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A Young Designer, About to Embark

Q&A with Eliza Bowens

When she was 12, Eliza Bowens designed a caped dress, drawing inspiration from a binder full of notes she collected of fashion writer Megan Hess. Since then she’s designed many pieces, including gifts for friends, costumes, and her sister’s graduation dress.

A ’22 graduate of Staples, Eliza plans to study clothing design in Europe.

WLM: You designed the wedding dress for the Staples’ production of The Descendants. What was your inspiration for the four designs that you made, and did they ultimately select your favorite?

Eliza Bowens: I was told to keep it very similar to the dress from the show. I used a lot of ideas from other outfits of Mals in the movie as well, to make the dress more her own, then put my own twist on the original one. Some of the designs I made were centered around different parts of her personality as she changed from good to evil. For example, one was a darker purple versus lavender when she decides to go against her mother.

The one we picked wasn't my favorite design, but overall it made the most sense for the show and I am very happy with the turnout of the dress.

I think my favorite part of making it was picking out the fabrics. I got to handle really beautiful designer fabrics like the brocade crossover piece under the chest and the sparkly tulle at the top. I also had to make a muslin prototype for fitting Quinn, so I got a sense of how I wanted to manipulate the fabric.

WLM: What are several designers who inspire you?

EB: I really love Versace's archived couture collections, as well as John Gaultier, Thierry Mugler, and Japanese designer Junya Watanabe. All of these designers have some kind of avant-garde approach to their designs, and they break the barrier of simply designing a shirt or dress.

WLM: If you could design a line of clothing right now for retail, what would it be and why?

EB: I usually pick a method to jump-start my thoughts; for example, some of my past collections have come from vintage National Geographic magazines, futuristic architecture, music, and my most recent being bone structure and olive trees. I design what I feel from what I see or hear, and then decide what season it would be for, if I think it should be big jackets or long dresses, the color scheme, etc. How it would look really isn’t a thought until I finish all of my research.

WLM: Do you have a favorite piece?

EB: To this day my favorite piece is from my first collection I made in my freshman year. I think I love it so much because I spent almost a year making it. It includes many different parts of the dress including beadwork, sulvi (which is a type of method we use where you create stitches on sulvi and sew scraps, then put it in water and the sulvi dissolves, leaving just your stitch work) and a lot of fabric manipulation and draping.

My professor Irina Simeonova taught me how to do all of these things, and it was the first real experience I had at creating something big, whereas before it was simple dresses for things like my little sister’s graduation or dresses I could wear. I even hand-painted some of the dress.

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