Senior Cornell Fashion Collective designer Allie Thielens ’11 came here to study fine art and graphic design, but lucky for us, she’s since changed her course. A self-described “visual, creative person,” she’s channeled her artistic prowess into crafting wearable pieces that are highly imaginative and at times, borderline inconceivable — try to picture a couture gown made entirely of light bulbs and cording. It’s clear that Allie draws much of her inspiration from fine art and more specifically, the over-the-top installation variety. In her classes at Cornell she has created fascinating sculptures out of materials ranging from rope to rubber bands. And it’s clear that she incorporates a structural sensibility in her fashion designs; her sketches are absolutely meticulous, practically mini-masterpieces on their own.
Perusing Allie’s inspiration blog, you’ll see that her personal style proclivities run the gamut from the ethereal gowns of Victor & Rolf to the understated masculinity of Amelia Earhart. This brings us to her collection for the Spring CFC show. “My collection will play on masculinity versus femininity, with a sort of whimsical style,” she explained.
After interning at Ralph Lauren this summer, Allie became inspired by the label’s “feminine, but at the same time, strong and assertive looks,” she said. With the advantages of the RL image database, she formulated a look book around old black and white fishing photographs, which together exude a kind of “newspapery” effect.
Allie noted that this experience very nearly mirrored her typical design process; “I’m always searching for images, and once I’ve settled on one inspiration image, I sketch and sketch and sketch. The biggest problem I have is editing all the sketches down.”
She developed her fishing concept into a winning intern design project, which was chosen to be presented in front of the head of the Womenswear Department, among other high-ranking RL directors and designers. Ten of the looks she envisioned for the project will become a reality for the CFC runway show in April. You can definitely sense the highly polished Ralph Lauren aesthetic in her spring collection; she employs a muted palette of greens and browns with a hint of red-orange. But on the other hand, the designs incorporate a level of playfulness that makes them more accessible to her young audience (I don’t think Ralph would come up with a dress made out of colorful nautical buoys).
Allie described her own design aesthetic as “subtly glamorous.” She takes utilitarian entities, like lightbulbs or fishing and translates them into elegant works of art. She is most interested in creating fashions that are “easy to wear, but still beautiful.” Her upcoming collection showcases ensembles that look comfortable, but still exude high luxury and glamour. She says that she designs for a versatile young woman who is “confident, but kind of mischievous.” As an artist, Allie has a wise point of view, but she’s always sure to include elements of whimsy.
Allie’s many internship experiences with Ralph Lauren, as well as Adam Lippes, Komar, and Rebecca Minkoff, have given her a more focused sense of what she wants to do in the future. She’d like to work in a smaller, studio setting, as opposed to a larger corporate environment, hopefully designing for ready to wear. Allie is still deciding what kind of fashion best suits her abilities, “I really love wearable art and sculpture, so I’ve mostly focused on that,” she said. While she has concentrated on crafting innovative, wearable art, she recognizes that she will probably have to work on more practical, everyday pieces in her future endeavors (not many people can find the choice occasion for a lightbulb gown). For now, she is focusing on her Spring collection; she wants this line to “tell a story,” as opposed to her past collections, which have revolved around individual pieces.
Allie is the perfect example of an artist who is able to transfer her skills across diverse media. Though she started out in the graphic design field, she has made an impressive foray into the fashion world. She has successfully channeled her artistry into a prolific designing career and she has yet to graduate.
Allie explained that, for a certain type of person, “you just need to have that creative outlet.” In her case, she has many.