Jeanne shared her design ideas with us for the Discarded To Divine project that both online and onsite fashion students are creating items for. The items will be presented in a silent auction and/or fashion show on Saturday, April 26th to raise money for St. Vincent de Paul Society in San Francisco, an organization that helps the homeless. Academy of Art University is providing the venue for this event.
So Jeanne …. Tell us about yourself …. Background/education/job?
I grew up in CT. I got my hairdressing license in 1985, opened a salon in 1986, went to Yale from 1986-93 for my BA in Studio Art, started teaching art in 1995, Certified Art pre-K-12 in 1996. I have been teaching art and graphic design to adolescents with social and emotional disorders for 10 years as a resident artist at juvenile detention facilities in CT.
Why MFA Fashion Design online?
Originally, I was looking for a Masters Program to fulfill CT teaching requirements. I looked at Fordham University and Smith College Social Work Programs, Vermont School in Fine Art, SCSU Art Education. Nothing seemed quite right. I had a secret desire to study fashion design so I periodically searched on Google for MFA programs in fashion design. Academy of Art University popped up, I researched the program, and went to an Academy Day in New York.
I was still intimidated by the whole fashion scene, so I spoke to the photography school, showed my portfolio, etc. Then I met with Simon Ungless, Director of Graduate Fashion. I was disarmed by his humility, as I expected the fashion school to be unapproachable and intimidating. I decided to apply in photography because I was more confident in that area. Simon recommended taking a few electives in fashion.
After I was accepted into photography, I realized that fashion design was a little closer to my heart and I reapplied in fashion, was accepted and started classes in January 2006. I am studying online because I am not ready to relocate to San Francisco.
What do you want to achieve from the program?
The most important thing is to figure out who I am as a designer, meaning what my strengths and weaknesses are, and what I want to focus on while I am here. Of course making connections in the industry is crucial. I am looking forward to directed study time. I am hoping to incorporate my jewelry design into the master plan. I also want to learn about every aspect of design from conception through production and marketing. I have to find my place in the mix.
I am visiting the University for a week this April and cannot wait to meet some of the other designers and the faculty. Even though I am an online student I prefer working with actual people.
You came to the recent MFA show in NY Fashion week…What did you think?
AB FAB!!! Again, I was a little intimidated by the whole FASHION WEEK BRYANT PARK thing. I planned on going then changed my mind a few times. My BFF Frank threw me in the car and drove me to the show. Once I got to the city, I was fine. The show was PACKED, standing room only. EVERYTHING was so professional. The designs were amazing, music was ultra-fabulous. The true artistry of the designers was what impressed me the most. The hype of the fashion scene became insignificant. The knitted helmet covers were my favorite. I loved the silk-screened prints. Menswear was breathtaking. Knitwear gorgeous. Very impressive.
Tell us about your shredded knits..what is the story?
After I left my ex-husband, I moved into a brownstone in New Haven. My roommate (a “Will and Grace” situation) was a real clothes hound and gave me bags and bags of hand me downs. My favorite shirt was a button down Abercrombie and Fitch plaid shirt. It was so worn that it had a few holes in it. I had been making yarn out of fleece fabric and thought this would make a nice yarn. I shredded the shirt into one inch strips, hand sewed the pieces together to make a ball of yarn. It took 8 hours to make the ball of yarn and 45 minutes to knit the hat. The hat has a certain energy to it because the fabric has so much history.
What are you planning to do for the Discarded to Divine project?
I expect to get a shipment of donated items from St. Vincent de Paul this week. I requested men’s cotton button down shirts to shred, sew and knit into a hat maybe. I have been working on some hand warmers from shreds, so maybe those as well. I have also been thinking about unraveling some hand knits. Maybe I will unravel a sweater and re-knit into something else. Whatever I get, I will work with. I have a real passion for discarded items, love looking at flattened trash on the street, looking in dumpsters, etc. I desperately need this project; I am so looking forward to making something new.
What is your life inspiration?
I am inspired by resilience. There is a pine tree sapling growing through a cement step at the school where I teach. I cannot believe this thing. I am awestruck by it. It gives me faith in the impossible. My students inspire me. Many of them have grown up in residential facilities, survived horrendous abuse, and have basically been society’s throw-aways. They are brilliant. Smarter than so many adults I know.
Where do you want to be 5 years from now?
I would like to be designing professionally and teaching incarcerated youth. Working in the school systems is extremely exhausting and limiting. I would like to work as a resident artist while developing my design business.
What is on your iPod, Walkman, Stereo or Radio?
Jimmy Somerville, Gregorian Chants, Madonna, and lots of show tunes!