Courtesy of Caroline Donelan

March 9, 2016

Senior Designer Profile: Caroline Donelan ’16 Discusses Collaboration, Confidence and Sportswear

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Throughout her time on the hill, Caroline Donelan ’16 has always sought to take advantage of Cornell’s opportunities, both academic and extracurricular. Her various interests have led Caroline to take various classes outside of the Fiber Science and Apparel Design major, such as Introduction to Wines and Vines, and to join Cornell’s running club. Donelan’s interest in running and athletics greatly influenced the senior collection — which features a number of different sportswear garments — that she will display at Cornell Fashion Collective’s runway show this Saturday. After graduation, Caroline plans on continuing to work with sportswear in a technical design position at Nike.

The Sun: What got you into fashion, was it always a part of life, or was there one moment when you decided that you wanted to study it?

Caroline Donelan: I always knew that I wanted to do design; I’ve always loved hands-on projects. I taught myself how to sew when I was in middle school, and just worked myself up from there. For a long time, I never really had a focus in design, but over the past two years, I’ve been able to define it. I’m still not the most high-fashion designer, but I love creating and designing functional garments, I’m a very practical person. I’ve geared my collection over the last few years towards athletic wear. I really like working with athletes and finding that thing that they don’t yet have, but that they want to improve their performance, or comfort.

When creating my collection this year, I worked directly with the track team here at Cornell. I interviewed with a bunch of runners in the fall and got a broad scope of not only their clothing and their complaints about it, but also of their training regimens, what sort of exercises they do and how long they train for. I wanted to have an idea of how long they’re wearing these garments, what role these garments need to fulfill and how can we make them better.

Sun: What attracted you to Cornell’s fashion program when you were thinking about where you wanted to study?

C.D.: I definitely wanted a university with a broad scope, and also a college campus feeling. Because I wasn’t the most artsy kid in high school, I knew that I didn’t want to be in New York City at a design-specific school.

Courtesy of Caroline Donelan

Sun: Through your four years at Cornell, have you found that your vision has coalesced, or is it still a learning process of trying new things?

C.D.: I definitely like trying new things and experimenting with new features of various garments. My big thing in this collection is digitally printing and for some pieces I specifically engineered the design of the garments to be cut into single pieces of fabric. This way there are minimal seams on the garment to reduce the risk of chafing and discomfort for the athletes, so it’s a process of having different shapes mold around the body and then forming it into one garment. So that process was new for me this year.

Also, I designed the print used in the garments itself because I wanted to create a dimensionality in the fabric that reflects the athletes themselves. Especially with running, but I believe with a lot of sports, there’s a huge mental aspect of it, you have to believe in yourself and believe that you can do it to even step up at the starting line. So the garments bring in the 3-D reality of the runner, like yes, they’re varsity athletes, but they still have mental barriers to encounter on their way to the finish line.

Courtesy of Caroline Donelan

Sun: You were talking earlier about your collaboration with the track team, and even here, all of the designers share studio space, do you feel that the collaboration aspect has changed your vision throughout your time at Cornell?

C.D.: It certainly influences my ideas, I feel like the way I work is very team-oriented. In this collection, I wanted it to be for the track team, so I asked them time and time again to be very honest with me when I asked, ‘How does this feel?’ ‘What do you like?’ ‘Do you want something different?’ Not only in terms of comfort and fit, but I also wanted them to feel strong and great in their clothes, just to build their confidence. I definitely like working with a team and coming up with a single goal.

Courtesy of Caroline Donelan

Tickets for the Cornell fashion Collective’s Annual Runway Show are still available online or from Collective members. The show will be held Saturday, March 12 in Bailey Hall.

Shay Collins is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected]