It all began with a sketch.
Did you think I was talking about Walt Disney? Not quite, but what he and a talented UNT student have in common is their impeccable illustration skills.
Morgan Emmert, a fashion design major at the University of North Texas, is infatuated with drawing. “I’ve always loved painting, drawing, and art far before I ever thought about a college major, and even back when I thought I was going to be a veterinarian,” said Emmert. She always knew she wanted to do some type of art from the time she was young. A scene from the movie, When in Rome, starring Mary Kate and Ashley, inspired her interest in fashion design. After this revelation, Morgan began experimenting by doing her own rudimentary sketches and tracing VHS movie covers. Her talent matured and developed during high school art classes. Back then, she preferred realism to any other artistic movement, and found pleasure in painting people whereas her other classmates dreaded the task. Since then, the artistic process of blending and breathing life into the ideas on a page has brought Morgan an immense amount of joy.
In deciding her major, Morgan was set on pursuing something artistic and creative. She thought about selecting painting, but then she remembered the Mary Kate and Ashley movie, and was directed to fashion design. Another determining influence was the fact that she was surrounded by fashionable people growing up, and had an urging desire to make clothes for them. Although she enjoyed painting, she did not want to become a teacher, so design was ultimately the best route for her. According to Morgan, with design there are many different career paths. Though majoring in fashion design is difficult at times, Morgan is confident that she has found something she truly loves and is motivated to pursue. Fueled by the passion she applies to all of her projects, Morgan trusts that financial security will eventually follow any of her future endeavors.
The creative and technical aspect of the fashion design process begins with sketches. For school assignments, Morgan is required to create an inspiration board and five sketches in total. Afterward, one sketch is selected and replicated to make a variation of fifteen sketches. Additionally, she pairs each sketch with flat sketches and illustrations. Through a muslin fabric mockup, Morgan developes the silhouettes and brings the sketches to life.The most strenuous step begins as Morgan fits the muslin version to the model in order to determine necessary changes. Often, the revisions can be much more than just a quick adjustment to a hemline. Once that step is accomplished, she creates a second muslin version with a “dry run” of the final garment, a task which involves every element of the design apart from the textiles. Last comes the daunting feat of what design students call “paper hell,” otherwise known as making patterns. Afterwards. she emerges from a sea of paper to the light of the real world, and 1.5 to 2 weeks later, she has a finished final product with new and improved sketches and flats.
Until this point, all of Morgan’s projects have been focused on womenswear. Two of her pieces were showcased in fashion shows, including a knit aline dress for the Go Red show, and a black geometric avantgarde formal dress with a villainess influence for UNT’s Spring 2015 Art Wear show.
Recently, she made a cobalt blue cape, a peplum suit with a cape, black pants, and an accompanying striped top to match. For the suit jacket with the peplum hemline garment in particular, her idea was to create a straight visual where lines intersected with side seams. She hoped the matching lines would create a very unique, polished look that represented her detailed design aesthetic. Morgan has been told that her design style is very classic and minimal, but always includes details that make the garments shine in a subtle way. Her designs also consistently feature a feminine twist.
Currently, Morgan is working on three garments that are each inspired by a different theme. “My inspiration for the overalls was the Grand Budapest Hotel, [and] I figured the backpack was cute for an adventure and the overalls were just fun. I feel like I was going for [the scene] when [the actors] were going on their adventure as inspiration, and for the colors and everything,” said Emmert. The overalls are being created as an ensemble for adventure, something that would be practical for any type of journey. The “overalls” look also includes a backpack design, an aesthetic addition that was inspired by a small backpack she saw in a magazine. After settling on the accessory idea, her instructor gave her the suggestion to make the backpack detachable. They figured, if Morgan was going to make an accessory at all, the design should primarily be for utilitarian purposes. As a result, an avantgarde accessory turned into functional accessory. Influenced by Frank Stella, Morgan’s second piece currently in development is an evening wear combination that is covered in pintucks with a mermaid silhouette skirt.
What sparks the ideas behind her unique creations? As Morgan explained, inspiration occurs in phases, the first of which is a complete fixation on a particular trend. After that, she cannot rest until she produces something inspired by the trend - something that builds off of certain elements. For instance, she was enamored with babydoll dresses until she made the red dress for the Go Red fashion show, and then the silhouette was out of her system.
Mostly, the sources that inspire her are red carpet events and fashion weeks. She also considers wearable art to be a muse. In fact, during her internship, Morgan’s boss instructed her to research what was trending during fashion week last spring. During the process, she observed that re-occurring themes were red plaid, chunky jewelry, fur, and sheer garments - the last of which coincidentally aligned with the “free the nipple” campaign. Morgan was fascinated to discover how runway trends can reflect the current ideas of modern pop culture.
These trends and influences are all kept in mind when Morgan designs and develops her personal brand. She believes that she differentiates her brand by the thoughtful details that are included in her pieces. The detachable backpack on the overalls, and the panels on the avantgarde evening dress are not typical, and are therefore perfect examples of how she sets her designs apart from those of other designers. Morgan pointed out that she also has fun with her designs, and this is easily portrayed in her final creations. For her, designing is all about the subtleties, another contributing factor that makes her designs so intriguing.
What’s next on the agenda for Morgan? In terms of her immediate future, Morgan’s goal is to complete her mermaid skirt for the project inspired by Frank Stella. The design is comprised of lines, pintucks, texture, and feminine flare… all of which she hopes to combine flawlessly for a stunning, unique design. Next, Morgan will undertake a menswear project. Although she has not worked with menswear before, she is very interested in that area of fashion and is excited to see how she can apply her design aesthetic to men’s garments. Simultaneously, she must also submit three pieces for the upcoming Spring 2016 Art Wear show. As a senior in the fashion design program, this is where Morgan will showcase her final senior collection, an assortment of cohesive designs that will be photographed for her first designer lookbook.
After college Morgan plans to travel since she is currently bounded by any commitments. She has been presented with the opportunity to work for Thread of Life, a fair trade company in Uganda that the country’s residents how to make and sell simple garments in a safe and healthy way in order to earn income for their families. She also plans to backpack through Europe and likes the idea of potentially doing an internship overseas. Also, there is always the possibility that Morgan may design clothes for her sister’s company, Fresh, an online clothing business that she launched with a few trunk shows here and there. However, Morgan’s ultimate dream is to create personalized, custom designs for an individual or celebrity while accompanying them on their travels. Without a doubt, Morgan would love to experience a variety of cultures by exploring and living in many different countries.
Copy and Photography: Charis Orr, Fashion Writer
Graphic 1: Ashley Nudge, Editor-in-Chief