"Fashioning Functional Gear": CCA's Interdisciplinary Approach Bridges Technical Design and Style
Posted on Monday, April 11, 2011 by Jim Norrena
Industry guest Christine Marcellino (Alite Designs) reviews prototypes and form studies by student Haley Toelle
Ask not what your function can do for your fashion, but rather what can your fashion can do for your function. — Anonymous
Interdisciplinary Curriculum: Best of Both Worlds
“Form over function” has taken on a whole new meaning for the students who completed last fall’s undergraduate “Fashioning Functional Gear” course. The interdisciplinary studio united the Fashion Design and Industrial Design programs in eco-conscious investigation and technological innovation.
The result? A seamless depiction of how two unique areas of study can interact to generate novel products that are designed and assembled with the wearer’s specific purposes and needs in mind.
One of many bold and innovative interdisciplinary courses offered at the college, the undergraduate “Fashioning Functional Gear” was inspired by Fashion Design chair Amy Williams and faculty member Lyndsie Nash. The course exemplifies CCA’s commitment to embedding in its design curricula how to help students design with sustainability in mind.
Collaboration, Shared Resources
Each program a conduit to deploy revolutionary yet practical experimentation in product feasibility and aesthetic consideration, students shared a platform of collaborative exploration and learned different approaches and methods for solving design problems, including taking advantage of the machinery available in the college’s extensive studio resources (shops) (e.g., laser cutters, heat presses, industrial sewing machines). One early assignment had each student research an individual piece of machinery, the results of which were combined into a shared resource guide.
The Life of Wearable Gear
"The Life of Wearable Gear" was the "Fashioning Functional Gear" final project, which entailed designing a head-to-toe, fully styled look appropriate for the CCA Annual Fashion Show. Students were challenged with creating a "highly crafted and visually exciting" design piece of wearable gear (e.g., bags, jackets, jumpsuits, even spats) to be displayed on one of the runway models at the annual fashion show.
With longevity as its theme, meaning it should last for a minimum of seven years and serve a physically strenuous context in which the wearer's heart rate is at or above 120bpm for a minimum of 10 minutes, designers were encouraged to define a hybrid lifestyle in which a defined user has a set of activities for which the gear must satisfy all needs.
Look for selections from students’ final projects at the Annual Fashion Show Friday, May 13, at 8 p.m. in the tent in front of the San Francisco campus.
The course was inspired in part by Fashion Design chair Amy Williams and spearheaded by faculty members Lyndsie Nash (Fashion Design), a clothing designer in the outdoor industry with specific expertise in technical outerwear design, and Colin Owen (Industrial Design), an independent product designer.
According to Nash: “The learning from this course directly relates to untapped needs in the outdoor industry for performance designs that merge hard and soft goods with style and innovation.”
Though collaborative innovation, students work toward redefining both the function and facade of outdoor gear. Through hands-on experimentation with performance materials, sharing advanced construction techniques, and discussing elements of sustainability, participants broke convention and deployed revolutionary projects that offer wide-reaching design solutions for the contemporary outdoor-minded consumer.
Students were also encouraged to uphold the following goals:
- Explore design opportunities in the space between fashion (soft goods) and industrial design (hard goods)
- Enhance needs analysis, project development, and refinement and testing skills
- Broaden an understanding of performance materials (fibers, finishes, constructions, etc.) and advanced construction techniques
- Appreciate better how outdoor gear must accommodate the environment
Industry Leaders Get Involved
Essential to graduates of either design program is the ability to build relationships with local industry leaders—partnership, sponsorship, endorsement, collaboration—to ensure access to a healthful network is available.
CCA courses such as "Fashioning Functional Gear" have a particular advantage over many other design programs: the Bay Area is where many outdoor industry companies are located. When it comes to designing innovative, sustainable sports gear, access to successful companies is key to developing unique design projects.
Owens and Nash tapped their local industry networks and invited working professionals, including those with ties to CCA, to guest lecture and provide product demonstrations:
CCA alumnus Tory Cross (BFA Industrial Design 2002), an advanced products designer at Nike, lectured about the innovative design processes used in the Nike Design Kitchen, followed by individual student critiques.
Mountain Hardwear’s Gaston MacMillan demonstrated the practice of bonding using CCA’s heat press machine, after which students practiced their skills at bonding pockets.
The following companies and industry friends shared their perspectives and helped critiqued the students’ design projects:
Alite — Christine Marcellino, Designer
Blackbird — Joe Luttwak
incase — Tim Wall, Design Director
Luna Textiles — Leeanne Vanderbyl
Mountain Hardwear — Erik Hammerschlag, Product Line Manager
The North Face — Designers Gabe Phillips (footwear); Lia Heath (women's action sports)
Rickshaw — Mark Dwight, Owner
Shape Field Office — Karson Shadley, Designer
Bemis West Coast Sales Manager Arnie Liati generously provided all thermoplastic film adhesives that enabled students to experiment with bonding techniques—the future of sew-free technology (that which replaces stitching from a traditional sewing machine).
The North Face Director of Materials Jeff Nash generously donated industry-leading performance materials, otherwise unattainable from commercial outlets, including a wide range of textiles for sportswear, outerwear, and equipment categories, which afforded students a great opportunity for hands-on constructions with cutting-edge materials.
Learn More About CCA's Fashion Design and Industrial Design Programs
Fashion Design students lead change in the global fashion industry. Immersed in the culture of the San Francisco Bay Area, CCA fuses strategies for sustainability with conceptual development, technological innovation, and interdisciplinary approaches to fashion practice.
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Industrial Design students acquire technical skills in drawing, form giving, model making, problem solving, and computer-aided design, but the real emphasis of the program is on creativity, curiosity, innovation, and belief in one's own visual intelligence.
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