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Drew Williams

The Academy of Art University graduate talks to us about the scientific inspirations behind her graduation collection

Considered as the best runway presentation in the Bay Area, the BFA Fashion Show at San Francisco’s Academy of Art University’s School of Fashion featured this year 16 collections by 22 students. Among them there was also Drew Williams with a collection that mixed Rudi Gernreich, medical attire and agarose gel electrophoresis. As a young child Williams, who grew up just outside San Francisco, used to make doll clothes and, while in High School, she started altering her own garments.

When the time came for her to choose her course for further studies, she opted for molecular biology rather than fashion, hoping to go into the medical field one day. Scientific topics ended up inspiring her something completely different in the creative field and she switched subjects and life purposes enrolling in the Academy’s School of Fashion. While the medical world may have lost a scientist, the fashion industry definitely gained a designer: Williams’ graduate collection, based on minimal lines and clean shapes with an emphasis on fabrication and transparency, won her an internship at the Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne.

Dazed Digital: What inspired your collection?
Drew Williams: I’m usually inspired by scientific topics, but I like to decontextualise them, interpreting them as metaphors for personal experiences. I went through many changes throughout my studies at the Academy of Art and with this collection I wanted to find a way to express that. My graduate collection was inspired by electrophoresis, which I was introduced to in High School. I was so intrigued not only by the process and technology, but by agarose gel. I found it interesting in a humorous way: the concept of DNA and our growing technologies to manipulate it led me to think about the way society will evolve over time and that brought to mind Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. It’s interesting to think that it’s not impossible after all that the world may end up in such a sterile and engineered state…

DD: Can you talk us through your creative process?
Drew Williams
: For what regards this collection I started from the textiles. I like to interpret my inspiration through the fabrics first, trying to find a technique that works, though this usually changes as I start to sketch the looks. Once I found my direction, I began to develop the textiles and garment designs together. Visually, I was drawn to medical attire-lab coats and wrapped patient gowns, but also by Rudi Gernreich’s designs and the way he used transparency to reveal and conceal parts of the body.

DD: Which materials did you use to give your designs the impression they had the consistency and colours of agarose “slab” gel prior to UV illumination and with UV illumination?
Drew Williams:
I used silicone to coat knitwear. I designed a stitch pattern or knit and coated it with liquid silicone. Coating the knits alters the colours and makes them look more saturated. I used slight differences in saturation to create depth or the illusion of illumination. For the cubed vest, I moulded plain silicone squares and placed them on a loose knit plain stitch and this created a slight colour difference. I also used colours in the same hue group within certain looks like the coral and nude top in varied saturations, which magnified the intensity of the more saturated colours.

DD: Who is your favourite fashion designer?
Drew Williams:
While I don’t have one favourite designer, I’m really into Nicolas Ghesquière at Balenciaga. I just get excited and inspired seeing his collections and I love the way he balances contrasts, the sculptural and the feminine, fabric manipulations and silhouette shapes.

DD: What’s the fashion scene like in San Francisco at the moment?
Drew Williams:
I don’t know if there is a designated fashion scene, but I love watching people here because the street fashion is very interesting. The other day I saw a man walking down the streets of the financial district in full zombie make-up! There are bohemians, punks, fashionistas and a million variations on combinations of those three and more. It’s a melting pot of different styles, especially amongst young adults. There are quite a few art/fashion schools in the area, so there’s a great concentration of creative people who like to experiment and sometimes shock as well.

DD: You are one of the recipients of the Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne internship: what do you expect from this internship?
Drew Williams:
I will be attending the school for a full year, which is very exciting. I hope to learn more about myself and to grow as a designer. I am anxious and thrilled about going to Europe! Sounds stereotypical, but I fell in love with Paris on a school trip during High School, so I’m looking forward to going back and exploring the city further. 

DD: What are you working on at present?
Drew Williams:
Apart from getting my Visa and learning more French I am continuing to collect inspiration and research and building my portfolio. My cousin approached me to help him make a LED jacket, so hopefully I’ll also get to do that this summer.