The University of Cincinnati’s Fashion Design program is known for producing talented designers. It’s equally notorious for its rigorous senior capstone projects, wherein each graduating senior is required to create a cohesive fashion collection. Legend has it that students practically live in the studio while they’re producing it, and the maze-like DAAP building reinforces the folklore: remnants of hastily eaten meals are scattered throughout the studios, stacks of fabric tower on tables, and several hammocks are visible from the central atrium. I stopped by with Photo Intern Alex Taylor one afternoon to see what goes into creating a collection as a one-person fashion company.
We arrive at the studio and Laurie Wilson, DAAP Fashion Show Director and Producer, shows us around. The area is humming with a sort of flustered energy as students ask questions, sign up for critiques, and focus on making their collections.
1:51pm A sewing machine starts whirring as Simha Israel works on a dress from her Offspring collection, mens- and womenswear inspired by the culture created by people of African descent in America. “It’s about creating our own culture,” she says, moving to drape the lacy white fabric on a dress form.
1:54pm Jahnesha Edwards greets us shyly as she gets ready to lay out a textured brocade from her Spiritual Redemption collection, which takes inspiration from the Biblical character Rahab.
1:56pm Another sewing machine starts up as Abby Wilson attaches the lining to a bralette for her Ren collection. She says it’s inspired by modern simplicity and interior design, all in a palette of black, white, and pale blue.
1:59pm Morgan Taylor explains her Atavism collection (it means reverting to the past) while flipping through a pile of alpaca knits in soft neutrals. She points to a rack of her drape-y tailored wool garments in a similar color scheme and mentions that she was interested in working with sustainable fabrics.
2:05pm We’re inevitably drawn to the tactile, cotton candy-like quality of Alex Thompson’s pink knit ball. “There used to be a blue ball, too…” someone laughingly points out.
2:06pm Madeleine Bransford shows us her inspiration book, noting that her sustainable collection is almost entirely created of donated fabrics and focuses on capturing the free-spirited vibe of the ’70s.
2:10pm We make our way through a tiny room lined with racks of finished and unfinished garments, slowly opening the door to a second studio. Professor Emeritus Margie Voelker-Ferrier stands at a work table chatting with students, one of whom has finally found the time to eat takeout. Really, they practically live in this place.
2:12pm Christen Ruff is laying out her “final fabric” – the actual fabric used in the garment as opposed to the muslin used for the mock-up – to pin it together in preparation to sew. Ruff’s collection, Unbarred, includes pieces influenced by everyday ballet wear.
2:15pm At a work table in the corner, Jia Yee Ni is hand-stamping the fabric she’s using to line her garments. The stamps were laser cut in the RPC (Rapid Prototyping Center) based on blind contour drawings she did with her twin sister. “The details are for the wearer,” she explains. “It’s fun to have a relationship with your clothing.”
2:20pm Rachael Bailey sews a hidden placket onto a piece from her collection, which she explains explores the relationship between natural and manmade materials. “I’m also doing accessories,” she says, showing us some mostly-finished pieces with clear vinyl inserts, which mimic the bags she’s creating.
2:27pm “I envision myself in the woods,” explains Chelsey Burgess, whose Transparent Friction collection of deconstructed knitwear is inspired by outdoors and nature. Her clothing rack is full of lightweight knits and pieces that combine mohair, silk, and leather in rich earth tones. And yes, she did it before Kanye!
2:32pm Laurel Moore pins a dress created from a print of an aerial view of the Australian Outback, explaining that her Prospettiva (origin of the word perspective) collection is very layered. “It’s all about changing perspectives.”
2:35pm Professor Emeritus Margaret Voelker-Ferrier is technically retired, but still wanted to teach her favorite class, Design IV Capstone Collection. “I’ve taught the class for over 20 years,” she says, explaining what a joy it is to work with the students. “They’re all so kind, talented, smart…”