Off the rack

May 19, 2015, 10:09 p.m. | By Zewde Ingram | 8 years, 9 months ago

Blazers who stitch their way to success

The art of sewing has dwindled as industrialized production continues to grow and machines replace human touch. Most people select their clothes from department stores teeming with repetitive mass-produced items that reflect the fluctuating trends of the fashion industry. Blair students are often decked in apparel from stores like Forever 21, H&M and American Apparel. However, some Blazers have decided to set themselves apart from the conventional fashion by making their clothes themselves.

For as long as she can remember, freshman Iyanu Bishop has regarded fashion and sewing with admiration. The nuanced textures of the fabric, the sleekness of the thread and the rhythmic thump of the sewing machine needle are therapeutic to her. Bishop recalls that her motivation to create her own clothes blossomed from observing her grandmother, a seamstress, as well as her aunt. "I always saw my grandmother and aunt sewing and I just got really into fashion and I loved the idea of creating stuff so I put two and two together," Bishop remembers. Bishop took a sewing class in fourth grade and then supplemented her knowledge with YouTube tutorials until she became proficient at the art.

Freshman Iyanu Bishop poses, showing off her edgy personal style. Photo courtesy of Hannah Rapp.

Kayla Poawui, a junior, shares a similar affinity for fashion and handiwork. "Seeing things I wanted and thinking 'I could make that!' is what inspired me to make clothing," Poawui exclaims. "I wanted to be different and able to say, 'I made this, it is one and only.' " Like Bishop, Poawui's venture into sewing was largely self-taught and started at a young age. "I taught myself and started hand sewing when I was really young," Poawui says. "I remember being overjoyed when I got my first sewing machine in 6th grade."

Sewing is not an easily acquired skill, as it requires patience and time. "There are a ton of difficulties when making clothes," says Paowui. "The main one would be not giving up due to frustration. I can't even count how many times I get frustrated while creating a piece." Bishop specifically remembers the incredible amount of difficulty she faced when she first started sewing. "I had this dress I started in the sewing class but the teacher didn't understand my vision and it turned out hideous and I was pissed so I threw it away in my closest," Bishop chuckles. "I eventually revisited it and I'm glad I did because it turned out decent." Part of the frustration comes from the extensive amount of time it takes to make clothes. Often, one skirt can take hours to make. "I love sewing, but it is hard work," Bishop asserts. "I stayed up until 4 in the morning attempting to finish a dress multiple times."

Bishop draws a lot of her inspiration from style icons like Solange Knowles, Twiggy and supermodel Iman Abdulmajid as well as black culture in the 1980s. She also bases many of her designs off those on the runways of New York Fashion Week. However, Bishop ensures that outside influence on her style is limited and likes to model her clothes after her own mood and personal taste. "My style tends to change with my mood and age," Bishop states. "But also I try to stand out and not follow trends." One of Bishop's favorite pieces is a African print backpack she modeled after a similar bag she saw online. "I went to an African festival in Brooklyn and they had all these cool pieces of fabric so I bought them and used them to create this backpack which I have received many compliments on," Bishop says.

Fashion design is more than just a hobby for Poawui and Bishop; it's a possible career. This summer, Bishop plans to further explore her passion by taking classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York. "I really think I could turn it into a career. This summer is a great opportunity for me to see if I want to do this for the rest of my life," Bishop says. If fashion design becomes a feasible career path for Bishop, she plans on creating groundbreaking collections that are affordable and tailored to women of all sizes. "I want everyone to feel good about themselves in my clothes and have my clothes scream confidence," Bishop says with a smile. "Because that is something I have struggled with in fashion."

Teenagers today spend an average of 7.5 hours consuming media every day. How does that compare to your digital usage? Photo courtesy of Donald De Alwis.

She also hopes to create a distinctive brand from her clothing that extends beyond the runway and into other areas such as technology and journalism. "If I am a fashion designer I would like to incorporate a magazine to my business and expand the brand," Bishop says. In the meantime, Bishop has contemplated replicating clothes from popular brands to sell to friends. "All the simple pieces Urban Outfitters and American Apparel sell for outrageous prices I can make relatively easy and cheap," Bishop says.

Poawui shares Bishops' dream of becoming a fashion designer, despite the adversity she may face. "It is difficult dealing with people who don't think you can make a career out of it especially when it's your life, " Poawui says passionately. "They tell me I shouldn't do it because I won't make money, but who says that's why I want to do it?" Bishop also does not let the difficulty of the fashion industry and sewing process deter her from what she loves. "People say sewing is hard work, but I love it," says Bishop with a smile. "It's my happy place."

Tags: Iyanu Bishop Kayla Poawui sewing

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