April 5, 2011

Ministère de la Mode

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Hannah Richey ’11 always knew that she would pursue fashion in college. She came to Cornell for her formal training, to take advantage of the school’s small fashion department and the opportunities afforded by a large research university. Though Richey came to Cornell with a broad understanding of fashion fundamentals, her summer internships and classroom projects have allowed her to explore the intrinsic relationship between textiles and design. Her Spring 2011 collection, entitled “Vestige,” will showcase her prowess for all things fabric: she’s developing all of her own textiles for the Apr.16 show.

“I take inspiration from nature and the textures that occur in nature,” she says. “I plan to translate those textures through the fabric that I use for the collection.”

Like the Catalan architect Gaudí, Richey refuses to use straight lines in her work, since you will never find them in nature. She incorporates the textures of clouds, rocks and sand, but don’t label her aesthetic “earthy.”

“The collection will explore the influence of pollution, and the way that creates colors in nature,” she explains. “I’m considering the contrast between destruction and processes that occur naturally.”

She plans to use blacks, grays, navy and rusty orange to conjure pollution, and she’s hand-dyeing all of her fabrics to approximate atmospheric shades. Richey also says that she’ll use a lot of embroidery and yarn work to create the convoluted shapes and textures found in nature.

Richey’s collection was inspired by the earth works of Robert Smithson and former A.D. White Professor-at-Large Andy Goldsworthy (you can find his installation, “Garden of Stones,” at the Cornell Plantations). Richey looked at Smithson’s “Asphalt Rundown,” an ephemeral work that illuminates the title of her collection — “Vestige,” a visible sign left by something vanished or lost.

“I really like the way these artists work with nature, color and texture to create installations that are fleeting,” Richey says.

Richey first became interested in texture and fabrics when she took the course “Color and Surface Design of Textiles,” in fall 2009. The following spring, she did all of her own dyeing for her runway collection. Her internship in Textile Research and Development for Isaac Mizrahi this past summer added to her fascination with fabrics.

“I got to work alongside the design team to incorporate textiles into the silhouettes,” she explains. “Fabric is really important in the design process; you can’t execute a design without thinking about the fabric first.”

When Richey starts thinking about her collections, she conscientiously incorporates textiles into each design.

“Because fabric is very important to me, I end up going back and forth between sketching and deciding what fabrics to use for each design,” she says. “I look at all the sketches and decide which fabrics will flow together nicely.”

For this collection, she chose a mix of silk crepe de chine, silk gauze, linen, wool and lightweight cotton. Richey is dyeing all of the fabrics herself, using the discharge technique, which creates a “tie-dye look.”

Richey had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit India through the FSAD department this winter. After taking IARD 4020: Agriculture in Developing Nations, she spent two weeks in the country, visiting factories engaged in all aspects of textile and apparel production. She was fascinated by the traditional dyeing techniques and the distinctive palette that the garment workers created out of natural ingredients.

“I hadn’t really considered a career in textiles before coming here. That’s definitely something I was exposed to through my internships, as well as my design classes,” says Richey.

Richey has used her in-depth knowledge of textiles to create a cohesive collection of silhouettes this year. She feels that her senior effort has stayed most true to her preferred color palette of cool earth tones. Through her collection, Richey has effectively channeled the dynamism of nature into a wearable art form.

Original Author: Meredith Richard