Student Spotlight: Erica Williams (Fashion Design)


Why did you choose to study Fashion Design?

To be honest, I chose FIDM for the Advanced Study Theatre Costume Design program, but in order to go into that program, I first I had to get my fashion degree. When I first started I wasn't as interested in Fashion Design as everyone else in my classes seemed to be, but as I started designing I fell in love with it. Costume Design is all about capturing a character entirely through what the audience sees, and in essence, fashion design is the exact same thing on an everyday scale; capturing a personality.

How has Fashion Design prepared you for the Costume Design 3rd year program?

Fashion Design has prepared me for the Advanced Study Costume Design program more than I could have ever thought! I have been sewing, sketching and painting since I can remember, in addition to a background in Theatre, so I thought I had a pretty good foundation, but I couldn't be more wrong! Pattern Drafting is the main skill that has really prepared me for the 3rd year program, but my sewing, draping and illustration skills have improved by leaps and bounds thanks to Fashion Design. I've also learned to push the boundaries a little with my designs, it's easy to play it safe, but the best designs lie just beyond "line.'

What was your experience like designing for the Prom Challenge this year?

 At first glance, it seems like it would be easier since you are starting with a finished garment, but if anything that is where the real challenge is! As a designer, I'm used to starting from scratch, choosing the fabric, creating each pattern piece to best achieve my design, but when working with a finished garment, it almost tells you what to do, you have limitations and have to flexible.  My muse was Lana Del Rey, and working with my thrift store dress, I discovered that it had already been reconstructed!  

Describe your experience designing the Tron costume.

I usually like to do historical pieces, so this was completely different for me! I had to create three fully functioning light up Tron-inspired costumes for AT&T, which meant I had to learn how to work materials I had never used before. I ended up choosing Electroluminescent Tape (EL Tape) as my light source, and had to learn to wire everything so that it not only looked like a Tron costume, but lit up as well (without any visible wires)! The most challenging part was sewing the lights directly to the suits, which were a 4-way stretch lycra. The tape only had 1/16" of space on the edges to sew to, so 1/32" in one direction it wouldn't attach and leave only holes, 1/32" in the other direction and it would completely short out the entire piece! It was an extremely time consuming project, but I learned so much and can now add electrical wiring to my list of technical skills!

What do you like about FIDM?

My favorite thing about FIDM would definitely be all of the resources and opportunities that are available. Using the Career Center alone, I've worked on multiple Independent Films, as a research assistant for a law firm, and on the Tron job. On top of the Career Center, I've had other opportunities via FIDM--like making shoes for Clippers' Girl Traci B., and competing in a Draping event at Westfield, and I was a fashion designer in Chairing styles…. just to name a few! I am currently a student tour guide and have even been able to fly to Texas a couple times to speak about being a student here. The opportunities truly are everywhere, it's just a matter of finding and talking to the right people, networking, and always being open to a challenge.

What are your plans for the future?

I plan to be a Costume Designer of period pieces, or for a major network like HBO. I always saw myself doing costume for films, but the past couple years I have gotten hooked on series from networks like HBO and Showtime, I love that they run for so long and truly have a fan following, along with characters that, costumewise, can really develop throughout the show. My absolute DREAM job would be to work on set of Game of Thrones, the costume department is even in Ireland, talk about amazing! I may or may not have devoted one of my portfolio collections to designing costumes for the show, so if Michele Clapton were ever to call I'd have something ready….

Describe the general process you go through when designing a piece of clothing. 

I usually have some sort of inspiration to start with. Some designers have their go to source, but my inspiration can come from anywhere. Sometimes it's a certain type of fabric, sometimes it's a  time period, or sometimes I'll even be watching a movie and get really inspired by a costume and it sparks an idea for a full collection! I've learned to always have a little sketch book with me for when a muse randomly finds me, so don't be alarmed if you sit next to me in a movie theater and I have my sketchbook and pencil ready to go. The actual design process completely changes for me every time. Sometimes draping is the best way to achieve the design, whereas other times pattern drafting is the way to go, but I usually end up doing a little bit of both. After that I usually make a fit sample out of muslin, fix anything that needs to be changed and then I'm off to the finished design!

Do you have any advice for future fashion students?

First of all, I would get in the habit of always having a pocket sized sketch book with you where ever you go, inspiration strikes when you least expect it, so be prepared! There's nothing worse than seeing something you love and thinking "oh I'll have to remember that"….and then forgetting it before you even make it to your front door.

Secondly, things do get tough, there's a lot of stress involved, especially if you are a perfectionist like me and can't sleep until everything is even better than how you see it in your head. But in all of the chaos and stress and lack of sleep lies the beauty of design. When you find yourself at three in the morning and it seems like you can't go on with that project any longer, stop for a moment (I know, a whole moment…. believe there IS time for this..) and remind yourself that you truly love what you're doing. Yes it gets a little messy at times, but reminding yourself of why you started in the first place makes it all worth it and a little easier to get through to the end.

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