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FAST 2023: Mueller infuses fashion world with technology in eye-catching ‘Antenna’ collection

(From left to right) Amber Zeng, Cole Mueller and Karen Park pose in brightly colored outfits. Mueller, a third-year mechanical engineering student, will be making his Fashion and Student Trends at UCLA runway debut Friday with his collection, entitled “Antenna.” Zeng and Park will model some of Mueller’s designs. (Photo by Halinda Yu. Photo illustration by Isabella Lee/Illustrations director)

By Zinnia Finn

May 25, 2023 8:54 p.m.

Cole Mueller is taking the World Wide Web to the runway.

For his Fashion and Student Trends at UCLA runway debut, the third-year mechanical engineering student said his 2023 collection, “Antenna,” tells the tale of how technology changed communication over the past three decades, drawing stylistic influences from the ’90s and early 2000s. Mueller said he first became interested in fashion through thrifting and reselling clothes but gradually realized that he could create pieces from scratch that were equally desirable and significantly cheaper. This passion led him to join FAST this year, a decision he said has solidified his interest in design and desire to create cohesive looks.

“An outfit can tell a story a lot better than a single piece can,” Mueller said. “I want to make stuff that’s meant to be worn together.”

Using bright colors and synthetic materials, Mueller said he hopes to infuse the atmosphere of excitement surrounding new technology during this time period into his upcoming runway looks. The pieces in his collection also parallel the silhouettes from this time period, as he said he is using the sportswear-esque fabric to shape tiny crop tops and baggy pants.

In addition to adhering to his retro theme, Mueller said his design choices for this collection have forced him out of his comfort zone. He said the hues and shapes of the clothes deviate from those of his previous works and challenge him to push past neutral colors like black, which are easier to style.

Stylistically, he said some of the pants in the collection have received special attention. For one look, Mueller said he used a technique called shirring – where elastic thread is sewed into a garment and then scrunched together for definition – to add texture to a gray nylon pant. Another featured pair is constructed from a vintage Russian blanket he said he thrifted off eBay because he was attracted to the textile’s pattern.

“I’m a fan of loud pants,” Mueller said. “So I’ve been trying to do a lot of those for my collection.”

Following this theme, Karen Park, a model for “Antenna,” said the look she dons for the runway feels animated and exaggerated. Her outfit is composed of a neon blue-and-green fleece jacket, baggy jeans and platform sandals, and the second-year undeclared life sciences student said that at first glance, it immediately reminded her of something a cartoon character might wear. Park said she was drawn to this because her friends often compare her to a cartoon character – something she partly attributes to her brightly dyed ginger hair.

(Halinda Yu/Daily Bruin)
Two models stand on bleachers. Park, a second-year undeclared life sciences student, said she plans to juxtapose her brightly colored ensemble with a powerful walk during Friday's runway. (Halinda Yu/Daily Bruin)

On the day of the show, she said she plans to pair the outfit with a comparatively intense walk, which will juxtapose the look’s playfulness by being powerful and brisk. This character that comes along with the outfit is something Park said initially drew her to modeling, as she can play around with a different personality through every shot or outfit. And for her FAST 2023 look, she said the personality she is donning is actually one of her past, when she was drawn more to bright looks.

“It makes me think about how much my style has changed,” Park said. “And even though it’s not a color palette I would gravitate towards now, it’s something that I still really appreciate.”

Another model for Mueller’s collection, Amber Zeng, said the pieces also allow her to try on a different ego the day of the show. The second-year philosophy student said she is drawn to her look because it is out of her comfort zone, as she typically sticks to darker colors and longer sleeves and skirts. On the contrary, the look she will wear on the runway consists of a textured neon green cropped polo and purple cargo pants – a combination she said feels almost supernatural.

“The vibe I get from the clothes … is almost kind of detached from gender and people,” Zeng said. “It doesn’t feel super human in nature.”

Mueller said the message he hopes the audience garners from his collection is that fashion norms – though they possess merit – do not necessarily define what is best in the industry. He said he mainly hopes “Antenna” is interesting to the public eye, as he feels it pushes the boundaries of design and goes against conventional high fashion. For Mueller, this is the backbone of what he feels is ideal for the runway.

“The best fashion … is always when you’re changing things,” he said. “It’s never doing old stuff better – it’s always doing new stuff.”

Long term, Mueller said he can see himself pursuing design as a career if inspiration takes root but wants to make sure that a job in fashion doesn’t come at the expense of his genuine interest. For now, he said his main goal is to keep designing and showcase his work on next year’s runway. After that, he said he plans to figure it out as he goes along.

“What’s important to me is not making a living from fashion,” Mueller said. “As long as I’m involved with fashion and I’m still making stuff – that’s what matters the most.”

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Zinnia Finn | Daily Bruin senior staff
Finn is a senior staff writer for Arts & Entertainment and PRIME. She was previously the Lifestyle editor from 2021-2022, an Arts reporter from 2020-2021 and a member of PRIME’s first intern class from 2019-2020. She is a fourth-year neuroscience and public health student from San Francisco, California.
Finn is a senior staff writer for Arts & Entertainment and PRIME. She was previously the Lifestyle editor from 2021-2022, an Arts reporter from 2020-2021 and a member of PRIME’s first intern class from 2019-2020. She is a fourth-year neuroscience and public health student from San Francisco, California.
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