The four mannequins were better dressed than they had ever been before. Their naked human-ish forms donned layers of chiffon and organza, pleated and dyed by hand.
Behind one of them, Lee Tran fretted with pins and fabric.
“I’ve been working on this collection since last semester,” Tran said.
Tran is one of 15 apparel design seniors featured in the 48th annual College of Design apparel fashion show this Saturday, Feb. 6.
Titled “Identity,” the show focuses on how the artists define themselves and their work. The collections feature a wide range of clothing from ready-to-wear to couture, bridal and lingerie.
Though he was drawn from an early age to art in all forms, Tran said, the elegant figures and elaborate creations of fashion illustration eventually captivated him. As Tran began to delve into couture culture, he realized he wanted to do more than consume clothing; he wanted to create it.
Tran’s collection, titled “Vivid,” is analogous of the art process. From blank canvas to completed masterpiece, each piece plays an important role in telling a story of technique and the art it produces.
Avant-garde and conceptual in nature, the designs feature rich textures and careful detailing. Tran uses a wide range of sources for inspiration, from natural occurences to personal experiences.
“I’ve been inspired by various things like shadows and how they cast on the street as I’m walking, cracks in the sidewalk and how they create an interesting silhouette or shape,” Tran said. “I get inspired just from music ... and randomly through emotional rollercoasters in my life.”
The aspiring couture designer has an impressive list of fashion design experiences. For starters, he studied abroad in London at Central Saint Martins, listed by the Business of Fashion as the best fashion design school in the world.
“Getting to experience the knowledge that [Central Saint Martins] gives, being able to apply that with the knowledge that I learned here and mixing it together was great,” Tran said.
During his time in London, he also had the opportunity to work for Marchesa as an informal intern during London Fashion Week. Backstage, Tran prepped models, hand-stitched and assisted however else he could.
Standing mere feet away from the likes of Anna Wintour and Georgia May Jagger (yes, Mick Jagger’s daughter) and sharing the same air as Bradley Cooper, Tran was in couture bliss.
“That was a key moment where I pinpointed what aspect of the fashion industry that I wanted to be in and what I wanted my identity to be within it,” Tran said.
Aside from his London gig, Tran had the opportunity to work for luxury fashion house J. Mendel as a patternmaking intern in New York. He plans to move back to the city to jumpstart his career.
Despite the uncertainty that tends to plague design grads, Tran is confident his tenacity and willingness to work hard will get him where he needs to be.
“Yes, there’s uncertainty, but I kind of thrive on that. Even though there’s uncertainty, I think designers are well-equipped to manage it,” Tran said.