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Fashion students explore fabrics in Chicago

September 5, 2014

Fashion design majors who traveled to Chicago on a fabric tour last week say the trip opened their eyes to the difference between everyday clothing and high-end pieces while also giving them a chance to start making fabric choices for their respective collections this year.

“For me, the greatest benefit was being able to touch high-quality clothing for the first time in my life,” said Ilia Siegwald, a junior from Concordia, Mo. “I was surprised by the difference.”

That was the experience for many of the 40 fashion students who took the trip, said Maureen Lowary, assistant professor of fashion and design.

“Not only did the students get the opportunity to see, feel and purchase good quality fabrics, but they also had the opportunity to get into some high-end retail establishments and get an up-close look at high fashion,” she said. “For many of our students, it was probably the first time that they have ever had the opportunity to see and touch better quality garments.”

The three-day trip, held Aug. 28-30, was the school’s first trip to Chicago, although the School of Fashion and Design has hosted similar trips to St. Louis and Kansas City.

The group visited Vogue Fabrics, Fishman’s Fabrics and Nordstrom, where they got a tour of the store.

“It was interesting to go to high-end stores and see garments that you actually see on the runway,” sophomore Hillary Henry said. “The construction and lining and details—they were very well constructed compared to the clothing we buy every day.”

Siegwald and Henry were able to purchase some fabric for the pieces they will design and create this year. Siegwald, who is planning a collection around the Tudor period, opted for crape and bamboo knit jersey, while Henry selected cotton blends and other natural fibers.

Seniors designing for Jury of Selection in hopes of competing in The Collections fashion show are scheduled to present designs and fabric selections to industry professionals during a series of critiques this semester. Even though they weren’t able to purchase fabric during the trip, senior Logan Blagg said it was extremely helpful to be able to collect swatches on site rather than ordering them online.

“This way we got to actually go to nice fabric stores, see the fabric and touch it so we know exactly what we’re getting,” she said.

All three students said they’ve been interested in fashion since childhood. Henry, who’s from Columbia, sewed as a part of 4-H activities, and Siegwald simply knew she wanted to design clothing as early as 8 years old.

The best part of studying fashion at Stephens, Siegwald said, is the competitiveness embedded in a supportive environment.

“It’s competitive, which prepares you for the field you’re going into,” she said. “But everyone is supportive of you.”

Henry and Blagg agree the faculty make the difference.

“Getting each faculty member’s opinion is helpful,” Blagg said. “Each has her own perspective and area of expertise—from tailoring to knowing the market—that it really helps you pull together your own style.”

“They’re all really knowledgeable and have been in the industry and know people in the industry,” Henry said. “They know what they’re talking about.”

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