Catrina Corley ’16 is a Fiber Science and Apparel Design major and a Theater Production minor. Hailing from Houston, Texas, Corley had a business designing costumes before coming to Cornell, and now seeks to balance extravagance and fun with everyday-wearability in her designs. The Sun spoke with Corley about Cornell, her fashion philosophy and her D.C.-inspired designs in the upcoming Cornell Fashion Collective Runway Show.
The Sun: How did you get started with designing, and what made you decide that you wanted to pursue it as a career?
Catrina Colrey: I got my start making costumes for science fiction fans. These are the people who go to Comic Con, Dragon Con. I made one Star Trek costume one time, and people would not let me stop! So I started a business and it was pretty popular. It was called Space City Costumes. It’s no longer in business because of school, and it was just, I couldn’t do it. I got my start through making dramatic things, things that aren’t normal everyday clothes — sometimes you just want to be extravagant or special, I like making things like that. People still email me wanting costumes to this day, and I’m like, “Hey, sorry, not yet!” So that was how I got my start.
Sun: What brought you to Cornell?
C.C.: Well, I’m from Houston, Texas, and I hadn’t lived anywhere else. I was curious to know what it would be like to live in another state. I got accepted to the University of Texas and to Cornell. They both have similar design programs, but because Cornell was so different I decided to come here.
Sun: And how have you liked it here?
C.C.:Well, the barbecue leaves much to be desired! I wish I could get a good bowl of gumbo, and I do like wearing flip-flops year-round. As a non-traditional student, it was horrifying at first because I didn’t know if I would fit in or relate to my younger peers. After being at Cornell for four years, I was impressed with how much I have in common with everyone here and I’ve made really good friends. Getting out of my comfort zone in Texas taught me a lot about myself and my strengths and weaknesses, and Cornell’s program has the right balance of tech, business and fashion.
Sun: Tell me about your designs. What’s your approach to designing and what motivates you?
C.C.: My philosophy is that clothing has power, and when you put on something really cute, or something really powerful, you act like the clothes you wear. So if you just floundered around wearing sweats and a t-shirt all the time, you might be comfortable all the time, but are you going to take yourself seriously? Whereas maybe you’ll put on a really nice silk dress, and it just makes you feel sexy. So I like to not be boring, and when somebody’s wearing something I made, when they walk into the room, I want people to admire it. I like to make things that are different and fun and unexpected.
Sun: Can you talk about your collection for the fashion show? What’s it like and what inspired it?
C.C.: So for this fashion show, I wanted to do something really fun. I spent my last semester in Washington, D.C. through Cornell in Washington, and I interned in the Department of Commerce’s Office of Textiles and Apparel. Through the internship and the program in Washington, I got to see Washington, D.C. I’d never been there before and I didn’t realize it was so cool; it was very unexpected to me. One of the things that I really liked was being in a modern city built up around all these old buildings that have been around since the beginning of our country, for the most part. And I just found it really fascinating how you’re on your cell phone, but looking at something that was built around Lincoln’s time — it was just fascinating to me.
So I was inspired by Washington, D.C. itself. My collection is called “American Rome,” and that is a nickname for Washington, D.C. And so I took some of the design details from architecture like Roman columns, and I made direct designs based on those. And I also was inspired by George Washington himself; I used some of his military uniform’s details and just made designs that paid attention to some of the trends that are going on now — like off-the-shoulder — and I applied some of the old, 1790s techniques and brought them together. My models will have on George Washington wigs and they’ll be dressed as Roman columns — it’s going to be really fun and really extravagant. But the pieces are still really wearable, you could say, “Hey, if I take just this jacket I could wear it somewhere and not feel like I’m dressing up for Halloween.” I’m really excited about it, and have worked tirelessly on it with no sleep!
Sun: Do you have any particular fashion inspirations?
C.C.: I really like Donna Karan, I liked Nicolas Ghesquiere when he was at Balenciaga and I liked everything John Galliano did, before he had a meltdown; we’re working on forgiving him.
Sun: Any graduation plans?
C.C.: I am going to the highest bidder for either New York or D.C. It depends, really, on what I get offered and where somebody can really use all my talents. I do everything from building computers to designing, to whatever — I’m an all-around girl. I’d love to work with a team and collaborate on designs.
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.
Katie O’Brien is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.