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Fancy Footwork

Fancy Footwork

Earlier this spring when Dailing Chen 13 TX attended the Career Center’s Design Portfolio Review, she spoke with reps from various companies about her desire to develop high-performance fabrics for athletic shoes. It’s an interest that evolved as she began experimenting with new materials as a Textiles major. And just weeks after she presented her portfolio, she’s ecstatic to learn she has landed a job with Converse in North Andover, MA.

Chen credits her success in finding such a good fit to the work she did last summer as an intern at Nike (Converse’s parent company) in Portland, OR. And the networking she began then and has continued since certainly helped, too.

“Nike had always been on my radar, and the stuff they were doing kind of reinforced my decision to go into Textiles in the first place,” Chen says. Since her internship, she has stayed in touch with the people she worked with in Portland, and when she met recruiters from Converse at Portfolio Review, “they were really interested in my work and in my previous corporate experience at Nike,” she says.

Chen is a runner and sports have always been an important part of her life, so in a sense her career track seems almost inevitable. But looking back on her first year at RISD, she recalls hitting a giant roadblock when it came time to declare a major.

“When I came to RISD, I had planned to major in Architecture,” Chen explains. But during Foundation year she came to the sudden realization that she “just couldn’t design in 3D.” So she began considering alternate majors – including ones where she could create 2D designs that might have 3D applications.

As she was weighing her options that first year, Chen’s confusion and mild panic about selecting the right major were allayed by Professor Chris Bertoni, who advised her to relax and allow the answer to come to her. And before long it did.

Chen soon realized that by majoring in Textiles, she could explore her growing interest in the burgeoning field of advanced textiles development. “Textiles was the perfect place to be,” she says. “I’m really interested in materials innovation and wanted to be in a field that would allow me to explore that further.” And thanks to RISD’s close connections with nearby MIT, she also spent a fair amount of time this year seeing what’s happening in the realm of scientific R&D, while furthering her own interest in design and working with new materials.

“Modern textiles are evolving into something very different than in the past, and Converse has been doing great things in this area over the past five to 10 years,” Chen says. “It’s more than just fashion and aesthetics and environment. It’s about how the material will function and move.”

Chen says she’s especially excited to move so readily from her research in RISD studios to a company that values what she’s able to offer. “Converse is another place where tech gets incorporated into art and design. And I think this exploration is just beginning.”

Simone Solondz