A transdisciplinary team of Philadelphia University students will have their work on display at the Epson Digital Couture Project, which kicks off the world-renowned Fashion Week in New York City. The PhilaU team will be only one of four design groups from the United States–and the only student collection–presenting at the Feb. 7 industry event.
“It’s really an honor on a global scale,” said Mark Sunderland, director of PhilaU’s M.S. in global fashion enterprise and B.S. in textile material technology programs and the Robert J. Reichlin High-Performance Apparel Chair.
Using the theme “Textile Stories,” 13 design teams from North and Latin America will leverage Epson’s textile printing solutions in a unique fashion presentation. Each designer will tell a story through their collection via textiles created with dye-sublimation and direct-to-fabric printing technology.
“In the high-fashion business, nothing stands still,” said Keith Kratzberg, president and CEO of Epson America. “The designer’s vision is constantly advancing, ultimately creating and driving fashion trends that change how we look and feel. Our goal with the Digital Couture event is to spotlight the power and potential that digital printing technology plays in the apparel industry.”
Two lead senior fashion design students, Maria Balestino and Huyen Doan, designed and developed the final head-to-toe looks over six months after seven M.S. surface imaging students–Natasa Kovacevic, Veronica Christiansen, Saeideh Gilani, Shweta Pant, Yi Chun Liu, Xiujia Wang and Taylor Weckerly–created six custom prints.
“Like any large-scale project, bringing this collection to life was no easy feat,” Balestino said. “It pushed my creative thinking and problem-solving skills, but now I feel prepared for the challenges I may face in future projects. I got a taste of how many design companies operate and how to work together with people in print design and manufacturing to create a successful collection. I’m so excited to show the collection that I spent countless hours designing and creating with my teammates.”
Their “Second Skin” collection explores layering of printed textiles inspired by nature’s perplexing and changing beauty, Balestino said. Hand-painted abstract florals paired with photo-manipulated prints craft a surreal story of vivid colors and distinct textures. Beneath the surface of each print lies a story of advanced textile innovation and performance fabrics, which forges emerging complexities in a disruptive collection with imaginative silhouettes.
“It’s a total integrated process, including digital printing, fabric selection, technical design and client interface,” said Sunderland, who also will be part of an Epson industry expert panel before the fashion event. “It’s a complete story.”
One of the unique advantages of the PhilaU fashion and textile programs is the collaborative approach to design, said Sheila Connelly, fashion design program director.
“Textile and fashion designers work side by side to design and develop custom prints in our on-campus print labs,” she said. “That process gives our student-designed collection an unrivaled richness and a jumpstart when entering industry as graduates. I’m particularly proud of Huyen Doan and Maria Balestino for the extraordinary collection they have designed, and I’m confident that it will show beautifully alongside professional design work from around the globe.”
The faculty team of Connelly, Sunderland, Catherine Casano, fashion design instructor, E.J. Herczyk, associate professor and drawing coordinator in the textile design program, and Hitoshi Ujiie, director of the Center for Excellence in Surface Imaging, all played key roles in the Epson project.
PhilaU’s ongoing relationship with Epson helped lead the University to present at New York Fashion Week, Ujiie said. The international company selected PhilaU to be an academic beta site for digital textile printing a couple years ago due to the University’s advanced knowledge and reputation in textiles, materials, performance and digital printing. In one project, PhilaU tested Epson’s first digital direct-to-garment printer.
“This is a significant milestone for us,” Ujiie said of the partnership. “Our vision for surface imaging is to enhance and improve imaging industries in our maker’s culture and digital textile printing is a big part too.”