Last night, the Erwin Center was transformed into a sophisticated catwalk as 26 design students showcased their collections for the annual University of Texas fashion show “Spectrum.” The professional quality show serves as the capstone project for graduating seniors in the Textiles and Apparel division of the School of Human Ecology and gives students a taste of what it’s like to work in one of the world’s most coveted industries.
To get an inside look at what it takes to pursue a career in fashion design, we sat down with graduating seniors Michelle Nokeo, Wendy Ji and Tilde Snyder.
What made you interested in fashion design and how did you get started?
Michelle: I love that fashion gives people the opportunity to show the world who they truly are; it’s a form of self-expression. As a middle child, I was always looking for ways to stand out and I found that I could do that through clothing so I taught myself how to sew in middle school and started making my own clothing and outfits in high school.
Wendy: I love the fast-paced atmosphere of the fashion industry and the fact that it’s constantly changing. I like that I can reinvent things in a new way. I actually didn’t come to UT to study apparel design initially, but I’ve always liked making things myself so when I learned about the program I decided to give it a shot and now I’m doing what I truly love.
Tilde: When I was younger I always wanted really specific items and I couldn’t find them so I just started making them myself. I started drawing at a young age and eventually taught myself how to sew. I love that fashion combines art and functionality. I like that I can make the pieces that have a purpose.
How long have you been preparing for the show?
Michelle: We started working on a few pieces last semester but this semester is when we start putting in the most hours.
What inspired your collection?
Michelle: I wanted to make pieces that women would want to wear; things that really stand out and speak for themselves. I wanted pieces that would make a woman feel very confident and beautiful.
Wendy: I was really inspired by Iceland and all of the really cool geography. It’s very geometric while remaining very natural and organic. I tried to incorporate that into my collection with a lot of textural details.
Tilde: I wanted to make pieces that I would actually want to wear. I was inspired by vintage recipe cards and books. I actually created my own print that has a cake on it in Photoshop and had it printed onto fabric.
What’s the hardest part about getting ready for a show?
Michelle: I think the hardest part for me was initially coming up with the creative concept to work with. Once I got that it kind of all just started to flow naturally.
Wendy: The hardest part has been finishing up the last little details like hemming, and also trying to keep all of the pieces in the collection cohesive but still different from one another.
Tilde: The hardest part for me has been managing my time. I work part-time as a visual merchandiser for American Apparel so I have to balance work and getting ready for the show on top of being a student all at the same time.
What’s next for you?
Michelle: I definitely want to stay in Austin. I’m working on a leather handbag collection that incorporates traditional Laos textiles so I hope to continue working on that.
Wendy: Possibly grad school, but not immediately. I’m currently doing research on different materials and their chemistry so I can see myself doing that in grad school so I can help come up with more innovative fabrics for the future.
Tilde: I plan on staying in Austin. I want to continue designing and working with designers and illustrators to come up with cool, new prints.
Last night proved that the long hours and hard work paid off for these senior designers and we’re certain that each of them are on their way to a successful future in fashion. Maybe one day, we’ll see their designs on the runways of New York, Paris or Milan!
Visit the Frank Erwin Center website to see who's coming, and subscribe to Be the First to Know to get a jump on upcoming pre-sales and ticket giveaways.