March 26, 2013

Student Fashion Spotlight: Katelyn Ridgeway ’13

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Katelyn Ridgeway ’13 believes that the comfort of a garment is as important as its look. A Fiber Science & Apparel Design major, she specializes in outdoor lifestyle sportswear: soft shell pants, digital print swimsuits and even soccer uniforms. While this senior will be showing a collection in this April’s Cornell Fashion Collective, she’s not afraid to wear a sweatshirt on campus or in studio. Unsurprisingly,  her pieces balance beautiful details with an organic, comfortable feel.

Katelyn hails from outdoorsy San Diego. Growing up, she drew clothes and read her mom’s Vogue. In high school, her parents placed her in the California College of the Arts (CCA) summer program for fashion design and illustration to see if she was serious about the actual work behind fashion. Fortunately for Katelyn and her parents, she was.

She came to Cornell specifically interested in the Fiber Science & Apparel major, which allows her to play with the kinds of materials and fabrics involved in outdoor apparel. At Cornell, she’s been able to balance studio classes like active sportswear studio with a diverse range of other courses like marketing, art history and philosophy, which have informed her artistic vision and her business sense. Over four years, Cornell has taught her the ways to turn the designs she has in mind into the pieces she has at her desk.

“Cornell has really helped me to define who I am as a designer,” says Katelyn. In her own words, she creates pieces that are “simple [and] sort of subdued with something interesting about them.” In her fashion, she aims to flatter and comfort the wearer. She hopes that those who wear her clothes do not transform into someone else, but instead feel comfortable and flattered by the garment. As an exercise in one of her classes, she was asked by her professor to describe herself as a designer in three words. She choose quiet, beautiful and Arinyuna.

The final “adjective” is the name of her senior collection for the Cornell Fashion Collective. In the Australian Aboriginal language, Arinyuna means “toward that place” or, alternatively, a many-mile journey. She came up with the name while studying abroad last spring in Australia, an experience that has come to form the inspiration for her entire collection. As an activewear designer, she’s attracted to landscapes, which she photographs and puts on a board in her studio. Her wall is covered with photos taken on hikes at places like The Blue Mountains, Gervis Bay and in a tiny town immersed in the wilderness called Maringo. Her board is also full of pictures of the aboriginal people, men in casual trousers and black and red cockatoos. She hopes that her line “embodies the functionality of [her] clothing” but also her “own journey” being abroad.

When she’s translating her vision into a piece, she “think[s] about what [it] is that [she] likes in a certain photograph” before asking herself the question, “How can I translate that into a garment?” In a recent design, for example, she created a black shirt dissected across its back by horizontal slits; she based the design on a picture of an aboriginal man with a scar down his back.

While the show provides an opportunity to see and create work for a portfolio, Katelyn says it’s most important as a way to demonstrate what she’s learned. “Personally, my parents don’t see much of my work,” Katelyn explained.

“When I go home I don’t necessarily bring my work home. I might have some pictures. This is very exciting for them because they get to see everything I’ve learned in four years … in a huge show on a runway, modeled with music.”

After she graduates, Katelyn will be looking for a job in the outdoor apparel industry, with companies like Patagonia, North Face and Columbia. In the near future, she will design freelance for the Spartan Race with two other students and pitch ideas to Reebok in hopes of coming out with more design work for her portfolio. Katelyn also recently won a scholarship from the YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund. Ultimately, Katelyn hopes “to have [her] own brand or line.”

To Katelyn, aspiring designers “need to be very savvy about how to present [themselves],” and should have “a very singular feeling about [themselves] so that people don’t get confused.” With creative inspiration, a focused work ethic and a growing business savvy, Katelyn is certainly a designer with a clear idea of how to translate fascinating ideas into beautiful — and functional — pieces.

Original Author: Meredith Joyce