To celebrate its 150th anniversary, the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP) recently opened a Fashion Technology Center at the Myron E. Ullman Jr. School of Design. The new space provides students access to the latest technological advancements in the fashion industry and the opportunity explore various design-making avenues.
Housed on the college’s sixth floor and overseen by assistant professor Ashley Kubley, the Fashion Technology Center is comprised of three labs equipped with innovative technology dedicated to computer-aided design, textile innovation, and apparel production. The Textile Innovation Lab, for instance, lets students create materials using high-tech machines like 3D printers, an automated embroidery machine, a digital fabric printer, and, eventually, an automated knitting machine.
Students can then use the materials they created in the Textile Innovation Lab to produce garments in the Natalie Altieri Apparel Production Lab, which is named in honor of a fashion design student who passed away in 2015. Whether sewing a blind stitch or buttonhole, the machines in this lab help students craft polished garments quickly and efficiently. “Previously, a blind stitch was time-consuming, and if you made a mistake, you would have to go back and do it over again” says Moti Saleminik, a graduate assistant and Master of Design student, who assists in overseeing the labs.
Advanced technology takes center stage in the Wearable Futures Lab, where students can create wearable technology. Although this kind of apparel is typically associated with electronic accessories like smart watches, it also includes high-tech clothing, such as a wetsuit that contains a water-filtration system. Kubley and her DAAP colleagues, Heekyoung Jung and Myoung Kim, partnered to create such a wetsuit, which is now on display in the lab. The Wearable Futures Lab also offers fashion design software that allows students to digitize their garment patterns and fit them on a digital avatar before printing the pattern. This saves students time and materials, since they no longer have to manually cut and fit the patterns—often with multiple tries—to make sure the pattern fits their measurements.
Any UC student can utilize the new Fashion Technology Center as long as he or she completes the required training courses. The idea of opening up the labs to students outside of DAAP aligns with the School of Design’s Director Gjoko Muratovski’s vision to increase collaboration between academic programs. “True innovation lies in the intersections of the disciplines,” he says.
Another way DAAP students are looking toward the future is by focusing on sustainability. Inspired by the fashion industry’s alarming waste production, a student-led group called the Sustainable Fashion Initiative formed last year to collect material waste from the school’s fashion design studios. The group was able to re-use 70 percent of the materials collected in the first year and hope to eventually have zero waste.
Thanks to its innovative and forward-thinking measures, the School of Design was named one of the “Best Fashion Schools in the World” by Business of Fashion, a prestigious fashion news and analysis website. “We developed an idea of where we needed to go together,” Muratovski says. “We needed to find something that would make us different…. And here we are.”