Rebecca Blanton, a 23-year-old recent college graduate, has been obsessed with fashion ever since she could remember. Her love for fashion started as she dressed herself from a very young age, to figuring out how she could construct garments that looked similar to the ones she saw in her favorite magazines.
The first time I saw one of Blanton’s designs, she explained her inspiration behind the garment, which took me by surprise. It was not something she saw in the magazines or on the runway, rather, she took inspiration from a problem within the fashion industry that would be difficult for any designer to translate into a beautiful ensemble–domestic animals used in the fur trade. She used images of skinned dog jaws to create a moving, but gorgeous garment.
As this conversation took place almost a year ago, I wanted to catch up with Blanton to talk about her post-graduation plans and learn more about what inspires her designs.
Natalie Craig: When did you realize that you wanted to design clothing?
Becca Blanton: It was a progression definitely. I always knew I wanted to be apart of the fashion industry in some way or another. High school definitely solidified that. I wanted to be a designer when I started seeing garments fully develop from paper pattern to full look. There was nothing else I could imagine myself doing. I then took that energy full force while at Columbia.
N: Who is your favorite designer?
B: I don’t think I can really narrow my favorite designer down to just one. Currently I’m really loving Manish Arora. His combination of unusual or unconventional textiles, fabrication and embellishment, I can really appreciate. They’re always beautiful.
N: What would you say your inspiration is behind your design and work ethic?
B: I think persistence and my passion for designing is definitely prevalent behind my design and work ethic. That keeps me inspired and with that, I keep developing and evolving.
N: How much would you say you have learned in school versus what you have taught yourself?
B: I can definitely say I’ve developed my craft, in all realms, such as construction, patterning, embellishment, things of the technical sort in school. I can thank my thesis teacher for pushing me creatively junior year, which propelled me to evolve my aesthetic in the direction I want to be as a designer. I have definitely taught myself patience over the years, especially since I have a passion for embellishment. It’s nuts how many hours go into even the smallest of projects.
N: What design are you most proud of to date?
B: Undoubtedly, my proudest design accomplishment to date has to be my senior thesis collection. The amount of time, dedication and sleepless nights that went into it truly proved how much I love what I do. I still love it even after looking at it for basically a year and a half. I was also honored to be a part of the Driehaus Awards for Fashion Excellence this past April and placed third out of 23 designers. It was rewarding to see that so many people responded well to what I produced. What’s best is that I would wear any piece in my everyday wear, even if some of the collection were a little out there.
N: How do you come up with new ideas and designs for garments?
B: I’ll definitely grab from various sources. It’s a thorough process, though. Pretty much like an idea, then sketch, sketch, sketch, walk away for a while and then come back and decide if it’s a good idea to follow through with. It has to make sense creatively as well as when it’s translated into a garment. I like to manipulate the idea so it’s not something so straightforward. For example my senior thesis was derived from domestic animals used for the fur trade. I manipulated something tragic and gruesome into something pleasing to look at through print and embellishment. By doing so I sparked interest not only visually, but also conversationally and emotionally as well.
N: What are some of the obstacles that you faced when entering the industry?
B: With fashion being such a competitive industry you have to stand out from the crowd and already have experience in order to get many of the internships. It’s a lot of trial and error.
N: What do you think about Chicago’s fashion scene?
B: When you walk around Chicago, you see how much diversity is prevalent. It’s obvious. Our city may be underrated sometimes when it comes to fashion in comparison to places like New York City or Paris, but I believe that Chicago is definitely pushing itself into showing that designers here have so much to offer. What I’m seeing lately is a burst of creativity.
N: Can we catch you at any events this year?
B: I’ll be attending the Driehaus summer party, which will be a great time in terms of entertainment and networking. I’ll also be participating in a Chicago fashion show coming up in November, which is a benefit for AIDS/HIV.
N: What advice do you have for prospective designers?
B: I would tell them that if you’re passionate enough, to not give up, especially during their education. It will get rough, tiring, challenging and you’ll probably want to cry sometimes. But the reward from creating something and seeing it out there is something so unexplainable. That’s what keeps us going.