Cecilia Alfaro and Paige Zubok are two fashion students attending Central Michigan University. Their collection was featured in the Threads fashion show, boasting as trendy, edgy, and experimental, as both are fairly new in their experience of creating garments. The two found each other as roommates the previous summer on a study abroad trip in Paris. It was there where they decided they would collaborate on designs for the Threads fashion show, and this was the result.
What were some of the specific experiences you received from Paris that lead you to make those pieces? What were the ideas behind them?
Elizabeth: Our whole theme came from the metro system, the public transportation in Paris. When you go to Paris and you’re walking around the streets, you see flowers, all the old architecture, all that stuff, and it’s the typical idea of Paris. So we wanted to portray Paris underground. There’s an entirely different world down there. You don’t see what you would see on the surface.
Paige: And in the different classes we had for learning different sewing techniques in Paris, we tried to use some of those. Some of them didn’t work when we were trying to experiment, but some of them like the belt on the shorts— that’s all hand sewn together with the smocking technique we learned in Paris. The bra was inspired by a pleating technique we learned there too. We tried to do the technique and were pleating for four hours.
Elizabeth: It was the night before the fashion show too. We changed the design for the bra at 4 in the morning. We finished it at 6:30 and just had to get ready for the show after that.
Paige: We had joked around, like, ‘We’ve been pleating for 4 hours.’ Then we just tried to put it on the bra and it just wasn’t working, so we were trying to figure out what to do. We thought to maybe change our idea at 4 a.m., and at one point we both looked at each other and were like… we kind of have to. So we just went for it.
What type of mindset do you think it takes to go into the fashion field? Little things like staying up until 4 a.m. just to implement change to an idea— what do you think about that?
Cecilia: I think you definitely have to have a lot of dedication to go into something like this. All of my friends who live in the same dorm as me are science majors, but as fashion majors we can’t do our homework in our dorm room or at our apartment. We’re always (in the fashion lab). We spend countless hours here in the lab—as much as we can. We came here over spring break. They opened the lab, so we stayed at Paige’s apartment so we could sew our collection here over spring break. I feel like if you don’t love it, then you’re not dedicated enough to get it done because it takes a lot more time than people expect it to.
Paige: I definitely think you need an open mind. That’s with anything, but especially this. You’re going to run into problems, you’re going run into obstacles. You have to be ready to problem solve and figure out the best way to go about it.
What type of clothing do you both typically make? What are the themes that you tend to follow or even the type of garments you’d like to design, through us of patterns, fabrics, all of those things?
Cecilia: I think most of the stuff I have made has been for the class work we’ve done, so we don’t have much of a say in what we do there. I’ve made skirts and things over the summer but I think this is the biggest project I’ve done outside of classwork.
Paige: I have a really minimalist style. I don’t really wear patterns and stuff so when it comes to class and we have to use patterns in our designs, I’m like, ‘Oh shoot, what am I gonna do?’ But I really think, especially learning from this, I liked using different fabrics than what you would normally use. It’s fun to innovate how you use different things for different pieces.
If you had a set vision in mind of what your clothing would look like at its prime, what would that look like?
Paige: I feel like I would be concerned with how everybody can find a way to wear it or use it. It’s not for one specific body type or person. Everybody can find a way to wear those pieces.
Cecilia: I kind of want to change what I’m designing, maintaining my own theme with whatever I’m designing, but always developing and trying new fabrics. When we bought these fabrics, we didn’t know they were going to be as difficult as they were, so it’s always just matter of challenging yourself a little bit more to try new things and push yourself out of what you already know how to do.
Having a little less experience in the fashion program and having your clothes in the Threads fashion show with people who are nearly your seniors, what was that like in comparison?
Cecilia: It was actually very rewarding because doing this as a sophomore, I was under the impression that the people who are seniors who have a lot more experience than me, their clothing was going to be so much better than mine since they have that background. But everything we had gone through either while we were working here or on judging day or the day of the show, all these models, different designers, and seniors would tell us they’re excited to see our collection, that we did such a good job, that what we did was amazing. So it was rewarding to watch our stuff go down the runway, and to be able to say I made that. I’m only in my second year of this program and we were able to create something as big as this. It was just a huge moment for me.
Paige: I definitely agree with her. It was really rewarding and even though I am closer in age to some of the seniors. I have never taken on a project like this before, so it definitely gave me the confidence boost I needed to say I can do this. So that was really cool to have everyone coming up to us saying, ‘Yes, you are on our level.’
Cecilia: Even our professors told us they were impressed by our collection. That was the best thing. One of our professors came up to us and said, ‘You guys did a great job. You can see it in your garments.’
On top of that, what type of expectations do you place onto yourself when you’re making clothing?
Cecilia: I would say now, I have higher expectations for myself because as a sophomore, I worked with Paige to create this. So I feel more confident that I can do better and do more, and am able to create larger projects and see what I can do my senior year— basically, my expectation is to not limit myself.
Paige: I definitely think that my bar for expectations went up a little bit after seeing what we can do and seeing what everyone else can do. There’s no reason that I can’t. So I’m excited.
What is it that motivates you guys to do what you’re doing right now?
Paige: Honestly, myself. I have a lot of self-motivation, which is also what you need when it comes to this program. Just seeing that my family agrees that this is what I’m supposed to be doing, that I am good at this, pushes me the most. There’s no reason that I can’t do it.
Cecilia: Something that pushes me was throughout high school when I told people I wanted to go into fashion, everyone would be like, ‘That’s so easy, c’mon. You’re smart. Why don’t you do something math related or science related?’ But that’s not what I wanted do. Explaining to them that no, look at what I’m doing, and how hard it is, motivates me— showing that to people, and being able to display our work. It’s so much more than you think. So that doubt that I’ve had in the past from others motivates me to do the best I can.
Where would you two like to see yourselves in 10 years?
Cecilia: We both fell in love with Paris: the whole city and the atmosphere. This summer I’m studying abroad in Florence. We both have an internship next summer, and I’m just really trying to earn money because I really want to maybe do it in London and just end up working in Europe. Right now I’m thinking about working in couture bridal wear, but definitely somewhere in Europe working for the fashion industry.
Paige: Traveling is something that I’ve always held dear to me, ever since I was young. That’s definitely something I see myself doing, even if it’s just doing freelance designing for people. I’d be fine with that, as long as I got to see the world.
What does art mean to you?
Cecilia: I feel like a lot of people don’t see fashion as an art form, but I really do think it’s a form of self-expression and shows who you are in a way you can’t express in other ways. Making these clothes, this is an experience we had and this is how we interpret it and our inspiration from Paris. This is Paris to us. It’s part of that experience. So just how we express ourselves through the different clothing we make.
Paige: One of my favorite things to remember about art is that it’s in the eye of the beholder. No matter what you put out there and create and what it means to you, somebody else could see it and it could mean something totally different, but still have a valid meaning. That’s something that I love about art. I love everything about it, and creating; clothes especially. Paige said self-expression. You could put your stuff out there and somebody could wear it for completely different reason than what the clothing entails. It’s just cool that you can wear whatever the hell you want and nobody can tell you not to. And the techniques you use in sewing: there’s so many different ways you can go about putting together a garment. Some people would consider certain methods right or wrong, but it’s your own. You can go about it whichever way you want, and it’s going to end up being something regardless.
Cecilia: People have come to me saying haute couture is weird and will ask who would ever wear that or why would you wear that? But it’s art. People who have the money will spend it on that. For some artists, haute couture is their form of art. Some people paint, some people sew garments: that’s just how they do it.