A Q&A with this year’s Future of Fashion childrenswear winner.
On Monday, the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) hosted their annual Future of Fashion runway show featuring innovative looks created by the top graduating fashion design students. Notable attendees at the show included Dennis Basso, Fern Mallis, Ken Downing, Shaun Ross, Ty Hunter, Claire Sulmers, Nicole Phelps, Randy Fenoli, Kemal Harris, Ruth Finley, Stefan Larsson, Sophie Theallet, Dr. Joyce F. Brown, Liz Peek, Karen Sabag and Ruthie Davis, just to name a few.
The show featured designs from FIT’s five specializations: knitwear, sportswear, intimate apparel, special occasion and, our personal favorite, childrenswear. Throughout the spring semester, designers mentored students as they crafted their collections. Once the students’ collections were complete, five accomplished fashion industry professionals judged the designs to determine which garments earned a coveted spot on the runway. This year’s judges were Ken Downing (Neiman Marcus), Nicole Phelps (Vogue Runway), Lilliana Vazquez (TODAY), Diana Tsui (New York magazine’s The Cut) and Kemal Harris (stylist).
Amazed by the youthful talent presented that evening, we sat down with this year’s Children’s Wear Critic Award Winner, Jongah Nicole Lee, for a quick Q&A about her background, inspiration and goals in kids’ fashion.
How did you become interested in childrenswear?
When I interned at Marc by Marc Jacobs in their womenswear department, I sat near the print designer, and she was the one who really got me into prints and colors. Since I always preferred to work with neutral colors in womenswear, I thought specializing in childrenswear would be an opportunity for me to break the out of the box. So, it was my interest in prints and colors that led me into childrenswear.
What was the inspiration behind your Future of Fashion project? Is there anything you would have done differently?
My design inspiration came from my mom’s collection of teapot sets. When I was younger, my mom and I often had our own “tea time,” which is one of my favorite memories. I wanted to incorporate the flower motifs from the tea sets and also incorporate the curved shapes of the cups and plates. In this collection, I used a technique called “intarsia.” Fur intarsia usually requires its own machine, but since I didn’t have one, I mimicked the process by hand. I knew I wanted to incorporate “intarsia” but figuring out how to do the process by hand took me a month. After figuring it out, handcrafting it took me awhile. My favorite aspect of my collection is the colors. I designed the flower motif and color combination from embroideries. I also think the pink and green colors really pulled this collection together.
What are three key criteria to think about when you’re designing a childrenswear collection?
I think the most important criteria is to ask “Is my collection modern?” In addition, I always ask myself “If I had a child, would I want to buy this clothing for them?” I understand kids want characters or sparkles that are cute, but I find they can be a bit tacky. Their favorite things can sometimes conflict with their mother’s taste. I like to incorporate popular children’s themes and interpret them into a modern version to please both mom and child.
I also think proportion is really important. Proportion and silhouette are important in womenswear, but people neglect this in childrenswear and instead focus on the embellishments to make the clothing pretty on the outside. However, I believe that creating the best proportion will enhance the garment more than any fancy embellishments.
Lastly, I think comfort and safety are especially crucial in childrenswear. There are tons of cool details in womenswear, but they can’t always be translated into childrenswear. I am still learning what I need to be aware of in making childrenswear and try to create the best collection in both design and safety.
What trends are you seeing in the children’s market for Fall ’17?
Childrenswear quickly mimics womenswear trends and creates mini versions of womenswear, like the bomber jacket, for example. The long coat was really huge in womenswear last season, and I think this would translate well into childrenswear. Also, I think “mom-fit” jeans or cropped straight jeans could become big in childrenswear trends. The casual fits that we are seeing in a lot of womenswear right now are much more comfortable than skinny jeans, so why not make them for kids?
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I don’t plan far ahead, but I try to do my best every second and with every project I’m working on. In five years, I would like to be back in my country, South Korea. It would be great to work at a design company or launch my own small brand and do my own projects.