Central Michigan Life – Fashion Merchandising and Design Students Explore Diversity and Sustainability During Detroit Design Month

Students, faculty and alumni of fashion merchandising and design at Central Michigan University explored the impact of fashion at CMU’s 2021 Detroit Design Month exhibit.

“It has been an honor to participate in one of the state’s largest cultural events,” said Michael Mamp, professor of fashion and design merchandising. “It’s an opportunity to bring notoriety and recognition to CMU and to highlight our fashion and design programs. “

In its 11th year of celebration, Detroit Month of Design brought together designers from across the state to celebrate creativity and innovation throughout September. The event showcases a rich cultural history across many disciplines, as well as the fresh perspective of younger generations, Mamp said.

For the first time, CMU got involved in the celebration with the “Fashion Future” exhibit located in CMU Detroit Center. “Fashion Future” aims to examine the future of fashion design, focusing on diversity, equity, inclusion and sustainability.

Courtesy Photo of Adam Sparkes, University Communications: Mamp was the faculty speaker at the opening reception after personally coordinating CMU’s participation in Detroit Month of Design.

“It is impossible to ignore these issues in the world when we face so regularly the injustices our society faces because of someone’s race or gender; and observe the effects of climate change on the world we live in, ”Mamp said. “These social justice issues are at the heart of the concerns of many of my students. “

The impact made possible by fashion and design is often underestimated, Mamp said. Clothing is an incredibly personal art form; a walking message accompanying the wearer. Fashion can be a unique tool for exploring concepts such as diversity and sustainability.

Life in central Michigan spoke with two designer students featured in “Fashion Future”: Detroit senior LaDyra Lyte and Grand Rapids junior Pablo Covarrubias. The designers explored the powerful themes of their collections and the personal inspiration behind their work.

The Dyra Lyte

Courtesy Photo of Adam Sparkes, University Communications: Lyte poses in front of her “Killing Me Won’t Make You King” collection.

CM Life: What was the theme of your collection?

My collection “Killing Me Won’t Make You King” goes hand in hand with the issues of racial injustice in America, as well as my faith. It is a lesson that God continues to teach me every season; that someone can take my reputation, my possessions, my throne, everything I have in life – even my own life – but you can never take my anointing. My name will forever remain in the seat where it placed me. This idea came to me through prayer and personal observation. I looked at myself and paid attention to what I was going through in my life and the challenges I was facing. The phrase came to me during a sermon by TD Jakes where he was talking about the fact that no matter what people take from you based on your race or gender, they can never take your path in life away from you. .

How did you represent this theme in your different looks?

“I am innocent” is based solely on the incarceration rates of innocent people in black and brown communities. It’s inspired by prison suits and I think the most important part is the graphics on the back. The inmate numbers on the back of the jacket end up spelling out the word “Innocent” depending on the location of each letter.

Courtesy Photo of Adam Sparkes, University Communications: Lyte’s three star looks (left to right): “I’m Innocent”, “Don’t Shoot” and “I Can’t Breathe”.

The second is called “Don’t Shoot” and is the centerpiece of the collection. I wanted to focus on police brutality, so this one specifically focuses on the American flag with the stripes and includes graphics that say “Don’t shoot”. One detail that I included in every pocket was to sew something that a black American might have caught before being shot or abused by the police. For example, there is a graphic that says “Skittles” in reference to Trayvon Martin.

My latest look is a tribute to George Floyd called “I Can’t Breathe”. ‘don’t breathe.’ With the trench coat I wanted to refer to the Pan African flag with the stripes and the lining of the coat. I have also included references to the American flag and included writing that says “By its stripes we are healed”. It also refers to the strength of Jesus and represents the bars of a prison cell.

Where did you get the inspiration for these pieces?

The period after George Floyd’s death was a time of mental stress for me. In addition to everything that was going on in the world, there were also personal struggles that I faced in my family. I was going through a lot of trials and tribulations and it tore me apart to a point where I felt unworthy, but throughout it all I still had my faith. All of this made “Killing Me Won’t Make You King” a very personal collection for me. External issues were the initial motivation, but then I found myself going through similar events and it made them much more real to me. Due to these personal issues, I was not able to participate in the protests as I wanted, but this collection was like my own personal protest and brought peace to the guilt I felt for not being more involved.

What message do you want the black American community to take from your look?

I have always been passionate about issues of fairness and injustice in America. I am big on identity. As African Americans, I think we used to say, “We don’t know where we’re from” and feel lost. I want to be an advocate and push people to know that we have a culture, even though that origin has been stolen from us. We can be as big and loud as we want. I want my community to understand that we to do have a place. We may have been brought here, but we have a culture and we created something here. We have to take that environment and make it our own and be comfortable being ourselves. I want our community to reach a point where we can move past things like discrimination and oppression and move past them. You have nothing to lose. You already know the worst, let’s see the best that can happen now.

Pablo Covarrubias

Courtesy Photo of Adam Sparkes, University Communications: Covarrubias has looked at sustainability in his collection titled “El Pintor”.

What was the inspiration for your “El Pintor” collection?

I worked with Dos Jefes Garments, a recycling company based in Detroit. They go to thrift stores and buy old clothes and take them apart to make new clothes. It aims to give new life to old things for people to enjoy. They taught me a lot because I had never upcycled before.

Courtesy photo of Pablo Covarrubias: Covarrubias showcased four looks in “Fashion Future”, made up entirely of old or damaged clothing.

This brand is the reason why I embarked on sustainable development and I integrated it into my design process. There is no pure sustainability in the fashion industry, but I only used old clothes or scrap materials to make this collection. The Dos Jefes studio is in an industrial artist studio complex and has some old Detroit artwork that I took inspiration from. From there, I named my project ‘The Painter’ in Spanish.

What have you seen happening in the world and in your life with regard to sustainable development?

Over the past couple of years, there has been a tremendous awareness of the issues of social justice and sustainability. Especially sustainability in the fashion industry, which is the second most polluting industry in the world. I am very crazy. I don’t want to contribute to this problem. I have also worked for Public Thread in the past, a recycling company based in Grand Rapids. I have been exposed to the waste of the fashion industry. All the fabric they use is avoided from being thrown away and turned into something new. Realizing the magnitude of the amount thrown away by just a few small businesses has been an eye opener. The fashion industry was once this beautiful, artistic thing and we’ve seen it transform into a consumerist monster where people buy just to buy, without any thought. I reformed my design philosophy and decided to design with purpose. I want to make clothes that are made to be worn until they fall apart and get the most out of it.

What do you want young people to learn from your collection?

Educating ourselves is important. Our generation is much more in fashion than previous generations. Learn about the harms of buying new things. Most people don’t need as many clothes as they are sitting in their closet right now. Knowing the impact of pricing is also important. Clothes should not be sold as they are now. It is very difficult and time consuming to make a quality garment. The price should reflect this; you don’t get ripped off for high end clothing. Buy smarter. Don’t buy fast fashion. If you are able to buy a shirt for $ 5, it means that a member of the supply chain is not being paid well or being subjected to ethical abuse. Go to thrift stores or use online resale environments like Depop.

How do you try to integrate sustainability into the rest of your life?

Simple things like short showers and turning off the lights in your apartment are little things I try to do. I completely stopped buying new clothes. Also, a lot of people don’t realize that they wash their clothes too much. Machine washing is a huge polluter and releases microfibers. You don’t have to wash your clothes completely as often as people do. Stain cleaning and less frequent washing can make a huge difference to the environment.

What did you take away from this experience overall?

It was like a reward. It was a journey to get to where I am today, and I was able to see it in my collection at the exhibition. There is a societal norm that fashion is a hobby, not a career path. When I first told my family that I was in fashion in my freshman year, they were a little skeptical. They wanted to know my goals and have a plan for the future. I promised I would give them results. A few years later being introduced to Detroit and my parents seeing that all my hard work was paying off was worth it. I went from not knowing how to make a pattern my first year to doing an entire collection using sustainable methods a few years later. I was able to keep that promise and make them proud. In Mexican culture family is very important and making them proud is all I wanted from this experience.

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