Advanced Fashion projects express creativity digitally

Justine Liu and Sarah Al-Jawhar

As South’s Fashion Teacher Melissa Pfister hangs up her students’ design sketches in her classroom, she takes a step back and admires their hard work. Every semester, Advanced Fashion students express their passion for fashion through original four-piece collections based on personal ideas that inspire them, Pfister said. However, this year looks a little different due to the pandemic.

Pfister described that the project begins with students filling their processing journals with brainstorms and then analyzing the “unorganized thinking” to narrow down to one concept. The students then connect the concept to creation with the use of mind maps and sketches, she said. According to Pfister, the sketches begin with technical illustrations, or fashion flats, which display the garments’ details. Pfister explained that this brainstorming process has a different time frame for each student and she does not try to rush any of her students during their work time.

“In fashion, sometimes you take three steps forward, and then you have to take two steps backward [to] refine any research,” Pfister said. “It’s kind of this continual process of [thinking] you’re getting somewhere, but then you hit a data edge or something else sparks your interest from that processing and you have to take a couple of steps back.”

Due to the nature of the pandemic, the class has to do a digital showcase instead of the typical in-person ones at the end of each semester, Pfister said. Each student displays their four pieces in a creative presentation that captures their brainstorming process, creating process and the overall style derived from their themes. Pfister explained that this project gives the students a real experience by providing them a chance to challenge and express their ideas.

“In addition to creating it, they go through the entire design process of understanding how much it costs to make their garment, how much time and effort they put into it, how and who they would sell it to and how much they would sell it for,” Pfister said. “They do that for each of their garments.”

Junior Molly Thissen described how her collection is inspired by ‘90s fashion, specifically Rachel Green’s style from the TV show, Friends. This means a focus on red undertones for color, she says. Thissen also stated that since she enjoys looking for inspiration and making mood boards on Pinterest, her brainstorming process went smoothly and gave her a good head start in the project.

“It was the beginning of the project that definitely made a huge difference in me being a little bit ahead because it was the planning and [finding] inspiration, which is fun,” Thissen said. “I honestly just got carried away with it, like I could just do this all day.”

Senior Liv Biank has been in fashion for three years at South and for her project, her inspiration was a deck of playing cards. She said she decided to focus on the black and red color scheme and she explained how the project was a huge learning experience.

“This project has been so much fun for me,” Biank said. “It has allowed me to be creative and also has helped me strengthen my sewing and design skills.”

Junior Isabella Bona, a student in Advanced Fashion, enjoys having the ability to express herself through her creations and being in an environment that fosters that creativity as well. Whether looking at inspiration pages before planning out a new piece or actually creating her new project on her sewing machine, Bona explained that fashion is an exciting way for her to do what she is passionate about.

“It’s really fun to be able to make clothes that you can actually wear, and everyone in the class is really nice and helpful,” Bona said. “We’re all good friends.”

Because Advanced Fashion is known to be more of an in-person experience, the pandemic has significantly changed the dynamics of this class, Bona said. According to Bona, one of the most obvious obstacles this change has brought is the fact that the teacher cannot physically see each student’s project when helping them.

“Usually if I was in school I would probably be ahead of the class, just because I work faster,” Bona explained. “At home, it’s more difficult just because you don’t really have the teacher’s help.”

Despite the new changes to the class, simply being able to share her passion for fashion with her students brings Pfister joy. This experience reminds her that fashion is for everyone.

“I personally think that wearing clothes and styling is such a powerful tool,” Pfister said. “You don’t have to necessarily be the next designer or be a fashion designer to play with clothes and have fun. Everybody can have fun with fashion, which is one lesson I try to teach with this project.”