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Monday, April 15, 2024

UC Davis on the runway

By SASHA SHARMA
Aggie Arts Writer

Editor’s Note: For the rest of this quarter, Aggie arts reporter Sasha Sharma will investigate the process of designing a runway collection from beginning to end. Check MUSE bi-weekly to see Funmilayo Alabi’s progress as she continues to work on her collection for the Picnic Day Fashion Show taking place in Spring 2012.

Dressed in a colorful skirt, an olive green scarf and a denim jacket, hair streaming down in long braids, Funmilayo Alabi was hard to miss as she waited at the Memorial Union bus stop for an interview.

Alabi is one of the UC Davis students showcasing her designs at the Picnic Day Student Fashion Show. She was dyeing fabrics two weeks ago in the design lab located in Cruess Hall and is now sewing garments for a “mock-up.”

“It’s basically a rough draft of your garments,” Alabi said.

The garments are then critiqued by other students in the Design 179 class, a fashion design class that is part of the design major.

Alabi has spent the last week laboring over a pair of shredded pants.

“We didn’t learn how to make pants before and this is the first pair of pants I’ve ever made,” she said with a laugh. Her “mock” pair of pants were sewn incorrectly and she said she spent hours frustrated over the garment.

“I started doing them on Sunday and the hardest part is the crotch. I was so discouraged when I saw them on the mannequin, I just had to step away for a bit,” Alabi said.

The class feels like family, she said. Another student, Kim Shao, helped Alabi correct the pants and the students, who stay at the design lab for hours on end often share food, advice and more.

“I was going to wash that and put it away for someone to use,” Alabi said to Faye Lessler, another student-designer, pointing to a used plastic container for ketchup. “We are very sustainable here.”

The adjoining room is the work room. Alabi’s fabrics were laid out on the wooden desk. The fabrics are brightly colored and hand painted with tribal prints — one of the biggest trends this season. Alabi has branded her collection “Milayo,” and the theme is urban safari.

“The technique I used was Arashi Shibori,” Alabi said pointing to one of the swatches. Shibori is a Japanese term for dyeing, while Arashi means “wrapped around a pole.” The technique involves binding the cloth very tightly to a pole which results in the patterns emerging diagonally as a result.

A somewhat finished look stood in the corner of the room, in which Alabi pointed out that the bodice was made of cotton sateen. The skirt was made of silk organza and hair covered both the bodice and the skirt.

“I am infatuated with hair, it represents a woman’s beauty in a way,” Alabi said.

Not everyone can be expected to swallow this infatuation and Alabi understands that it’s not a very commercial idea. However she said, “I learned from one of my professors – Adele Zhang – that this is the time to be crazy.”

According to Alabi, this might be her chance without being judged harshly as in the industry.

At the last critique in class, she was told by professor Susan Avila that she was her own worst critic.

“Whatever that means,” she said laughing before getting serious and adding, “I think I’m just very hard on myself. I’m never happy with any of my prints either.”

One person who is proud of Alabi is her father. “He was not happy about design as my choice of major,” she said. However, as she has made progress with her work and her prints have matured into complex designs, her father has embraced her choice.

The work is stressful, and Alabi repeated this mantra several times, but her displeasure peaked when she talked about immersion dyeing.

“It takes an hour and a half and you’re just stirring for so long, you gain so much muscle,” she said shaking her head.

As the fashion show date nears, Funmilayo was finally meeting with her models, who she said were her close friends. She was also beginning to think about the music, make up, shoes and accessories for the show.

“I’m thinking about doing my own hair shoe,” Alabi said. The “hair shoe” reference is reminiscent of Alexander Wang’s pony hair booties circa 2011.

Alabi has kept the Carnivale theme alive throughout her collection and as the Milayo brand seems to promise the ultimate urban safari.

SASHA SHARMA can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.

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