Turning ‘Happy Accidents’ into Opportunities

Ashley LeMay found textiles because she “wanted to get her hands dirty.”

“I like being able to get messy and make a mistake, but then work off of it,” explained the 2018 School of Fashion graduate and current textile coordinator for Pottery Barn Teen. “For some people, it takes too long to get to the end result, yet for me, the whole process is fun.”

2018 textile design graduate Ashley LeMay. Photo courtesy of Ashley LeMay.

Emily McCarty, fellow 2018 textile design alumna and assistant designer for Calvin Klein’s Color & Concept team, said she used to spend almost half a day in the lab when she was working on her senior collaboration with Hanh Nguyen (B.F.A. Fashion Design) for their Graduation Fashion Show. “Textiles is just a little bit different of a creative outlet. The more I got into textiles, the more I enjoyed the process of creating a collection,” McCarty said. 

2018 textile design graduate Emily McCarty. Photo courtesy of Emily McCarty.

Sometimes referred to as ‘happy accidents,’ designing textiles is often not one process but many and can be a little bit of ‘art meets science.’ As LeMay explained, Fashion Textile students get hands-on experience by learning on industry-standard textile lab equipment, including repeat yardage print tables, heat transfer presses, steamers, over 700 silkscreens, and much more. The curriculum starts with surface level prints then graduates to fabric manipulation such as burnout, discharge, and experimenting with pigments.

According to Assistant Director of Textiles Rhona MacKenzie, the specialty has been a part of the school since the department’s early days, yet only became a designated track in 2017. Not relegated to just fashion, textile students have collaborated on projects with the Schools of Interior Architecture & Design and Industrial Design.

McCarty applied her fine art approach to her projects at the Academy, including a collaboration with B.F.A. fashion design student Hanh Nguyen for the 2018 Graduation Fashion Show. Courtesy of Emily McCarty.

Logging in lab hours at school was just the start of LeMay and McCarty’s design careers. Before graduating, LeMay interned at Mission Pets where she moved through different design-oriented roles and taught herself Adobe Illustrator. Now as a PB Teen textile coordinator, LeMay is “at the center of the design process” through her responsibilities of coordinating with vendors on swatches, fabric samples, and quality checks.

LeMay created playful, seasonal prints at the Academy and is now the textile coordinator for Pottery Barn Teen. Courtesy of Ashley LeMay.

McCarty, who carries more of a fine art perspective in her work, participated in the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) Fashion Future Graduate Showcase in New York City where she met the Calvin Klein representative that would eventually hire her. Now, she’s working hands-on with the brand’s underwear design group, perfecting repeat prints.

Words by Nina Tabios, Publications Staff Reporter for Academy Art U News