Fake it if you got it, right? When it comes to the creative fashion design and manufacturing scene, Grand Rapids has it. The area serves as a launch pad for many international designers and stylists and is home to more than 10+ different apparel and accessory manufacturers. Creative pieces are designed, sourced and manufactured right here in the West Michigan region. Many of these makers and artisans are focused on sustainability, avoiding the waste and harmful carbon footprint that the fashion industry is known for.
Lori A. Faulkner Chair of Fashion Studies and Associate Professor at the Pamela Roland DeVos School of Fashion. Ferris State University Kendall College of Art and Design (KCAD). Faulkner wrote the program’s curriculum based on her education and experience as a designer in the fashion industry.
KCAD students in the School of Fashion follow four years Bachelor of Fine Arts Fashion StudiesWith the option to study on Institute of Technology Fashion in NYC. Faulkner said this degree is designed to immerse the student in the fashion industry and practices, providing a well-rounded education with supporting studios in art and design foundation courses and general education courses.
Students will learn about trends, fabrics, applying design elements and principles, finding the balance between beauty and functionality, creating designs and patterns, sewing, pattern making, retail shopping, sustainability, fashion show production and more. Students have access to fashion labs with industrial machines for construction, large tables for design, trend subscriptions, textile and styling services, and AV technology for work demonstrations and photography. Towards the end of their studies, students plan their annual capstone Fashion show, highlighting the first collections. In March 2022, students collaborated on designing costumes. Jump production as if Grand Rapids Ballet.
In addition to the knowledge and experience gained locally, students can travel abroad to major cities such as NYC, LA and abroad on donor-sponsored fashion study experiential trips to London, Paris, Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Melbourne, and Sydney.
Faulkner describes the regional fashion scene as a unique one, created by these innovative students and experienced industry professionals. “People are surprised to hear that there are over 10 clothing and accessories manufacturers in our area,” she says.
Each year, Faulkner speaks about fashion and sustainability at various venues including the Grand Rapids Public Museum, Grand Rapids Art Museum, Kent District Library and other local organizations.
Lori Faulkner Sabbatical Show, photo courtesy of KCAD“Creating my own sustainable couture collection is part of my work,” Faulkner says. Fashion and nature exhibition at the Grand Rapids Public Museum,” she says.
The industry is looking to grow in sustainability, something that Faulkner will be critical to in the way clothing is produced in the future. In the Sustainable Fashion department, students learn everything from responsible raw materials, innovative design practices, and dyeing and dyeing practices, reducing carbon footprints, recycling, upscaling, and focusing on consumer education.
Outside of the classroom, the focus on sustainability is also important, including when many local manufacturers create in the West Michigan region. Public threadA local manufacturer of raw accessories.
Faulkner says it’s important to reinvest in the community and reduce the store’s carbon footprint by using local fashion designers and professionals.
For Sarah Saunders, who uses her wife’s moniker Sarah John Joe clothesIt was in Alpena that she started teaching herself to sew when she was a teenager. In the year In 2008, she began selling her crafts at local markets and online through Etsy. Her love of sewing turned into a full-time career in 2011, creating unique clothing items. Jo Clothing offers comfortable and casual clothing items made from soft and durable fabrics.
Made to order designs are also customizable, Sarah Jo enjoys creating something unique for everyone. Creating made-to-order fashion, similar to fast-fashion in many ways, is “the opposite of most of the industry, which is built on waste and exploitation,” says Sarah Jo. “Eating as much as we do is not sustainable,” she says. “We need to buy less, adjust what we have and invest in quality pieces that will last.”
For fellow designer Ashley Treu, the transition to sustainable fashion is still at a much smaller scale than it needs to be. The Grand Rapids native began repurposing and selling vintage clothing online during her senior year of high school. She started out as a designer, seamstress and business owner. Iconoclasm In the year In 2011, sustainable unisex, men’s and women’s clothing was designed in Grand Rapids. In the year In 2021, she and her partner, Theo Jones, expanded the business Ethos 33.
Photo courtesy of Iconoclasp and Ethos 33.
“I grew creatively and personally through Iconoclap, which inspired a desire to create more responsibly and in a different aesthetic,” Trieu says. “Ethos 33 developed from this desire and the perfect formula was born – designing with luxury and sustainable materials, which satisfied my development as an artist,” she says.
The expansion of trade has brought about many changes. “Through Ethos 33, I left the solo-entrepreneur life behind by co-founding with my partner, hiring my former intern and joining this new venture as part of a creative team,” says Trieu.
For Trieu, safety and durability are key considerations when creating materials for their designs. When she ordered a swatch for the collection, she noticed a disclaimer that the materials could cause various health problems. “That sent a scream through me, and I realized that we can’t just look at these materials as part of an elevated lifestyle. [they] “It has had a serious health impact on our customers, our inventors, textile manufacturers and our environment,” she said.
“This led me to months of research into the pitfalls of the fashion industry and, fortunately, the incredible innovations within the textile industry that challenged the status quo,” she says. “These materials were very luxurious and fit the bill for other core elements of our brand. For example, pearl cactus skins with recycled ocean support. [are] Carbon negative [and] Energy efficient in water and produce.
Triu says the high-end lifestyle brand’s certified bamboo and fibers not only feel good on the skin, but are also antimicrobial, biodegradable and ethically and responsibly made.
She hopes that Ethos 33’s rigorously vetted materials will demonstrate that a healthy and thoughtful supply chain is possible in the fashion industry.
“We have introduced processes that create carbon sinks for climate-relevant fabrics, reducing climate damage and increasing biodiversity. “We want to set an example to protect the earth, fair compensation and inclusive, safe and normal working conditions. Our brand mission is to represent active entrepreneurship with the hope of inspiring more.”
The use of slow fashion by small businesses, makers, and local artisans is a positive change, making fashion more conscious. The goal is to advocate for the purchase of better clothes, which, in turn, will last longer than cheaply made, quickly produced items. Trey says it’s important for big fashion corporations to follow suit.
“Humans have done a lot of damage to our natural resources and it’s important that we stand up and advocate for a more holistic approach,” she said. of our planet and the collective,” Trieu says.
Our three-part series on West Michigan’s creative industries is produced through a Creative Industries Rebirth Grant from the Grand Rapids Chamber and the Michigan Office of Film and Digital Media.
In our solutions journalism storytelling forum, we seek to showcase how West Michigan’s creative communities are responding to the challenges they face now, so that the future opportunities of our creative sector can flourish here.
Sarah lived in Grand Rapids years ago, before moving back to Lansing, but that love of West Michigan never left her heart. With her coverage of small businesses, arts and culture, dining and anything small, she’s determined to convince all and sundry — just how great the Great Lakes State is. Sarah received her degree in Journalism and Professional Communication. You can find her at a record store, a local concert, or one too many delicious treats at a bakery. By chance, she is not in those places, you can find her on [email protected]
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