the University of Cincinnati (UC), and a MFA in Fibers from Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD). In between the two she worked in fashion in New York and Wisconsin. Last fall I was in San Francisco, where she now lives and works, and had the opportunity to visit her studio. We talked about her chosen career path, her influences along the way, how she’s making it work as a fine artist, and suggestions she has for future artists. Here is an edited and condensed version of our conversation.

Art.College.Life.:        You were drawn to textiles at a young age. How did it all start?

Liz:           Sewing was always part of my childhood. My mom taught me, and in high school I made my own dresses for dances, which kind of sprung into going to school for fashion design. My ruling out criteria for colleges was I wanted someplace where I could take it from sketching to finish. That was important to me; a big part of my ethos was to actually make. Now, instead of just thinking and ideating and sketching I can actually execute a finished product.

ACL:         Tell me about your shift from clothing design to fine arts.

Liz:           I knew that I wanted to go back to school because I wanted to teach someday. I knew I had to get my masters if I wanted to be a professor. I didn’t think I’d need one in fashion design but I wanted to diversify. Since I was always knitting sweaters it kind of opened my eyes to building from the fiber up instead of just the fabric.

It was a personal challenge to move away from design into fine art. That was at the core of what I loved about making and creating, being more conceptual and art related instead of practical. Of course I got a lot of push back from my parents at first.

IMG_0492 studio wallACL:         Let’s change threads here (sorry!). You’ve got a wonderful indigo theme. What inspired you?

Liz:           While at SCAD I spent two months at their Lacoste, France campus. Denise Lambert, the master Woad (French indigo) dyer of France came to study with us. I was able to work intensely and it changed what I was working on and thinking about. I started dyeing linen and papers, and making impressions, which was a big shift for me. I made my first big weaving.

After returning from France I visited a friend in New Orleans. They have an art walk there every month, and I ended up doing a group show with five people. I dipped tassels, dipping and rewrapping, constructing and deconstructing, mostly working in indigo. Later on I tried plaster and then encaustic. I wanted to push it further. It was uncomfortable, and it was hard to put paint on something I had just woven.

ACL:         What have been some of the biggest hurdles you’ve had to face?

Liz:            The scariest part for me was doing it; just starting. For applying for fashion design too, just thinking what do I want to do? Luckily, through the co-ops [at UC] I was able to rule out the things I didn’t want to do. The internships there helped me weed it down.

Choosing to go back to school was a big decision. I knew I had some dream schools, and I visited the ones I wanted to go to. It helped me a ton, visiting them and meeting the people and understanding the energy and culture there. That was a big influence for me.

ACL:          So now, looking to your future, what are your goals? And what type of marketing and networking tools are you employing to reach those goals?

Liz's studio

Liz’s studio

Liz:            I’m looking for gallery representation in three cities, and globally. My big cities I love are SF, NY, and Berlin or Tokyo. The Japanese market I think is really special.

I have a one-year business plan and a five-year plan. SCAD has a professional practice class – for undergrads too – where you work on your website, business cards, all your marketing materials, and business plan. I’d thought about it but didn’t know what it meant. Now I have it, and reference it often.

I’ve also got a few books that have helped me, from people who’ve done it themselves. Art, Inc., tells how to properly submit to galleries, what sort of paperwork you need, etc. I need to focus on the fact that I’m creating a body of work. I need to photograph it well. I’ve set up a website, and use social media to create multiple touch points where my audience can go to get to know me. I can be really shy and not want to market myself. I don’t like being in the spotlight, promoting myself so hard, but you have to. So I’m learning how to do that gracefully.

ACL:          How do you support yourself?

Liz:            I want to focus on my work. I know it doesn’t make enough money. I’ve saved a lot from working and have been supporting myself, kind of living like I was in school. To replenish it I’ve been thinking, do I want to work in an artistic field or completely unrelated? I’ve seen and heard both ways. I’ve looked at being a studio helper or installing shows, which is great for networking too. I actually just signed up to be a Lyft driver, which is part-time work that you can choose whenever you want to work. I figure if I do that Monday through Friday morning I can cover my rent and materials, and focus the rest of the day on me. It’s actually a great way to do it.

ACL:          If you could do it all over again what kind of advice would you have given yourself in high school?

Liz:            Everything I feel sounds like a cliché. I guess, just understand yourself. Write things down. What do you want to see happen for yourself next? Think outside of what you think is supposed to happen. For me, travel and especially volunteering helped me see outside myself, and my small world. I have friends who want to be the top if their field. Others want to move in different ways like philanthropy or work with non-profits. You need to be humbled; especially at that age, because everything has been so “you, you, me focused” It’s the nature of being a teenager, but you need to get outside yourself.

I respect people who can take a year off and find themselves, as opposed to forcing themselves into a program that they’re not interested in. Although I think you have to trust yourself; some people need that push to get to know what they want to do. It really depends on the person.

Liz (and Hank) in her studio

Liz (and Hank) in her studio

ACL:         Any other words of wisdom to younger aspiring artists?

Liz:            Stay authentic. Be authentic. That’s always what’s going to come through in the end.

You can see Liz’s fiber art at Art Works Downtown in San Rafael, CA, January 9 – February 27, and at the International Textile Biennial in Haacht, Belgium in February and March. In May she’ll debut a new line of fabrics for P&B Textiles at the Minneapolis Quilt Market.

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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: Pratt & Fashion Design

It’s fashion show season at art and design colleges across the country. So what’s it like on the inside? I asked Pratt junior Landry Low to give us her perspective.

DSC_0063 -a close upOne of the biggest benefits to going to school in Brooklyn is the fact that I am in one of the major creative hubs, not just in the United States, but also around the world. We have everything at our fingertips – between our close proximity to the other four boroughs and what is available in our own backyard.

I live on the first floor of a brownstone apartment, a short 15-minute walk down the street from Pratt Institute. My roommate, originally from Barbados, is a communications design major (focusing on graphic design). We walk to school together most days, always commenting on how lucky we are to be in such a beautiful neighborhood with a diverse community, rich with culture. Our campus itself is a sort of oasis in the city – complete with expansive lawns, scattered with a constantly changing collection of sculptures. As an Arizona native, I have a special appreciation for the nature on our campus (as most of the nature I’m used to only comes in shades of brown). Whether its tulips and cherry blossom trees in the spring or the colorful foliage of the changing leaves in the fall, our campus is a showcase for the natural beauty that the East Coast has to offer.

I usually try to get to campus a bit early to eat breakfast on the lawn with my friends and cats (we have 16 cats393634_4324009334870_272715025_n -a that live on campus!). Most of my classes start at 9:30 and each meets once a week for a three-, four-, or six-hour time block (with a lunch break splitting up the 6 hour classes). I typically stack my days so that I have two-to-three classes a day, which opens up the rest of my schedule for work. Through work-study I work as a campus tour guide in admissions and as a shop technician in the metal shop.

My favorite day of the week is Tuesday, as that is when I take my six-hour Shape & Form class (a construction based class that is taught in conjunction with our design class). Every other week during spring semester, our department brings in professional fit models for us to fit looks on from our junior thesis collection. This is in 1000896_10201399309767694_1501697596_n -apreparation for senior year, when we’ll spend both semesters developing, creating, fitting, and presenting a final thesis collection. Our entire class is involved in the process – we take photos, videos, and notes for each other, allowing us all to participate, collaborate, and communicate our ideas not just visually, but verbally as well.

As a junior Fashion Design major, I take a four-hour design studio class (Fashion Design), a six-hour construction class (Shape & Form), as well as another four-hour design class (this semester it’s Cut & Sew Knitwear). DSC_0715 - aAfter that, I am free to apply my remaining credits to two liberals arts classes of my choosing, still leaving room for another elective which I can take from any department in the school. I have taken classes in all different areas including Metal Fabrication, Welding & Forge, Intro to Electronics, Woodworking, Perception and Creativity, and Astronomy. One of the best parts about going to a school like Pratt is that I have the opportunity to learn a variety of skills that allow me to create complex cross-disciplinary work. Not only does my own work improve through the implementation of various skills, but I also find that my work has grown dramatically through the collaborative work that I have done with students in other majors as well as in my abroad studies.

Drop me a line if you’re interested in posting about your favorite college art program.
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