The Future of Classic Elements
New York native Elizabeth Castellon earned her undergraduate degree in Human Ecology: Apparel and Textiles, beforefreelancing making custom garments for women. She gained a solid experience of pattern making experience but wanting to learn about garments construction, costume design and styling she join the Academy of Art University and graduated with an MFA in Fashion Design.
Her capstone collection, menswear for Fall 2014, entitled ‘Mystery Man,’ was shown at the Academy of Art University fashion show during New York Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. Pairing traditional silhouettes with floral prints and impeccable tailoring ‘Mystery Man’ featured luxurious looking 1930s-inspired coats. We spoke with Elizabeth to learn about her experience showing at MBFW and hear about her plans as a professional designer.
Elizabeth, everyone is talking about your Fall ‘14 collection and in particular of you use of non-conventional fabrics to create impressive pieces. Can you describe your collection to us?
I was inspired by photographs from the 1930s depicting what men of that era wore, how they lived and who they were. I reached this theme and used influences from 1930s futuristic architecture and interiors, sculptures and sportswear to design my menswear.
I decided to blend classic tailoring elements, which traditionally embody menswear, with an abstract, futuristic appearance. This futuristic aesthetic was emphasized through a broad selection of fabrics which include, a variety of wools, and upholstery fabrics.
What did you intend to achieve when designing your collection?
My intention was to combine something classic with something out of the ordinary. I believe the tailoring and pattern matching techniques are the strengths of my collection. The key element I tried to carry out through my collection was the design detail of collars overlapping onto lapels on my coats and jackets.
How did the creative process of your collection start?
I tend to find inspiration from stories and the characters within them. Often I create a story with the images found during my research and selected for inspiration. I lay it out in my process book [sketch book]. From there, I traced shapes and details that interested me, and then began designing.
Was there a specific moment in this design process design that you feel had a significant impact?
The most significant moment of the design process was sifting through the visual I had selected for inspiration.
After I had gathered them I immersed myself into those images and tried to fully experience the feelings they invoked in me. You need something to carry you to the next step in the design process. If these images do not speak to you, if they do not motivate you, then this lack of inspiration will come across into your designs. These images sparked ideas and compelled me to begin sketching out designs.
I relied on the more fantasy or science-fiction images to inform my fabric choices. Since I had decided my collection was tailored I wanted the fabrics to portray a futuristic element.
What did you find the most challenging when designing your final collection?
Editing the collection and choosing which piece went with what. Wanting to create a great collection I found myself wondering if I ran the risk of over analyzing my designs, asking myself questions such as: Does this piece need to be shorter or longer? Does this look need something added or removed?
What did you learn through the process of designing your collection?
After the show was over and I finally had time to absorb everything, I realized how much I juggled during the semester. I was taking three classes, had a part-time job, a relationship, and mid-way through the semester I had an accident where I suffered first and second degree burns.
Throughout my mindset was “Anything you have to do, just do it.” This experience helped me realize how resilient I am, and that I can accomplish any goal and overcome any obstacle.
Was helped you get through it?
The encouragement and support from my loved ones, mentoring from Simon Ungless, Gonbee Tanaka, and Chris Applegate at the AAU, and the idea that I was so close to experiencing this great opportunity – showing at MBFW – strengthened my resolve further. I had to complete my collection and make it good!
What advice would you give to someone who is about to design his or her first collection?
Don’t overthink things; follow your instincts. Be prepared to invest your time, money, heart and soul.
What practical resources would you recommend for fashion students in San Francisco?
Experiment with clothing you could buy from Goodwill or thrift shops. Take them apart, cut them, sew them, drape with them. You will be surprised by what you create.
If you were not designing fashion what do you think you would be doing?
I would have been a mathematician or a financial analyst! When I design I love solving problems finding the best way toturn my drawings/designs into 3-dimensional pieces, into wearable garments. Pattern making requires math and problem solving.
What’s next for you professionally?
I am looking for a design position with a SF-based company, and one day, probably five to ten years from now, I hope to start my own brand. I want to continue in menswear, but ultimately I would like to design both mens and womenswear.