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August 1 2014

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6 posts tagged "SCAD"

Creativity Without Commercial Restraints at SCAD’s Annual Student Fashion Show

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SCAD

The Savannah College of Art and Design has acquired some eighty buildings since its inception in 1978—many of which are historic, and so spread out that a campus tour requires a car—and the development is showing no signs of slowing down. The facilities are even more impressive. Fashion students are trained on state-of-the-art laser cutters, 3-D printers, and every type of textile and fiber contraption the mind can imagine. All of that has made SCAD a hot spot of emerging fashion talent, which the school proudly displayed at Saturday night’s annual student fashion show.

Beverly Sung’s pleated, asymmetrical dresses (above, left) were a respectable nod to Issey Miyake. Sculptural, digital printed dresses from Wenxia Wang and Zenobia Duncan (below, left) were equally impressive. Elaine Lui, a former Alexander Wang intern, drew creativity from her native Hong Kong, with mesh-overlaid streetwear covered with prints of electric wiring and light-up LCD details built into the clothes (above, right). Across the board, fabric innovation was the big story here—burned Lycra, hand-plisséd skirts, digitally printed boiled wool. Dean of Fashion Michael Fink told us, “What sets this year apart is that there is so much textile and fiber development. The fashion students are actually making their own textiles in collaboration with our Fibers students.”

SCAD

One-on-ones with the designers after the show afforded an opportunity to hear their stories and inspirations. Michael Mann’s conceptual menswear referenced football, a comment on the offense and defense he struggled between while being bullied as a teen. Wesley Berryman’s parents drove eight hours from rural Tennessee to come see him show androgynous creations that might feel at home on a rack beside Rick Owens and Gareth Pugh (above, right). Berryman’s mother told us, “I don’t know where he got his fashion sense—definitely not from me! When we used to go to Walmart [to buy clothes], I was always worried he would put up a fight! But really, I just want to support my son.”

The real joy in seeing a student fashion show like SCAD’s is the opportunity to witness creativity without the commercial restraints many professional designers face. Free from the pressure of having to “sell” anything, and enabled by a supportive faculty and cutting-edge facilities, SCAD’s runway served as a rare, unfettered fashion moment.

Photos: Courtesy of SCAD 

Stephen Burrows Reflects on the Past and Present

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Stephen Burrows

This weekend, the Savannah College of Art and Design honored Stephen Burrows with the André Leon Talley Lifetime Achievement Award. His dresses, a huge hit in the 1970s, were able to perfectly capture the zeitgeist of the time: Technicolor jersey designed to dance the night away. We sat down with Burrows to discuss his pivotal appearance in 1973′s now iconic Battle of Versailles, the importance of business savvy, and how he believes that Gianni Versace copied his idea for metal mesh.

You studied at FIT. What was it like there in the 1960s?
It was exciting! I learned a lot there, I met some friends who became part of our group and we went into business together. Everyone would wear my clothes, and we would all go out together, and that’s how we all got recognized.

What is the most important thing you learned in fashion school?
I wish I had been more interested in the business part of it, but they didn’t really teach that at the time. I went into fashion school not really knowing anything about fabrics, the grains, patternmaking, but I learned all of that during my time there. I learned that I prefer to drape. Some people who are better patternmakers can look at a garment and see its flat parts—I always preferred to drape; I find it very relaxing.

Did you have any idea how significant the Versailles show in 1973 would become?
At the time it wasn’t significant to anyone except us. And it was just another benefit! It wasn’t supposed to be this battle they call it now. It just turned into that because the French were just so tacky. We didn’t even have scenery—we had brought some, but we couldn’t use it. It was too small—they measured it in inches instead of meters—so we had to get rid of it! Our stage ended up being bare, which looked incredibly modern. And our show, all five of us lasted half an hour. And the French show lasted for two hours! They had sleighs and reindeer, all these props, and it was just too long. And then we came on, and in half an hour we turned it out, and the crowd was screaming! They threw their programs in the air and were so amazed. But I did meet Saint Laurent that day, and he told me I make beautiful clothes, so I sort of knew that was an iconic moment for me.

Stephen Burrows

In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge facing young designers today?
Finding funding is really hard, especially for minorities. It’s so different today than it was back then. You need so much more money to do anything today, and it’s all about branding. Back then, if you had $50,000, you could start a business. Now today, you need probably $5 million and that maybe lasts a year.

What would you consider your single greatest achievement?
The lettuce edge. It came from a mistake that became this big thing. We were making something, and I stretched the fabric by accident. It’s about pulling the fabric as you’re sewing them, and that became a trademark of mine. And chain mail—I was the first one to do it, before [Gianni] Versace did it. Of course, he saw it in a show we did in Japan called The Best Six, and the next season he happened to have chain mail in his collection.

Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
I wish I had been more business inclined. And that’s because I hated math—I barely made it out of high school because of math. To me, 2 and 2 is 5, and that’s why I like knits, but for accounting, that doesn’t really work.

Are there any young designers you find particularly exciting right now?
I love Gareth Pugh, when it’s not too costumey. That’s the problem with fashion today, it’s too costumey. Where on earth are you going? In this outfit that costs $9 million! Where are you going!

And are there any other qualms you have with fashion at the moment?
Well, another problem I have is that girls don’t really know how to walk in trains. The train ends up in between their legs, and they’re kicking it in front of them instead of the train being in back where it belongs. They don’t know quite how to kick the train so it follows them instead of coming up between their legs. If you’re going to wear a dress, you need to learn how to carry it.

What advice would you offer young designers?
Learn about the financial side of fashion. That will keep you alive with a healthy business. You need to mix the commercial with what you do. Many young designers fight against that, but that’s what you need to make a healthy business—to learn how to blend the two together.

Photo: Courtesy of SCAD 

Prabal Gurung, Eddie Borgo, and Domenico De Sole Talk Style for SCAD

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What is style? For fashion folk, that’s a pretty existential question. But the Savannah College of Art and Design will aim to answer that with its upcoming SCADstyle 2014 conference, which will take place at its Savannah and Atlanta, Georgia, campuses, as well as its campus in Hong Kong, from April 14 through 17. With such speakers as Alexander Wang, Prabal Gurung, Eddie Borgo, Sally Singer, Bridget Foley, and Steven Kolb, among others, on its roster, the event will not only explore the concept of “style,” but also provide students (and the public—all are welcome) with invaluable knowledge and insights into the industry. “SCAD is an amazing institution, and I believe that it’s one of the greatest things when a school exposes [students] to real people who live the business day in and day out,” the program’s chair, Domenico De Sole, told Style.com. “Students will get to hear directly from very famous people like Alexander Wang and the president of Bergdorf Goodman, Joshua Shulman. It’s going to be terrific for students to hear about their real-life experiences, real-life fashion, and what it’s actually like doing business.” Considering De Sole’s successful tenure as Gucci’s longtime president and CEO, not to mention his current position as the chairman of Tom Ford International, the executive has accumulated some valuable wisdom of his own. “The greatest lesson I learned is the absolute dominant role of creativity in this industry. I didn’t realize that when I started running Gucci America forty years ago, but the real truth, what really counts, is creative growth,” he offered, adding that his advice for up-and-comers is to “remember the road to success is long and painful.”


Ahead of the conference, SCAD has created a series of films that show speakers like Borgo and Gurung (whose clips debut exclusively here) discussing their careers and definition of style. “Style is an instinctive understanding of who you are as a person and the relationship that you have with the world,” explains Gurung in his clip. Borgo, meanwhile, suggests that style is “authenticity. It’s a personal endeavor that you go through your entire life.” Interesting, right? What’s more is that prospective students and fashion fans can submit their own #IAMSCADSTYLE Instagram flicks for a chance to win a trip to attend April’s festivities.

So what’s De Sole’s definition of style? “The only thing that counts is a very strong, precise, distinct, and consistent aesthetic. [Style] is a complex subject, but that’s what’s really key.”

First College, Now Spring Break

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Today I’m in sunny Saint-Tropez for Karl Lagerfeld’s Chanel Resort show, but last Thursday I was in hot and balmy Savannah at the city’s College of Art and Design for a panel discussion with Ruffian’s Brian Wolk and Claude Morais (that’s us onstage). Sandwiched between Keegan Singh’s talk on styling and Hamish Bowles’ lecture on collecting couture, my Ruffian pals and I spoke about the relationship between designers and critics. The students had plenty of tough questions: What do you base your reviews on (for my part, it’s primarily about how the current collection compares to the designers’ previous work, and secondly, how it fits within the context of the season), are you easier on young designers than more established ones (constructive criticism is our specialty), and, for the Ruffians, how do reviews affect what you do the next season? Apropos of that, on a tour of Flannery O’Connor’s modest childhood home, the guide told us O’Connor’s collected Complete Stories won the National Book Award in 1972, eight years after her death. Brian and Claude joked that it was a good lesson to remember when the tough reviews come in.

Photo: Courtesy of SCAD

Blasblog: A Parisian Belle, By Way Of Savannah

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Savannah is known for its old-world charm, and now that I’m down here—for the Savannah College of Art and Design’s annual Reveal Festival, which brings fashion types down to the Georgia city for a week of lectures and discussions—I can attest to it firsthand. I was in town for a talk called “Sartorially Speaking” with Decades’ Cameron Silver, debating the pros and cons of vintage (pro: the chances are slim that someone will show up in the same dress; con: although it’s “green,” recycling old clothes doesn’t exactly nurture new talent, which there’s plenty of here at SCAD). After our chat (and a quick signing of my book, of course), we had dinner at The Olde Pink House, a charming Southern restaurant housed in an original William Jay structure, one of the oldest in Savannah. It was there that I met the legendary Bettina, seen here with Gil Donaldson, Merchant Ivory Films’ Savannah-born, Paris-based president. Gil (a board member of SCAD) befriended the model in France and convinced her to make this Southern pilgrimage.

Talk about old-world charm. Now in her mid-eighties, Bettina is not only a quick-witted vision, she’s a living history of the fashion industry in the years after WWII. We’re talking Irving Penn and Richard Avedon portraits here—even her nom de couture, Bettina, was a pet name coined by Pierre Balmain himself. (She was born Simone Micheline Bodin Graziani.) Bettina came to Paris from the countryside and was immediately discovered for her “quick-paced, distinctive” walk, as she described it, and the unique facial features that she would—get this—make up herself for fashion shows and shoots. Not that doing one’s own hair and makeup, and bringing one’s own shoes and stockings, has been the biggest progression in the industry. Bettina also told me that shows would last for up to two hours, girls would wear 20 dresses in one couture presentation, and she would be in and out of those garments in seconds. I asked her if it was as romantic as I imagine it. “Yes, absolutely,” she said. “It was the best job a girl could have asked for. When I think back, even the smell in the couture salons was fabulous.”

Photo: Derek Blasberg