“Street Style Fashion” workshop helps young designers flourish
on November 24, 2010
The sounds of Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu fill the space of Rock Paper Scissors’ two-story loft Tuesday as half a dozen people work busily on the ground floor. Arms wrap around large pieces of paper, privately sketching limbs and torsos; fabric is strewn across tables; and a mechanical whirring sound collides with the beats from the music.
“This is a buttonhole stitch,” Kristi Holohan, a workshop facilitator at Rock Paper Scissors, says to a new student as she holds up a handout depicting an image of a button and a thread. Holohan continues to explain design basics to the student as the rest of the class, many of whom were in the same boat just a few short weeks ago, use their newfound skills to make fashion on their own.
Rock Paper Scissors Collective, an Oakland-based volunteer cooperative offering free and low-cost art classes to the community, has offered “Street Style Fashion” workshops since 2007. The workshops, which are presented in partnership with Arts and Creative Expression, are open by application to young fashion designers ages 14 to 25 and focus on teaching participants professional design skills.
Each workshop, students begin or continue work on a garment using techniques they develop in class to move their work forward. The clothing the students create ranges from sweatshirts to skirts to dresses.
“The program was developed to promote sustainable and alternative forms of clothing design,” says Holohan, program facilitator for “Street Style Fashion,” adding that the aim of the workshop is in line with Rock Paper Scissors’ mission of supporting a local economy. “We’re teaching youth to design and also sell their own wares.”
The workshops, which enroll up to 10 students at a time, attract young designers with varying degrees of expertise and run on an academic calendar—starting the first week of October and ending in May. In addition to Rock Paper Scissors, “Street Style Fashion” is also offered at MetWest High School, the Carmen Flores Recreation Center and the Brookdale Recreation Center.
Some participants have been designing for years, while others never even picked up a needle until they started the workshops. Many of the participants are Oakland residents, and almost all are female.
“I was looking for an extra program to get me more prepared once I go toward my design major,” says Coree Hall, a 19-year-old participant from East Oakland studying fashion merchandising and design at City College of San Francisco. “I like the program, because it’s not all out the book. It’s free hand. It’s get the fabric and go.”
Naima Yi, a 17-year-old participant from North Oakland, became interested in design after attending the workshops three years ago. “I was willing to take anything I could, because I just wanted to learn,“ says Yi, who is now interested in attending design school. “Not only are you learning, but you’re learning how to do stuff in the real world. We do application stuff, job stuff, all kinds of stuff like that.”
On Tuesday, Holohan starts the workshop by setting up a headless, painted-black mannequin on a table in the corner. The sun begins to set through the wide windows lining the wall in the collective. Holohan drapes a pink shirt across the mannequin. “We want it to look as good as possible,” she says as she pins the back of the shirt. Today’s workshop is about photographing merchandise.
Each week, the “Street Style Fashion” workshops address a different design topic. “Through our program, we introduce youth to retail and merchandise,” Holohan says of the workshop’s topic offerings, which include the aesthetics of design, basic home machine use and pattern making. “I really want to encourage my students to be happy and follow their own motivation. Some go on and create lines and some are being prepared to create a portfolio for design school.”
“Street Style Fashion” is among dozens of workshops hosted at Rock Paper Scissors throughout the year. The collective’s November calendar includes workshops in silk screening basics, hand-bound books for beginners and portraiture drawing.
The workshop series, which is funded in part by the San Francisco Foundation and the Oakland Office of Parks and Recreation, is offered at no cost to participants. “It’s really important to me that the program is free,” said Holohan. “I know not everyone can afford to pay.”
In its third year, the “Street Style Fashion” workshop has attracted over 50 participants at its four sites. “The program started running in 2007, but it only had two participants then,” said Holohan, who has been running the program for two years. “It has increased every year. We’ve gone from 20 participants to over 50 in just two years.”
Holohan hopes to continue to grow the workshop series next year and has been in talks of expanding the workshops to Sacramento. “From this, who knows what’s going to happen?” Holohan said. “I’d love to see a ‘Street Style’ in other cities.”
For participants, the workshops offer a step toward fulfilling a dream. “There were so many things I didn’t know about sewing, because I never had any training,” says De’Shawna Phillips, a 19-year-old participant from Alameda with aspirations of breaking into the fashion world. “I would make clothes and do it the way I thought it should be done, but I wasn’t doing it right. I think I’m really growing here.”
For more information, please visit Rock Paper Scissors Collective’s website at www.RPSCollective.com.
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