"Design is not the fabulous side of the fashion industry that people expect," aspiring designer, Rebecca Lanman, admits. Originally from St. Louis, Missouri, Lanman came to New York almost two years ago to study fashion design at Parsons The New School for Design. She shares a top-floor, converted two-bedroom apartment with her roommate, “We like to say we live in the penthouse to make it sound glamorous but realistically it’s a very old, 5th floor walk up, with no AC. It gets a bit sticky in the summer but after all the effort to find it in the midst of finals, I love it!” she admits.
When we asked Lanman why she chose fashion design to develop a career, she said, “I love the idea that by simply looking at someone you can tell what they might be like, what their interests are, and what their dislikes may be. Fashion is culture, identity, history, and art all in one. It is an incredible and exciting thing because it is something that every person in the world shares.”
When we spoke to this up-and-coming designer at the Fusion Fashion Show last February, we knew she was a standout amongst her competition, as her designs resembled much attention to detail, elegance, and potential for mass market interest. “It was the first time I have been able to showcase my work and it was an incredible thing to be a part of,” Lanman says, “There are always a few points every semester when I have not slept in a good 36 hours and still have to go home to do work after class. The workload can be a bit daunting at times and keeping the balance between friends, work and sleep seems to disappear, but in the end when the projects are finished, it’s always worth it. I think designers are all secret adrenaline junkies.”
What was the story behind your designs at Fusion?
My inspirations for Fusion were gothic cathedrals and costume designers from the early 1900s. I love the elegance of the 1910s and 1920s; people had less clothes then but what they had was made with beautiful fabrics and tailored to perfection. My collection was made mainly out of silks, such as crepe de chine, georgette, and chiffon. My fabrics were bought almost entirely from Mood Designer Fabrics, which was the store that sponsored Fusion. I used neutral colors, as well as an olive and burgundy. I like to use complementary colors in their less saturated form to create a nice harmony between my pieces. I tend to stick to earth tones and stay away from harsh colors.
How did it feel to show your designs on the Fusion stage?
Fusion was an incredible opportunity. I have never felt so much excitement, anxiety, fear, chaos, and pride at the same time.
What kind of woman do you design for?
I design very much for myself. I want to create garments that I would wear and find beautiful, in hopes others will feel the same. I design with clean lines and flattering cuts; the attention is in the detail. I want the woman who wears my clothes to feel comfortable, confident, and radiantly beautiful. I’m a very adventurous person and believe people should be able to move freely in clothes.
How important do you think wear-ability is in fashion design?
It is easy, as the fashion designer, to get caught up in the statement the look should make, however it’s important to remember that there will be a person to wear the garment. In my designs, whether evening or ready-to-wear, I aim for a hint of the twenties’ swanky elegance, mixed with modern cuts, and always something that is wearable. Though I believe there is a place for fashion that has a message, and is not wearable, I tend not to design that way.
Tell us one important thing you’ve learned thus far, as a Fashion Design Major at Parsons.
Design is not the fabulous side of the fashion industry that people expect. I knew that when choosing to become a fashion designer that I would be in a very intense, competitive field, however, I did not realize how much work designers truly have. In school students are trained to be the seamstress, pattern maker, designer, publicist, technical team, producer, and digital designer; even after graduation fashion designers are generally overworked and underpaid.
What piece of advice have you been told in the past that has really helped you?
In the first week of orientation during my foundation year, one of the speakers got up on stage and told us that “in the next four years you will be busy, overworked, and exhausted, however it will bring you joy because you are artists and you will be doing what you love.” This statement has stuck with me and I think of it often because it is so true. I recently came to the realization that assistant designers and starting teachers have about the same salaries, however teachers get three months off a year. Despite the money, I still consider myself lucky and love my career path because I will be one of the people that can say I enjoy my work.
What is your goal after you graduate?
After graduation I hope to get a job as an assistant designer. I want to work at a few different companies, some with aesthetics similar to mine, and hopefully some that are very different. After learning from other companies I want to start my own line, here in New York.
Describe you own personal style.
I like the idea that a person can change their style. The MOMA had a quote by Andy Warhol about a year ago that read, “How can you say one style is better than another? You ought to be able to be an Abstract Expressionist next week, or a Pop artist, or a realist, without feeling you’ve given up something.” I think that would be so great, to be able to change styles. And I think that’s what’s going to happen. I think it’s a wonderful idea because I believe people do this. I sometimes dress very classic, and other times very edgy and modern. Some of my favorite brands are Helmut Lang and Chloe, which have two completely different aesthetics, and if I had the money for them my closet would be stocked with both!
Favorite places to shop in NYC?
My favorite places to shop in NYC are Top Shop, Henri Bendel, and the small shops west of Bowery in SoHo. I am also in love with the The Hat Shop on Thompson Street– amazing hats for every occasion, many from local milliners, and a very inspiring owner.
I am very fond of Rick Owens, Helmut Lang and Michael and Nicole Colovos (who now designs for Helmut Lang), Phoebe Philo for Celine (love the handbags), and Stella McCartney for nice tailored jackets; Marchesa and Eli Saab for eveningwear, and Stacey Bendet of Alice and Olivia for fun contemporary dresses.
Are you working on another collection now?
I am constantly designing and creating looks for class, and would love to create another collection if the opportunity to show came again. For now, I am making dresses for people privately and focusing on school. I am studying abroad in Milan for the fall, however hopefully when I return I will find another show to be a part of. The Senior Showcase at Parsons is another opportunity to showcase my designs for my final semester.
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