From today until Thursday I will republish interviews with some of the recent Pratt Institute fashion design graduates. I recently did these interviews for Zoot Magazine.
Founded in 1887, New York’s Pratt Institute is one of the world's most prestigious independent colleges, offering both undergraduate and graduate degree programs in disciplines such as architecture, art and design, information and library science, and liberal arts and sciences.
The event - part of Pratt’s celebrations for its 125th anniversary - opened with an important award: before the show at Center548 in Manhattan, fashion designer Calvin Klein presented Fern Mallis - creator of New York Fashion Week, former executive director of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), former senior vice president of IMG Fashion, and president of her own leading fashion and design consultancy firm, Fern Mallis LLC - with the Pratt Institute Fashion Industry Lifetime Achievement Award.
The Institute’s fashion show - featuring both men and women’s wear collections pre-selected by a panel of industry experts and press - started with Theresa Deckner who opened the show with an environmentally friendly collection focused on reducing waste and including designs made with 100% hemp/hemp blend fabrics and upcycled garments, decorated with splashes of acrylic paint and acrylic polymer emulsion.
America, American sportswear and the arts and crafts tradition provided inspiration to different designers: sportswear and the idea of excessive branding was the starting point of Beatrice Weiland’s "BeatriceBeatrice Presents Series 1" collection, with vintage pieces, varsity jackets and militarily urban jumpsuits; Kelsy Carleen Parkhouse’s designs in delicate flowery and patchwork prints inspired by American quilts and the Grand Canyon and made with vintage feed sack textiles mixed with new fabrics from the garment district, won her the inaugural “Liz Claiborne Award - Concept to Product”, worth $25,000.
The differences and similarities between New York and her hometown of Istanbul helped Huner Aldemir developing designs based on dichotomies and incorporating different styles and materials in one garment.
Dichotomies also characterised Emily Kauffelt’s X-ray-inspired pieces, that, subtly referencing the human body and the skeleton, came in sheer and opaque fabrics, and Dana Hurtwitz’s heavy coats decorated with light and colourful rows of feathers.
News pieces and innovative technologies were the starting points for Emilie Cardin and Ruby Gertz’s studies: nuclear fallout and last summer’s London Riots allowed Cardin to develop utilitarian post-apocalyptic uniforms characterised by clean lines and with asymmetrical fastenings that added an element of chaos in the designs; wearable electronics, science-fiction, music about outer space, and the futuristic designs of Apple products mixed with her passion for silkscreening were instead behind Gertz’s cocktail dresses incorporating LED strip lights.
Evening wear was also included with Ping Hatta’s lingerie and corset-inspired pieces, Stephanie Parks’ dresses made with algae-like strips of fabrics, Lily (Xi) Li’s gowns in delicate sea shades and Kate Wilkoff’s warrior goddess dresses in hand-dyed chiffon and in mainly neutral tones with touches of citron and trapunto satin overlays imitating a warrior’s armour.
Juan Pozo and Aharon Kolatch had different approaches to menswear: the former reinvented classic pieces from the male wardrobe including the oilcloth jacket relaunched in its short-sleeved version and unisex shearling capes; the latter came up instead with tailored trousers and jackets incorporating traditional fabrics and ACUPAT (Army Combat Uniform PATtern – also known as Digital Camouflage).
Looking only superficially at Elizabeth Ammerman’s designs wouldn’t have helped you spotting the real themes behind it. The varsity jackets in iridescent fabrics, transparent PVC top and skirt trapping coloured feathers inside it, white mini-skirts and sparkly cheerleaders’ looks in lame fabrics hid more in-depth meanings.
Occult or tarot-like symbols appliqued here and were indeed the cue to the real main inspiration, Alejandro Jodorowsky and Nicky Nichols’s costumes from Jodorowky’s visionary 1973 film The Holy Mountain. There might have been no alchemists in sight, but there were plenty of references to the main characters and their symbolic roles in the movie.
Can you tell us more about your background?
Elizabeth Ammerman: I'm from Amarillo, Texas, a smallish town in the Southern Bible Belt.
Who has been the greatest influence on your career choices?
Elizabeth Ammerman: I interned for Christian Joy for a few years, and her courageous creativity has been one of the largest influences. She sort of has a “create whatever you want to create no matter what anyone thinks” approach that I identify with.
What does fashion represent for you?
Elizabeth Ammerman: Fashion represents self expression and rebellion to me.
Can you tell us more about your creative process?
Elizabeth Ammerman: I usually start with a sketch. I design best when I create a fantasy girl with a sassy hairstyle and attitude. I progress from there with designs, until she and the clothes eventually become this entity with a personality.
Can you tell us more about your collection, is there a theme behind it?
Elizabeth Ammerman: My collection was a costume collection. I redesigned the costumes for Alejandro Jodorowsky's The Holy Mountain. I connect with that movie because it delves into all of the things that I'm most interested in. I draw my greatest inspiration from my studies in spirituality and occultism and the symbols that occur within those realms. Each look from my collection was meant to be an archetype in the universe as well as a character from The Holy Moutain. I represented Venus, symbol of appearances and superficiality; Mars, purification through severity; Jesus, spirit through form; Mary Magdalene, and the Moon goddess. The costumes were meant to be fun, and humorous and to awaken within the viewer a sort of soul awareness. Holy Mountain is about finding yourself, the same principle that is also the basic aim of all spirituality, and my collection was meant to recreate this on a micro level. One of the alchemical mantras - V.I.T.R.I.O.L. - is the basis of the collection, translated from Latin it means ‘visit the interior of the Earth and rectifying (purifying) you will find the hidden stone (yourself)'.
What kind of materials did you use for your collection?
Elizabeth Ammerman: I created prints from alchemical, tarot and Qabalistic symbols that corresponded to the archetypes and got them laser printed for a few of my looks. I also used vinyls, plastics, and iridescent fabrics to conjure up a sense of multidimensional spiritual reality.
How did you feel about showcasing your collection at the Pratt fashion show?
Elizabeth Ammerman: I was super honored to be a part of the Pratt fashion show. It was a definite payoff for the infinite all nighters. Surprisingly enough, Calvin Klein - who presented the Lifetime Achievement Award this year - was into my collection. He came up to me after the show. It's strange because my collection is not in the same realm of what I would expect him to like, since it has got this fucked up freak show nightlife vibe about it, so it’s at the opposite end of the spectrum from minimal refined sophistication.
What are your future plans?
Elizabeth Ammerman: I plan on finding a job, but I'm not sure yet who I want to work for. I still have a lot to learn through experience, but I would eventually like to start my own line. That's the ultimate goal.
Member of the Boxxet Network of Blogs, Videos and Photos
Member of the Boxxet Network of Blogs, Videos and Photos