A world-renowned collegiate Fashion Design program and a homegrown not-for-profit organization team up to create beauty. What happens next is...well, beautiful (as seen here).

Designed by fashion student Claire Johnson, created in the Spring 2023 Advanced Pattern Making class, and brought to life by The Collective Thread, this outfit is an example of what is possible when the Stephens College Fashion program collaborates with a St. Louis nonprofit aimed at providing dignified work for immigrants and refugees. 

The designer, Claire Johnson, is currently a junior studying Fashion Design at Stephens College. For this ensemble, she drew inspiration from an authentic dress crafted by her Collective Thread collaboration partner, Bibi Zaky, who hails from Pakistan. With both Bibi’s colorful traditional dress and her own research on Pakistani fashion and its influence as her inspiration, Claire was encouraged by her instructors to design something “marketable” and outside her comfort zone.  

Though she’s sewn her whole life, Claire says the pattern making process was eye-opening. “It’s like creating a puzzle for someone else to put together later,” she shares. “It’s up to you [the designer/pattern maker] to come up with the whole plan and make sure it works.” 

And work, it did. Bibi was able to take Claire’s pattern, choose a stunning fabric, and sew this outfit quickly. The results speak for themselves. This remarkable, cooperative design was featured at The Collective Thread’s 2023 Fashion Show. 

See more of Claire’s work on Instagram @nuuclothesbyclaire, where she brings new life to old textiles. 


“The collaboration between Stephens and The Collective Thread is a clear win-win,” said The Collective Thread’s CEO Terri Stipanovich. “It allows both groups to learn, expand their skills, and be a part of something truly impactful.” 

Stephens College has created groundbreaking educational opportunities for students from mid-Missouri and around the world since 1833. The College has built a foundation for the 21st century with its commitment to experiential learning, expanded health sciences and creative arts degrees, and targeted investment in programs leading to high-demand careers that serve and enrich communities. 

Photo credit @mforemodels

Stephens College is an esteemed undergraduate women’s education leader and a longtime innovator in providing flexible, co-educational master’s degrees and certificates for working professionals. Learn more about Stephens College at stephens.edu. 
The Collective Thread (TCT) is a nonprofit on a mission to provide needed services to apparel brands and designers, while also giving hope, employable skills, and a community to those in need in the Greater St. Louis Area. By teaching professional sewing classes at no cost, TCT is helping immigrants and refugees find jobs, boosting the workforce, and filling obvious gaps in the industry and community. For more information on The Collective Thread and their incredible work, visit: https://www.thecollectivethread.org/ or find them on Instagram @the.collective.thread 

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