Graduate Spotlight: Nicole Luczak, Columbia College Class of 2017
For Nicole Luczak's senior thesis class at Columbia College in Chicago, she was challenged to create a small collection. The assignment, her most challenging work to-date entailed long days and nights of sketching, creating, editing along with self-reflection to bring her vision to life. She also produced and created her own lookbook shoot, which helped her understand the commercial side of the business.
Each of her 5 pieces were relatable silhouettes and used the right amount of color. From blocking to patchwork placement, her designs were thoughtfully made from natural fibers and wool to be easy on the environment and resulted in a brushed up free-spirited vibe.
We had the opportunity to visit her class to learn more about the collection and interviewed her to understand more about the process.
What was your inspiration?
My inspiration was urban decay. We live in such a throwaway society and the constant demolishing of these buildings that no longer are deemed as worthwhile is harmful to our environment and uses a lot of our natural resources. Growing up in Rockford, Illinois and then moving to Chicago it was very easy for me to see how society thinks of urban decay. Most buildings are torn down without even attempting to salvage them or their parts. I wanted to show that there was beauty in the decay. When buildings are demolished, they leave a skeleton of the structure on the places they were attached to. I wanted my collection to emulate the beautiful remnants of these buildings.
Can you talk about your silhouettes and fabric story?
I designed garments with boxy silhouettes and organic hem and seam lines. I wanted the silhouettes to emulate the shapes of the buildings. I predominantly used natural fibers because I wanted my garments to be able to decompose easily once they have fulfilled their purpose. The coats and trousers are all made from wool and wool blends.
What is your process? Your trials and errors. What worked and what didn't?
This collection was the most taxing for me as a designer, it was designed three separate times before I settled on the designs I produced today. I went through a lot of artist’s block and had concluded that what I was doing in the beginning wasn’t me as a designer and I needed to push myself more. A good friend told me that this was my senior collection and if I played it safe I wouldn’t be happy. As a designer, I prefer to illustrate and pattern make, so once I figured out what I wanted down on paper it was just a matter of drafting it from there.
Originally, I had planned on doing a burnout technique on my silk velvet, but because the velvet was so thin I worried the burnout would corrode the fabric too much and not hold up with the wool seaming. From there I decided to do a screen-printed velvet, and was happy with the result.
One of my goals was to produce a zero-waste collection in which I took scraps leftover from the production of the other looks and created a new textile. The process of piecing together the scraps in a way that went with the collection was a challenge I faced.
I grew up loving fashion, but as I became more aware of the practices and costs of being in fashion I wasn’t sure where I fit in. I’ve always been very conscious of the environment and the natural world around me and being in an industry that faced so many unethical practices and wasteful production was not where I thought I belonged. My sister introduced me to a woman who worked with artisans in India and helped give them jobs and fair wages, so they could support their families. It really opened my eyes to what I could do with fashion.
As a designer, I’m dedicating myself to working for companies that have the same transparent and environmentally friendly beliefs as myself. I believe that sustainable fashion is the future and want to be a part of that future.
In the fall, Nicole hopes to move New York City and hopes to work for a sustainable fashion company.