In Apparel Design, students prepare to be conscious leaders in the field who approach fashion as a platform for cultural dialogue. Through immersive, studio-based practice, they establish unique design languages and clearly articulated creative processes. Makers of thoughtful and thought-provoking garments, majors generate both fashion and knowledge, continually reimagining what apparel and the systems for producing it can be.
In the studio
With an intense focus on craftsmanship, Apparel Design majors develop diverse creative practices rooted in an awareness of clothing as an emotional medium as well as a material and visual one. Emphasizing ethical sourcing and production, the program encourages students to challenge industry conventions and work toward positive, sustainable change.
Vogue presents its take on thesis work by this year’s graduating Apparel Design seniors.
With a live runway show out of the question, the Class of 2021 uses video to present their intimate and thoughtful work.
Alum Ying Bonny Cai spent a year in Seoul studying traditional Korean apparel with contemporary makers reviving and modernizing ancient customs.
Apparel Design alumni make their mark as creative professionals in whatever way suits them best. Some launch their own lines and find a market niche, while others work as designers for retail leaders such as Calvin Klein, the Gap, Urban Outfitters and more. Many pursue personal interests in costume design, knitwear, hat design, shoe design, custom tailoring, materials research and more…
Alumni at work
By the time she entered her senior year, Katie Gallagher had gained the confidence to follow her own instincts in creating a totally black degree project collection—despite industry warnings against that. It wasn't long after sharing her work with a wider audience that the fashion world took notice, with the New York Times calling Gallagher “magnificent,” New York magazine naming her among Manhattan’s top six designers and R29 pronouncing her the “quirky cool darling of the fashion world.” Gallagher designs clothing for women using a process she picked up at RISD, starting at the easel and later turning her futuristic paintings into fabulous fashion.
Popular around the world, Nicole Miller’s designs continue to stand out on the runway. In 2013 she earned the Spirit of Design Award for outstanding contributions to the world of design and for her generosity in working with students and young designers. Launched in 1982, Miller’s label now includes women’s apparel, handbags, footwear, jewelry, bridal wear and men’s sportswear. She credits RISD with inspiring her sense of freedom and creativity, and remains connected with the college as a visiting critic and mentor to RISD students and as a trustee.
Mel Ottenberg, one of the industry’s most sought-after stylists, is well known for shaping the singular style of global pop icon Rihanna and for lending his aesthetic vision to ad campaigns for commercial clients like Dior and Nike. Now the creative director of Interview magazine—which he helped relaunch in 2018—says that RISD suited him well because he needed a bit of distance from the intensity of the NYC fashion world. “I wanted to figure out what I was about before being drenched in… what everyone else was doing.”