I took a design course called Artisan Studio I: Crafting Sustainability Communities. We learned about sustainability efforts in the fashion industry and completed relevant projects. I was suggested to take this course even after leaving Fashion Design behind due to the fact it focused more on creativity rather than sewing skills and it would go towards my Design Arts minor as well. We learned how to create our own kombucha that was to create small vegan leather goods. We also had a project pertaining to denim, and namely denim we already have and to upcycle them into a wearable garment. This particular Fair Trade Project utilized fair trade tie dyed fabric from Kenya and learning how to make a garment using only a certain amount of fabric.


The objectives for this project were: to use traditionally styled fair trade fabrics from Kenya for the modern, upscale, fashion consumer, to learn about how fair trade products help local communities; especially women, and learn to be creative while working sustainably and being socially responsible. We were to come up with sketches for garments using the fabric and then provide a rationale for our sketches. My rationale was “Fair Trade:  Most of my fair trade designs are all dresses.  I like the idea of fringe or some type of macrame design with the fringe to add something interesting to the fabric, but not taking away from the beauty of the fabric.  I don't want it to be too flowy, but I want it more form-fitting, but not bodycon, more like a fitted shift dress.  My ideas range from sleeveless to sleeves but there is one design with a fringed hem and another design with a neckline with a knotted macrame design.  I will more than likely drape the design on a form in muslin and create a muslin before doing anything with the actual fabric. Once that is done, I will transfer to the actual fabric and construct the dress.  The dress will most definitely have a zipper.”

Jennifer Zink Fair Trade Sketches.jpg

This project was a bit daunting for me because I had left behind my fashion design days and I struggled a lot due to my lack of sewing knowledge. I didn’t really want to sew something under pressure again go back to doing what I was trying to avoid. Luckily, my professor was also my advisor and previous patternmaking instructor as well, so she had a good understanding of my patternmaking and sewing skills. She helped me choose a garment she knew I would be able to easily pattern and sew myself. I had to create a whole new pattern for a dress since my design called for some significant alterations to a typical dress pattern. While I did struggle somewhat through the sewing, I did feel a lot better about making mistakes since there was less pressure and there wouldn’t be points taken off for the construction of the garment.


I was able to finish the dress on time for the deadline and I was also really happy with the outcome. This was a feat for me considering I was not faring well at all the previous semester in my draping and patternmaking classes. Ingrained to each sewing class at Stephens, there’s an aspect where you must submit a garment to the jury of selection process to be critiqued. Every year in the Springtime we host a Jury of Selection where we host a panel of judges that critique the garments submitted. The judges’ picks then are able to move on to be featured in the annual fashion show. They first must go through a screening process through the Stephens faculty to decide what will be presented on a model to the judges. Much to my surprise, both pieces that I submitted were approved by the faculty and were slotted to be modeled in front of the panel. My fair trade project was one and my breast cancer awareness dress was the other. I am also happy to say that they both made it through Jury and into the fashion show as well.

*The dress is made from cotton hand tie dyed fabric from Kenya, and cotton fabric for the upper bodice and sides. The model is Ana Chan and the jury photos were taken by Aaron Ottis Photography and the runway photos are courtesy of Darby Jones.