Taylor McGee’s fingers have been bleeding a lot in the past few days. She’s been hand-embroidering five of her 11 original fashion pieces.
The third-year psychology student joined the Fashion and Student Trends club last year, and will be presenting her designs, along with about 70 other student designers and models, at the annual FAST at UCLA 2017 Runway Show on Friday in Pauley Pavilion.
Minnie Tu was 10 when she sewed her first project – a small pillowcase.
The second-year computer science student is a self-taught fashion designer and said the process of learning how to sew took a lot of trial and error.
Tu participated in the FAST fashion show last year because she thought it was a good way to meet other people on campus who were interested in fashion.
Her six designs this year include skirts, tops and dresses made of both vinyl and flowy fabrics. This year, she focused on an all-black theme, unlike the pastel designs she made for the fashion show last year.
She also incorporated small details of hardware into the necklines and hemlines of the outfits. Tu said she bought the hardware – mostly D rings that look similar to the metal center rings of binders – online.
One of her dresses is a tight, all-black sleeveless piece with a deep V-neck and low back. The D rings accent the edges of the the neckline and the back of the dress.
She said the hardest part of the process was altering her visions for a better execution.
“For me, a lot of times, the piece isn’t what I intended (it) to be, and then I play around with something I made and then decide to make it into something else,” Tu said.
She planned to make one top with a fringed hemline, but made it into a neckpiece instead.
Her inspiration for the looks came partly from this year’s Met Gala exhibition, which featured Rei Kawakubo’s avant-garde designs.
“I really like Alexander Wang’s designs, and I think (my designs go) along with his theme,” Tu said.
McGee’s seamstress grandmother taught her to sew at the age of 5.
“She’s from Belize so she made a lot of clothes for my family – she even made my mother’s wedding dress,” McGee said.
Although McGee joined FAST last year, she wasn’t initially interested in being a designer. She joined as a model but saw the process of designing for FAST and decided to try it this year.
McGee’s garments are ready-to-wear – clothing designed for off-the-rack, rather than over-the-top runway looks. The designs follow a silver and pink color scheme with garments including crop tops, tight skirts and bomber jackets. The Atlanta native said she pulled inspiration from her own style, as well as her hometown.
“I feel like there’s a different culture there,” she said. “It’s more casual … but it’s normal to wear a crop top and tight skirt out in the day, where that’s not seen as much in California.”
She began making the designs during spring break, spending much of the week on the floor of her basement.
“My mom (was) checking in on me every few hours, like, ‘Are you okay?’” she said.
While she would love to continue doing some work in fashion, her ultimate goal is to become a school psychologist.
“The pro of choosing fashion over school psychology … would be that I’m getting to do creative things all day,” McGee said. “But the con is that I’m definitely more passionate about school psychology.”
Brenna McNamara and Raquel Avalos
This year’s FAST fashion show is the first time Brenna McNamara has ever sewn a piece of clothing, other than an apron in her home economics class in junior high school.
“(Sewing was) always something that interested me, but I didn’t really get into it until this year, because I never had a sewing machine,” said McNamara, a third-year fine arts student. “So it’s always been in the back of my mind.”
Raquel Avalos, a fourth-year fine arts student, also recently learned how to sew last year, using a $50 pink sewing machine she bought from Target.
McNamara and Avalos co-designed six looks for the 2017 FAST fashion show.
The pair met in a beginners ceramics class at UCLA and have wanted to collaborate on an artistic project ever since, Avalos said.
“We always share fashion or photography and glamour photos on Instagram to each other, and this was a good way to mesh those ideas in a form of collaborating,” Avalos said.
McNamara said their design is loosely based off vintage lingerie, and features wrap dresses – flowy dresses that tie around the waist – and shift dresses with a short, straight silhouette. One of their designs is a red-and-white gingham dress with a dramatic layered top and a choker in a matching textile.
The duo used repurposed materials like tablecloths from the Goodwill store on Santa Monica Boulevard, instead of textiles from a fabric store, as a way to depict the beauty of recycled materials.
“My specific interest in it was using domestic items such (as) curtains and tablecloths and making somewhat elegant and sexy outfits from these nontraditional items,” Avalos said.
Both McNamara and Avalos hope they can work in costume design.
McNamara helps with costumes for HOOLIGAN Theatre Company as well. She loves both fashion and costume design because it allows for more dramatic clothing than those at department stores.
“I like things that you can’t just easily buy at the store,” McNamara said. “Theatrical costumes usually have a story along with it, and I like the narrative behind it.”