While Philadelphia celebrated its inaugural “Fashion’s Night Out” event earlier this month, two young Philadelphia designers were being celebrated at the main event in New York City.
It was a chaotic scene in the SoHo district of Manhattan during the fourth annual Fashion’s Night Out, a global event initiated by Vogue and the Council of Fashion Designers of America to celebrate fashion and retail while kicking off Fashion Week.
Fashion-lovers pushed through the crowded streets, lining up outside stores for a chance to get a glimpse of a celebrity guest, enjoy free drinks, and mingle with fashion’s elite.
And while they’re not celebrity designers (yet), in the midst of it all were two Philadelphia University students enjoying the spotlight for a few hours at the Urban Outfitters party at 628 Broadway Street.
“It was really surreal” says Larsen, who designed a knit pattern for a sweater and is currently finishing her masters thesis in Textile Engineering. “It was amazing to see my work in an actual store. I didn’t realize that it was up in the window of their Manhattan location until halfway through the night.”
Gartland, a recent Textile Design graduate whose original design became a print on a dress, was approached by guests and congratulated. She was excited to see customers trying on her piece.
“There was so much energy in the store. It was fantastic.”
Hanging from each of the two pieces were tags that read “Designed By: Philadelphia University” along with the name and a short bio of each designer.
Design influences and inspiration
The pilot collaboration between the student-designers and Urban Outfitters, headquartered in Philadelphia’s Navy Yard, began last fall with a class visit by the company’s Director of Color and Concept, Marissa Maximo, herself a Phila U. alumna. Maximo presented the competitive project to textile students with a handout that included private label concepts, including color packets and 90’s grunge influences.
In that handout, Larsen was inspired by a photo of a vintage threadbare rug, which gave her the idea to weave gold and purple colors together. The color and structure she conceived became the basis of her winning design. With feedback from the Urban team, she added a colorblock style, shiny lurex yarn, and a mohair effect – all of which were incorporated into the final piece.
For Gartland, who was born in Afghanistan and raised in Virginia, inspiration came from her surroundings and cultural upbringing. For the print design that beat out her classmates, she focused on the abstraction of simple classic lines.
Providing opportunities for industry collaboration
Textile Design Professor Claire Beevers, who oversaw the project, says this kind of industry collaboration is becoming more common at the school. They see it as a unique and valuable experience.
“Philadelphia University is currently doing more and more collaborations and projects with industry sponsors, leading to awards, internships and the potential development of student designs and innovation into product” says Beevers.
As textile designers, Gartland says, the work is mostly background – creating the prints, colors, textures which are transformed into apparel, upholstery, wallpaper, and more.
“This project allowed me to see my print from the initial sketches to final product. That was very satisfying.”
“It takes many years for typical young designers to be able to produce their collection, let alone be bought by a brand like Urban Outfitters, so this propels them way ahead of an average designer” says Maximo of the “Designed By:” capsule collection.
The two winning designs are currently being sold in Urban Outfitters stores nationwide, as well as online.
What’s next for these up-and-coming designers?
Larsen is using her engineering thesis project to improve bicycle helmets.
Upon graduating, Gartland began freelancing for Urban and recently launched a textile design studio with two partners, creating locally crafted, one-of-a-kind printed fabrics, called LINTPRINT.