Pursuing A Career In Fashion In The Midwest
If you’re interested in a career in fashion design, the heartland is full of possibilities. We recently met with a handful of graduating students from the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis to preview their collections for the school’s 88th Annual Fashion Design Show. Their work took inspiration from a range of sources including peeling subway posters and included materials as unpredictable as confetti. We caught up with two students, Alexis Giger and Ella Young, to discuss fashion and their plans for the future.
What inspired you to pursue a career in fashion?
Alexis: My grandmother cultivated a love and talent for fashion design during her childhood in Switzerland and international travels as a young woman. She turned down an offer to work at Christian Dior SE to move to the United States—which was a difficult decision for her to make, but because of her move she ultimately met my grandfather and created a successful business as a seamstress in California. When I discovered that I, too, had her love for design, it seemed like her journey was coming full circle. Will I complete the story by pursuing a career at Dior? To be continued …
Ella: My interest in fashion began as a love of dress-up and everyday costuming as a child, but despite my interest, I did not intend to study fashion design or pursue it professionally. I actually went to Washington University to study neuroscience and painting. After my freshman year, I realized I did not want to be a doctor and chose to pursue my artistic options. I chose fashion in the end because I wanted to work more three-dimensionally, and fashion has a booming industry and job market (an appealing and unique feature to a future-thinking art student).
Where did you find inspiration for your collection?
Alexis: I was inspired by the world of my muse, Georgia O’Keeffe, and the undulating terrain of her home in Abiquiú, New Mexico. I imagined O’Keeffe’s solitary meditations as she studied the desert landscape, using her surroundings as a platform to develop her artistic voice as a painter. I mirrored her creative process by taking inspiration from the windswept textures of the American Southwest and manifesting them in distressed, frayed denim, organic silhouettes and a desert-inspired color palette. Combined with blue-collar workwear details, like utilitarian pockets and metal hardware, these elements compose garments I imagine a contemporary O’Keeffe wearing throughout the course of her day as an artist, maker and self-reliant woman.
Ella: My collection is inspired by nature mediated through print and turn-of-the-century fashion. Beetle Queen playfully engages the fantastical and the imaginative, mixing everyday costume and elegance. The beetle queen runs barefoot through the woods, silk chiffon flowing behind her as she enacts the tales of her reign in the natural kingdom. She befriends the forest life, treasuring ornate beetle wings, admiring fluttering moths and catching glimpses of mystical beasts. She treats every day as a performance ripe for dress-up.
What are your plans after graduation?
Alexis: I am in the process of applying for jobs in New York, San Francisco and St. Louis at the moment, and I couldn’t be more excited to find out where my next adventure takes me.
Ella: After graduation, I am moving back to Los Angeles and will be designing for A.L.C., a women’s contemporary label based downtown. I hope to also make my way into Hollywood by styling wardrobe for television and film.
View the designers’ collections at the 88th Annual Fashion Design show on April 23 at the Third Degree Glass Factory in St. Louis, Missouri.