Ready to Compete on the Runway

Isabel Hajian 19 AP sculpts bold shapes in preparation for New York Fashion Week

Ever since she was little, playing dress-up with her cousins, Isabel Hajian 19 AP has known that she wants to design clothing for a living. Now the new Apparel Design grad is working overtime prior to three high-profile runway shows: two in New York and one in Paris.

As one of eight finalists in this year’s Supima Design Competition—the leading cotton company’s wonderful opportunity for emerging talent—she has been working nonstop this summer in RISD’s Apparel Design studio. The designer is now finalizing five dazzling eveningwear looks that showcase Supima denim, jersey, twill, shirting and velveteen for the September 5 competition show during New York Fashion Week.

Isabel Hajian 19 AP with Apparel Design Senior Critic, Meg DeCubellis
Mentor Meg DeCubellis (right) examines a length of cotton that has been screenprinted and hand-dyed by Hajian (left).

“Isabel’s work is captivating,” says longtime Apparel Design faculty member Meg DeCubellis 83 AP, who also serves as the department’s Supima competition mentor. “The way she manipulates fabric and mixes colors to create sculptural pieces is truly unique.”

“My process is materials-driven, so this competition is perfect for me,” Hajian says. “Supima has given me the fabrics and I have to respond to them—to play with them and see what they want to do. That’s the kind of challenge I like.”

“My clothes are... designed to make the wearer stand up strong and take up as much space as possible.”

Supima Design Competition finalist Isabel Hajian 19 AP

Inspired by everything from playground equipment to insects to pastry, Hajian laughs as she concedes: “I absolutely love the shape of a croissant! My clothes are very playful, but they’re designed to make the wearer stand up strong and take up as much space as possible.”

Despite her early interest in fashion, Hajian chose RISD rather than a program focused exclusively on fashion design so that she could simultaneously investigate different modes of making, including industrial design and photography.

Fashion sketches by Isabel Hajian 19 AP

“The darkroom photography class I took with Jenny Edwards was probably my favorite class at RISD,” she says. “I was so sick of sewing at the time, and Jenny helped each of us discover our own way of seeing the world through a different medium.”

Hajian’s way of seeing comes through in the pieces she’s making for Supima and also in her thesis designs, which she’ll show for a second time in Collection 19 at New York Fashion Week, the department’s NYC runway show on September 11. Her collection is big, bright and bordering on the ironic.

“I’m not a huge planner.... Sketching gives me a general notion, but I like to keep things free so I have room to play....”

“I’m not a huge planner, so my thesis collection came together organically,” Hajian explains. “Sketching gives me a general notion, but I like to keep things free so I have room to play while I’m working.”

May Collection 19 runway show
Hajian walks with one of her models at the end of the Apparel Design department's May Collection 19 runway show in Providence.

For the Supima competition, Hajian is getting feedback from fashion industry mentors like NYC designer and former Halston protégé Bibhu Mohapatra. And whether or not she wins, as a competition finalist she’ll show at least one look at Paris Fashion Week at the end of September and have the opportunity to interview with some of the world’s most respected labels.

“The Supima competition is bringing a level of professionalism to my process that is super-exciting,” says Hajian, “and the whole experience is inspiring. But ultimately it’s still about how the clothes make you feel when you’re wearing them.”

Simone Solondz / photos by Jo Sittenfeld MFA 08 PH

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