In Their Element: A Conversation with UT Design Students

The University of Texas at Austin's Senior Design Student Fashion Show, “Elements,” takes place on April 14 at the Frank Erwin Center. Twenty two students will showcase athletic-wear and bridal pieces they created last semester, and a three-piece collection they have been working on this semester.

Story by Ethan Elkins

Photos by Malayna Ellis 

In this installment, ORANGE interviewed six design students and asked about their collections, inspiration and plans after graduation. 

 

Hannah Leonard — 21, Design Major

  Hannah’s look is a modern take on 60’s fashion with a metallic leather skirt, grey turtleneck, and pink petticoat.

Hannah’s look is a modern take on 60’s fashion with a metallic leather skirt, grey turtleneck, and pink petticoat.

What inspired your collection?

My collection is inspired by the 1960s, with my muse being Twiggy, an English model, singer and actress. I loved everything she did for fashion and the influence she had on the time period. I took that inspiration and used silhouettes and fabrics that would correspond to being “vintage-y,” but I modernized them and added a metallic aspect, which is something that would never have been seen in that time period. The whole look is very futuristic, but still inspired by the ‘60s.

Which piece are you the most proud of?

I would say my wedding gown. It was definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done and made, and I was glad it turned out the way I wanted it to, because that isn’t always the case.

What have you learned at UT that has helped your design process?

At UT I’ve learned the importance of being well rounded. Being in the College of Natural Sciences, we take a lot of classes in business, science and art. It is important to be knowledgeable in all of those categories.

 

Taylor Litman — 23, Design Major

  Taylor chalks out her stencils for her jacket that is currently in pieces, but will be covered in fringe when finished.

Taylor chalks out her stencils for her jacket that is currently in pieces, but will be covered in fringe when finished.

What inspired your collection?

I studied abroad in London a year ago, and that inspired the look and feel of my collection. It is luxurious and elegant, but also homey and comfortable. I’m using a darker color palette with more blacks and dark greens, which played a big role in choosing the fabrics I used.

Which designer inspires you?

I love evening gowns and red carpet designers like Marchesa and Elie Saab, but in terms of contemporary and modern-day, I love rag & bone, Alice + Olivia and Opening Ceremony.

What are your plans after graduation?

I want to move to New York— that is where the industry is and where I want to be. I lived there two summers ago and fell in love with it. Hopefully, I will find an internship that will lead to a job that will allow me to stay there for a while.

 

Rachel Baker — 28, Design Major

  Rachel shows ORANGE her 60’s pop and abstract art inspired dress.

Rachel shows ORANGE her 60’s pop and abstract art inspired dress.

Which piece are you the most proud of?

I think the second look that will go down the runway. It has this sheer, organish top with circular and three-dimensional sleeves and has a skirt with purple stripes. A purple bra goes on the outside of the shirt, and the purple in the stripes on the skirt match the bra.

Which designer inspires you?

My favorite designer overall is Yves Saint Laurent. He did all of the different Picasso and Mondrian-inspired looks. I also love Pheobe Philo, who has been the creative director of Chloe and Celine.

What are your plans after graduation?

I plan to start my own business. My husband and I are both interested in fashion and we want to start a menswear line first, and then eventually do womenswear as well. I’m torn location-wise because I love New York, but I feel Austin has become a place where fashion can have a market.

 

Paige Rahe — 21, Design Major with Business Foundations Certificate

  Paige showcases her evening gown, a piece inspired by designer Zac Posen.

Paige showcases her evening gown, a piece inspired by designer Zac Posen.

What inspired your collection?

My main inspiration came from Bianca Jagger, the ‘70s icon. Her famous white pantsuits inspired me to make a new suit. It’s my take on what women would wear now, going out with friends to a party, while still inspired by the past.

What types of pieces did you make?

I made a tuxedo skort with oversized collars. Also, I designed two pairs of pants: one cigarette and one flared. I made this criss-cross off the shoulder crop top that goes with the big pants and a leather body suit with a train coming of the shoulders.

Which area of the design industry would you like to work in?

Definitely women’s design. I don’t really have an eye for men’s. If I got thrown into that I would definitely try it out. I am down to do anything that helps me get better at my work.

 

Aaron Kubacak — 38, Design Major

  Aaron lays out fabric and stencils to start on his next piece.

Aaron lays out fabric and stencils to start on his next piece.

What inspired your collection?

My collection was inspired by '60s sci-fi movie posters. It is super colorful and campy.

What is your favorite type of garment to design?

I like to do menswear and make jackets. Outside of school, I do outfits for drag queens, so I like to design fantastic clothing and dresses.

Which designer inspires you?

My favorite designer is probably Elsa Schiaparelli. She was a designer that worked with Salvador Dali. Her work is kind of strange looking; she has a piece that is like a spine that is all black down the back.

What have you learned at UT that has best helped your design process?

Learning the skills of creating a sketch and making that into something real has helped me. Before this program, I only had a few basic sewing skills. I didn’t know how to put a zipper in or do sleeves and anything like that.

 

Kristen Mellberg — 20, Design Major

  Kristen arranges fabric to start piecing together her next garment.

Kristen arranges fabric to start piecing together her next garment.

What inspired your collection?

My collection is edgy meets romantic. It has simple silhouettes and is very straightforward, but has a twist to it with deep V’s and some interesting lines going in odd directions. It’s velvet, neoprene and has this other snake-printed brocade fabric. The different fabrics bring in many textures. 

Which designer inspires you?

I really like Elie Saab. He has insane collections that are very detailed and beaded that are so beautiful. I would love to just do beadwork for him.

Which part of the fashion show are you most excited about?

I am excited to be sitting with all of my friends and watching all of our pieces finally finished. We have all been very stressed out, and we are ready for the process to be over with and be at the show.