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Avery Albert Is The RISD Grad Repurposing Fabric For Her Latest Collection

Avery Sage Albert is wildly talented. If you’ve had the pleasure of coming across any of her work—be it a painting, a quick sketch, an entire apparel collection, or even just one of her Instagram posts—you can attest. Recently, the fine artist turned fashion designer had the opportunity to showcase her collection at New York Fashion Week. For some designers, Fashion Week is a dream that is worked toward over the course of an entire career. Albert, at just 22 years old, managed to do it just four months after putting the finishing touches on her senior thesis collection for the Rhode Island School of Design’s esteemed apparel department. The graduate’s innovative collection features garments made out of repurposed curtains that she thoughtfully sourced from thrift shops around New England. Aside from just being beautiful to look at, Albert’s garments manage to teach us that there is no right or wrong method when it comes to creating. Watch her CFDA Showcase show below, then keep scrolling for our full interview, where the designer talks about her influences, her experience at New York Fashion Week, her dream collaborations, and her eclectic day-to-day style.

You’ve always been an artist, but recently you’ve transitioned from art in the painting, sketching, doodling sense into the world of fashion. How and why did this creative evolution happen for you? 

I had every intention of going into a career in fine arts…more specifically, as a painter. After completing RISD’S foundation year program, which takes place freshman year and gives new students the chance to try a bit of everything before deciding on a major, things changed drastically for me. I quickly realized that I didn’t want to be stuck studying painting for four years and instead wanted to try something I had never done before. Halfway through my freshman year I had the opportunity to take a class in apparel design. At the time, the class seemed totally out of the blue to me, but actually ended up making a lot of sense considering my grandmother was a fashion designer and I have always looked up to her so much. After the month long intensive I had completely fallen in love with it and realized I was able to find a lot of parallels between that and fine artistry after all. I really wanted to see if I could evolve and explore this side of myself further in an entirely new medium. 

Who is your biggest inspiration, creatively?

My number one inspiration is my grandmother Ruth Albert, who unfortunately passed away in November. She was a fashion designer who actually started her own brand along with the help of my grandfather. He served as the business half of the company while she handled the creative design side. Surprisingly she never went to school for design, never knew how to sew, and certainly could never have made a garment by herself. What she did have, though, was the most incredible design sense which I’ve looked up to since I was little. In her later years, when she retired from her fashion design work, she was a painter. The duality of these two mediums, and the ability to practice them both is really kind of magical and exciting to me. I absolutely love that I’ve found these same creative tendencies in myself, which I wholeheartedly believe were passed down from her.

Your most recent collection features garments made from repurposed curtains and drapes, things that most people would consider a throw away after they’ve served their original purpose. Tell me about this theme of repurposing and how you were inspired to base your first collection off of it.

One of the biggest things I wanted to focus on when I got into the major was the question of how I as a student could try to be more sustainable and cut down on the amount of waste produced by the fashion industry. I found that the best way to do this was actually by dipping into one of my favorite hobbies…thrift shopping! When thrift shopping, I found these curtains which I fell in love with and soon after realized they were something I could make clothing out of. Instead of making a million muslins, which are basically the different trials or versions of the garment that you create before the final product, I found myself attracted to the idea of continuing to reuse the same material with which I started. I took the first material and just continued to evolve, destroy, and reconstruct it until I was satisfied, as opposed to buying all new material and making all new garments that I knew I’d never end up using.

You recently had the chance to showcase your collection at New York Fashion Week. This is huge! Tell me about your experience there.

I still can’t really believe that it happened…I’m definitely still recovering. [Laughs] All I can say is that it was wildly exciting and probably the highlight of my career up to this point. It is everyone’s dream to get to show at fashion week and I had the pleasure of showing alongside some of the students that I graduated with who are all so talented and so innovative. These are collections that we’ve slaved over and cried over and bled over (quite literally, I think there’s a lot of my blood in those garments as they’re all hand sewn), and there was something really beautiful about the fact that we got to show them together. I was so glad my family and friends got to be there to see it. Yasmine, one of my best friends who actually took the photos & videos for this piece, was there helping me backstage from the moment I arrived in the pouring rain. My garments almost got soaked, Yasmine and I did get soaked, and the whole thing just made my experience that much more memorable and ridiculous.

Since I have known you since we were both just three months old, I know everything you do is done with thoughtful intention and care. Given this information, I am curious to know what it is that you want your garments to say to people.

While I don’t think that they necessarily scream anything, I do think there is a subtlety about the fact that the material used is vague and you don’t really know what you’re seeing at first glance. This mystery is really what drove me to be attracted to, and create the collection out of, this particular material. When sourcing it, I had no idea where these curtains had existed previously. I had no idea who owned them or what house they had existed in, and this unknown was really fun for me to work with during the creation of the collection. I imagined who might have played in the curtains, what they hid, and what they showed in a household setting. I think using this material allowed me to express that there aren’t really conventions to designing or creating in terms of fashion. I think the conventional lines are definitely being blurred these days…everyone is being experimental and trying things that haven’t been done before. There’s no right way to make something and if you want to approach it as if you were making a painting or a sculpture, which is how I describe my own process, then so be it.  

Dream collaboration at this point in your career? Can be anyone…living or dead, young or old, practicing or non-practicing.

I HAVE TWO! The first might sound like a cliche, but I don’t really care. I was obsessed with “The Beatles” when I was younger and I always thought that the idea of dressing a band or a musical performer with the kind of stage presence and following that they had would be so exciting. Designing the wardrobe for their movies & videos (most specifically ‘HELP’ or ‘YELLOW SUBMARINE’), their photoshoots, and even their live performances would have been incredible. My second dream collaborator is someone that is still very much alive, well, and creating. She is a Turkish fashion designer and her name is Dilara Findikoglu. She went to Central Saint Martins, which is where I am dreaming of potentially going grad school one day. I admire her work so much…her grad collection was unreal. Her collections since then have been inspiring, politically driven, non-obedient, and controversial. She totally rejects the norm, she reinterprets and challenges femininity and gender constructs, and I absolutely love her mixture of materials, colors, and period specific influences. Dilara, if you’re reading this, please DM me @avesavagee.

How would you describe your style day-to-day, and how do you think it’s been influenced by your expansive fashion background?

I would say my day-to-day style is void of pretty much anything from a retail store. Slowly but surely I seem to have given away most of that stuff, and my style now is really just a mix of vintage (semi-new & really, really old) and a lot of pieces from my grandmother’s own personal collection. I think because I have started to wear pretty much all secondhand clothing there really is no consistency to my style..except for black leather boots. I can’t get enough of them! Otherwise, though, my closet is like one giant melting pot of all the histories of fashion put together.

What can we expect next from you?

I am about to start a new collection! Although I am no longer living on the East Coast and can’t go to my beloved “Savers Thrift” for my daily dose of curtains, I’m hoping to continue using the same types of materials for my garments. I have no doubt that sourcing home textiles in LA will be just as fun…maybe just with a slightly longer commute (I’ll be seeing a lot of the 405 freeway).

Stay tuned to Milk for more emerging designers.

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