CCA Alumna Mia Christopher's Fashionable Venture with Anthropologie

In summer 2012, the artwork of alumna Mia Christopher (Painting/Drawing 2012) was exhibited in a high-profile shop window on Market Street . . . but not in its original form. As part of a collaboration with the major clothing brand Anthropologie, Christopher’s two-dimensional paintings had been transformed into prints on dresses, blouses, and jumpers.

The collaboration was part of the company’s Made in Kind project, which showcases work by up-and-coming artists in limited-edition collections.

Fashion Calling

“In December 2011," recalls Christopher, "I received an email from a buyer from Anthropologie describing an upcoming set of collaborations between the company and independent artists and designers. I was honored to be invited to participate, as I’d been interested in turning some of my work into textiles for some time. I jumped at the opportunity.”

Christopher and Anthropologie selected three bodies of her work as inspiration: what she calls her "Compositional Stacking" paintings, her "Color Stripe" paintings, and her "Test Sheets."

Paintings Versus Prints

It was important to Christopher to maintain the integrity of the original paintings, and she worked closely with an Anthropologie surface designer to make that happen. “I wanted it to be clear that my paintings were being made into clothing, as opposed to the clothing having been created for the specific purpose of being a textile.”

Christopher scoured the Anthropologie website to educate herself on the company’s aesthetics. “I used other clothing as a way to communicate with their designer. For example, we’d discuss a dress that I liked the pockets of, or the collar or a waist detail. There was a lot of back-and-forth, and the designs of the items that would bear my artwork evolved a lot throughout the process. I was ultimately most attracted to designs that would complement both the specific artwork and my overall aesthetic.”

Large-Scale Collaboration

“This was the first time I had ever worked with a company of such large scale,” Christopher continues, “and the project was a first experience in navigating a collaboration of this complexity. A large part of the learning process was understanding how a big group of people collaborate, draft, and produce together. It was incredible to get to work with professionals from all over the country.”

An Education in Interdisciplinary Collaboration

Christopher credits CCA with having equipped her with some important tools in interdisciplinary collaboration. “I had my own studio during my senior year, in proximity to other seniors and the MFA students. Sharing a workspace with my peers was so rewarding. I was able to leave work up, let it breathe, have studio visits with professors and classmates. The communal atmosphere and the constant, high-level conversations absolutely influenced and supported my work with Anthropologie.”

Christopher was able to call upon Painting/Drawing chair Linda Geary, who had been her CCA advisor, for advice in the Anthropologie conversations. “Linda was always there to remind me that we can break down any barriers we set up for ourselves.”

The Mystery of Garment Production

For Christopher, one of the most intriguing aspects of the experience was getting to witness the printing and production processes. “That had largely been a mystery to me previously,” she says. “I was consulted about identifying the colors in my work as particular Pantone color codes for sublimation printing, for instance, or what specific jersey fabrics would take the screen-printing ink best. There are so many aspects of garment production.”

From Studio to Store Front

Christopher’s Made in Kind collection was released in July 2012 and immediately received attention from fashion blogs and local media such as the SF Weekly and Daily Candy.

But it wasn’t until August that she actually saw what she’d done on a mannequin in the store window. “A friend of mine who works downtown texted me a picture of one of the dresses in the window of the Anthropologie on Market Street. I immediately hopped on BART to see it for myself! It was thrilling and surreal . . . and I did cry a little bit!”

Translation of Mediums

“Seeing my work translated from a fine-art context to a design context has definitely made me think about my work from a new perspective,” says Christopher. “I have posed more questions to myself than I have yet answered, but I think that’s great. Opening the doorway to new conversations around art and design is already an end in itself.”