Art on Campus: From sketches to reality

Turning fabrics into garments evokes my middle school memories of painstaking and long-forgotten sewing lessons.

So I hold the utmost respect for those that possess the creative talent to pursue design. It’s no easy feat to accept the impermanence of fashion and design to create a physically representative product of one’s personality.

To learn more about the time, dedication and thought that goes into garment-making, I talked to Jenny Zhao, ArtSci ’15, a student designer whose work has been featured in campus charity fashion shows:

Which fashion or style icon inspires you?

I would … choose Alexa Chung for her effortless style. Her outfits are never overdone, yet she has a distinctly simple and chic look. I draw some of my more mature outfit ideas from her. She always seems so confident in her style, which I believe is a defining characteristic for an inspiring fashion icon.

What are your top two favourite items currently in your wardrobe?

My first favourite piece is a grey jersey knit shift dress from Wilfred Free. It’s one of those wardrobe pieces that is so versatile you can wear it in a spectrum of occasions (not to mention it’s also crazy comfy). If I want to dress it down, I pair it with some black combat boots, a denim vest and a fedora.

My second favourite … are my short black combat boots. They’ve been popular for a while, but I find that the shortness of the boots make them easier to style. It pairs very well with my more laid-back street-style outfits!

What is your favourite thing you’ve created?

I got my hands on this amazing piece of fabric that was black, sheer, and appliqued with a floral print. I wanted to create a gown with an open back … It took a lot of trial and error to manipulate the fabric in the way I wanted it to look. In the end, I was pretty pleased with how it turned out.

When did you realize your passion for fashion?

My mom taught me how to hand sew when I was 10 years old. As soon as I could do it on my own, I went crazy with a needle and thread. I remember making (hideous) outfits for my Barbie dolls out of old socks. Ever since then, I realized I had a passion for fashion and design and started sketching down some of my ideas. It expanded beyond sketches once I learned how to use a sewing machine in high school.

Can you describe a challenge you faced as a young designer?

One of the biggest challenges I faced and still face is being unsatisfied with the final product. It has to do with wanting a design to be perfect. Often times, designs may not translate as well onto fabric. Whether this is due to the inability to find a suitable fabric or design flaws, I’m learning to work with … and tune [material] to my design style … I have learned to be resourceful and creative with what I have to work with. The best person that could sum this up is Tim Gunn: “Make it work!

What advice do you have for those that want to start designing?

The best advice I can give is to just give it a try. Like your fashion style, your designs are often a reflection of your personality. Find an inspiration- whether that is a character, a place or a colour palette. By using the central theme of the inspiration, it gives an easy way to create a cohesive collection.

Interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Those that possess the talent of garment-making are really a master of an always changing craft. Do you know a student designer or artist? Feel free to contact


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