The Academy of Art University Special that started on Monday continues. Today we will be looking at a duo of graduates, Jacqueline Rabot and Julie Seltzer. This interview was originally done for Zoot Magazine.
It is a great feeling to be able to work on your graduate collection for a fashion student as that marks the end of your studies and the beginning of an entirely different period of your professional life.
Yet it is even greater for two students from different disciplines to team up and work together on their final project, exchanging ideas and inspirations.
This is what happened to Jacqueline Rabot, BFA Fashion Design, and Julie Seltzer, BFA Textile Design. Rabot mixed in her designs vintage fabrics, graphic patterns and 3D textures that, paired with textiles by Julie Seltzer created with Art Deco shapes in mind, resulted in a grey collection in which colours burst and exploded like bright fireworks on leaden skies.
Can you tell us more about your backgrounds?
Jacqueline Rabot: I was born in North Tarrytown, NY, and grew up in New Jersey. I've studied with the American University in Rome, Italy, and finished my degree in Fashion Design at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, CA.
Julie Seltzer: I'm from Tucson, AZ. I attended a private college prep high school with a curriculum that had a huge emphasis in the arts. I wanted to attend art school and study fashion since I was six years old and made my own dress for my birthday.
Who has been the greatest influence on your career choices?
Jacqueline Rabot: The successful people that have been my greatest influences are my teachers, previous bosses and friends. They showed me that with hard work, determination and creativity one can do whatever they have set their mind to.
Julie Seltzer: I think it really ranges, you can go through so many different phases in your life and your tastes in aesthetics change. When I was 8-12 I thought that Donatella Versace, Karl Lagerfeld, and Oscar de la Renta were the height of glamour, then I started college and became obsessed with Jonathan Saunders, Proenza Schouler, Rodarte, Jil Sander, and Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton, but right now I think my biggest idols are Miuccia Prada and Marni's Consuelo Castiglioni. They continue to define the smart, chic woman, and they infuse a sense of intelligence and academia into their work that inspires me to continue to develop my mind as well as my skill in Textile Design.
Can you tell us more about your creative processes?
Jacqueline Rabot: I love the inspiration and concept process. My creativity is aroused by my travels and the people I meet. I then look at vintage clothing, fashion magazines and online blogs for further inspiration. My creative process is then a mix of sketching, draping and sewing.
Julie Seltzer: I find almost all my inspirations in contemporary art. I've become enamored with minimalism and geometry, like in the works of conceptual artists Sol Lewitt and Richard Serra. In terms of my design process for our collection, the colour was the most important thing, and I spent a month and a half testing and taking meticulous notes on every step of colour I mixed. After that, the designing was all about simplifying and subtracting. I'm a staunch advocate of the idea of "the artist's hand" being evident in designing, as computers have taken over our industry. I probably made a lot of the design work harder on myself since I refused to design anything (save for the horizontal linear design on two of the skirts) on the computer, but in the end you can see the imperfections, and those happy accidents are what make these garments so special and so important. Mistakes don't always subtract from the sophistication of a design, they can add character, interest, and become more fun to marvel at.
How did you feel at showcasing your collection at the Academy of the Art fashion show?
Jacqueline Rabot: It was definitely exhilarating seeing my past months of work walking down the runway. That one night and the amazing runway shots of my pieces make everything worthwhile.
Julie Seltzer: It was one of the best experiences in my life. You get a high watching something you've been pouring your soul into for months come to fruition. The show's production was so magnificent, and it was the perfect stage for our garments to parade through. We made a truly beautiful, thoughtful, and awe-inspiring (in my opinion, of course) collection, and it was the most wonderful feeling in the world to see it displayed in such a grand manner. We've received an overwhelming reception: Jacqueline and I were mentioned in the New York Times Sunday Style section as one of the "standout presentations" by fashion editor Cathy Horyn and one of our garments was pictured most recently in the San Francisco Chronicle. It's been a whirlwind, and I've never felt such a huge sense of accomplishment. I feel so blessed to have been paired with one of the most creative, hardest working designers in our department, and I think our collaboration was perfect.
What's the theme behind your collection?
Jacqueline Rabot: My collection can be summed up as "over-embellished". The sequined cotton voile and leather were printed and then vintage sequins were embellished on top to create a three-dimensional effect. I was inspired mainly by chandeliers, graphic shapes and vintage fabrics.
Julie Seltzer: Jacqueline came to me with some pieces of vintage fabric and some sourced sequins that were really working for her. The biggest thing for both of us, though, with this collection, was the colour. It was originally going to be very washed out, very faded in beiges and sky blues, but I guess I just can't help but infuse my bright colour addiction into everything I do, so it evolved into this wonderful, zany, amalgam of so many different inspirations. The main idea behind our works is "over embellishment": we had printed fabrics that were pleated and then sequined; we sequined fabrics that were printed and then sequined again and we had leather that was printed and sequined on top of that. The last few weeks of work were just beading, beading and beading. I looked a lot at Art Deco motifs and geometric structures, but in the end we used them as simple prints (vertical lines, horizontal lines, triangles, mini paisleys on the leather), but it was the process in printing them that was the real challenge and back-breaker, as we used the heat transfer technique for everything but the leather.
How did you come about to collaborate together in this collection?
Jacqueline Rabot: I was paired with Julie to establish my vision entirely. I wanted extreme surface textures and using graphic prints would make my designs really pop.
Julie Seltzer: We were paired up by our department directors, Simon Ungless and Rhona MacKenzie. People are paired up for collaboration based on work ethic and aesthetics, but as the months progressed we discovered that we were really brought together based on our personalities more than anything. I was really pleased to be working with someone who works as hard and as tirelessly as I do, but Jacqueline was so wonderful because not once did she complain that she "had so much work to do" or was "so tired". She had a smile on her face throughout the entire process, and it was truly beyond a pleasure to work with her!
What kind of materials did you use for your collection?
Jacqueline Rabot: I used leather, sequined cotton voile, georgette and crepe-back satin. All the sequins I used to decorate the garments were vintage from France and Germany.
Julie Seltzer: We used a cotton voile-backed sequined fabric, and the technique I used to print it was heat transfer, in which you paint sublimation dyes onto a thick paper, let it dry and lay it face down atop a synthetic fabric. You then place the paper and fabric into a heat press (basically two giant steel super-heated plates) and the dyes transfer from the paper to the fabric. The sequins sucked up the color, but the cotton, as it is a natural fibre did not. So, to give it some character, I tea dyed the fabric first before printing. I repeated the heat transfer process on all of the skirts, on the georgette pieces I cut up hundreds on 1/2 inch strips and laid them flat on the skirts, heat pressed them and they were then pleated. There are two skirts in the collection, one short in beige crepe backed satin, the other in grayish green crepe, that we pleated first, and then I printed on them. This process gave them this wonderful quality since, when the skirts are worn, the pleats open and close the printed parts and you see the negative space on the inside of the folds. This added a dynamism and dimension that we really, really liked. I also printed a tiny paisley, with regular screen printing ink onto huge leather skins, some lambskin and some pig, for the jacket and two tops. It was by far the easiest process, but it was strange working with the leather. The lambskin in particular was so soft, and it made it kind of weird to mess with it so much in the printing process. We then sequined everything, using vintage metal sequins from Germany and vintage gelatin sequins that were painted. I like tedious processes so I didn't mind, but, after six hours of sewing individual sequins onto a skirt, it became a little grating, yet it was totally worth it. I love how the garments sparkle and have so much added texture.
What are your future plans?
Jacqueline Rabot: I will be moving to Columbus, Ohio, to work as an Assistant Designer at Abercrombie and Fitch.
Julie Seltzer: I won't graduate until this Fall. I have an internship for textile design at BCBG Max Azria in LA, and I won first place in the trend forecasting company Stylesight's Student Print/Graphics contest in which I was awarded an internship in London. So, after the fall semester, I will be heading to London with Stylesight for a couple of months, and hopefully after that I can either find a way to stay in Europe to work as I want to eventually make my way down to Milan, or return to the US to work in New York. I love the Bay Area and have loved living here for the past five years very much, but there is very few opportunities for textile designers here. I wish I could stay, but I will miss it intensely. Onward and upward!
All images by Randy Brooke
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