Academy fashion student Gabriela Weinkauf and Mimaki textile print company collaborate in unique collection

By Madeline Shannon, MA Journalism ’20, MA Art Direction ’21
Image by Danielle Rueda

Under the Romanesque arches of St. Brigid’s Church in San Francisco, three looks from MFA Fashion Designer Gabriella Weinkauf’s “Luminosus” thesis collection – created in collaboration with textile company Mimaki – made their debut at the Graduation Fashion Show on May 12th.

Victoria Nelson Harris, the Senior Textile Segment Specialist that Weinkauf collaborated with at Mimaki, said Mimaki first reached out to the School of Fashion in an effort to educate the fashion designers of the future of printmaking.

“She had all these great print ideas she wanted to bring to life, and of course, we were like, sure, absolutely,” Harris said. “So we checked what we had, different fabrics we had here in stock, and she gave us her proposal of what her inspirations were.”

Look 1: Multicolor Mimaki digitally printed dress. Photography: Randy Brooke.

Those inspirations consisted of the light and colors she saw in the church setting. During her research, the burgeoning designer, who was raised Catholic but now identifies as atheist, connected with the artwork of the Church, particularly that of the Cathedral of Braga and the Cathedral of Lisboa, both in Portugal, among other churches the Portuguese-Puerto Rican designer has visited.

“The light hits the altar, and the colors just change throughout the day,” said Weinkauf of the light and color she studied in churches. “In the dark, it’s just black. So there’s some outfits that look more restricted and some that show more excess.” Some of those fabrics – cotton, linen, and silk – show that excess with the use of what Weinkauf calls a “hyper” use of color. Two of the looks in her collection, worn by Ava and Erykah, use a celestial-inspired printed fabric. The use of such cosmological elements elevates the collection and is complement the Elizabethan-inspired sleeves.

Harris added Weinkauf had interesting illustrations and cool, pleated designs, from which they picked out fabrics. Various cotton satines and cotton-woven silk broadcloth were some of the main fabrics used in Weinkauf’s collection.

Look 2: Multicolor Mimaki digitally printed pearl dress. Photography: Randy Brooke.

Weinkauf, who completed her MFA at the Academy of Art University’s School of Fashion in Fall 2021 entirely online, started out with about 42 different prints, she said, which she showed to Simon Ungless, the Executive Director of the School, and then Harris. From there, they narrowed down her prints to about 20 unique printed fabrics.

When Weinkauf started working with Mimaki, Harris first sent Weinkauf small fabric samples so she could look at the composition of the fabric, and then another collection of printed samples that allowed the designer to see how the ink is injected into the fabric and the quality of the final print.

After all the fabrics were printed that Weinkauf needed for the Luminosus collection, Mimaki sent her the fabrics, ready for cutting and sewing.

“The quality of the fabric is top,” said Weinkauf. “I love the colors. It was precise and it was the colors and prints I was looking for.”

The fabrics themselves ranged from slim violet stripes on solid black to thin orange stripes overlayed on a lush tropical print to celestial-inspired fabrics with splashes of purple, blue and white to orange-red stripes on solid brown, which were all utilized to create a series of ensembles.

Look 3: Dark red Mimaki digitally printed graphic dress.

“To me, it was deeply rooted in my Catholic upbringing,” Weinkauf said. “Being Catholic, in a very specific way, is about excess and about austerity.” The exuberant colors and light, she explained, are an element of the religious experience that is often visible in Catholic churches.

However, there’s also a conservative aspect to this experience that she wanted to address in the collection, too. “That’s one of the things being Catholic teaches you, is to be a stricter person,” she said. “You can see [look 3] is stricter.”

The aim in some of the looks in her collection, Weinkauf added, was to embody an angelic, feminine aesthetic, while others in the collection represent the oftentimes ascetic or severe nature of the religion.

“She had some really beautiful textile designs we printed here in our facility,” Harris said. “It was really amazing to see how she was able to translate her inspiration into her print designs. She really pushed that to the limit and utilized the digital technology well.”

Video of the show and images of all the looks are available here.