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Kathryn Cousseillant is Making Sustainable Fashion Dreams Come True

Recent Parsons grad Kathryn Cousseillant grew up in the suburbs of Massachusetts. Focusing on fashion design, studying abroad at London’s Central Saint Martins, and sitting on her suburban home’s old leather couch led her to create her most recent project, Reupholstered.

We caught up with the budding young designer to talk about her roots in fashion, whether or not she feels the obligation to stand up for important causes through her art, and what her creative process looked like for this project.

“If you can imagine what the suburbs look like, that’s where I grew up…”

Cousseillant recalls having a fascination with clothes and dressing up since she was young; “My favorite part of the day was getting dressed, let’s just put it that way.”

At a young age she took her passion and ran with it.

“I started getting more interested in fashion when I would dress up and couldn’t find the certain piece I imagined,” she says. “At about 11 or 12 I started researching the necessary steps to make that happen and New York was the obvious choice.”

At Parsons, 22-year-old Cousseillant developed a deeper understanding and passion for sustainability in fashion; “If you had asked me 4 years ago I would not have said this, but sustainable fashion is really important to me and Parsons definitely pushed me towards that.”

The motivation behind Reupholstered stemmed from a trip back home. 

“I was inspired lounging on my childhood sofa,”Cousseillant says. “I began to admire how beautifully worn and soft the couch had become from time and wear. I thought about how nice a leather jacket this worn would feel. It wasn’t until I was back in New York and started to notice every time a piece of furniture was on the curb ready to face the music…I thought of the comfort and softness of my parent’s leather couch and decided to give the discarded a second chance, as clothing.”

To begin, Cousseillant hit Craigslist and ended up with three free leather couches she turned into five items of clothing. Not only were the pieces made from actual furniture, but the designs were shaped by them as well. If it wasn’t obvious yet, surroundings have had a huge impact on the way she learns and the way she creates.

“Throughout my time in New York and London, Parsons and CSM, I have been trying to figure out my creative process… [For Reupholstered,] it was a back and forth process, in terms of physical 3-D making, as well as research, and a lot of sketching.”

In London, Cousseillant noted that things are much more experimental: “Teachers would tell us to do whatever we wanted. Everyone is breaking all the rules.”

And as far as any rules that can’t be broken?

“There is never a rule I would be opposed to breaking,” she says. “One kind of necessary foundation, however, is understanding cultural appropriation. I don’t understand why this is still a problem; how designers will have a show based on Africa, and not use one African model or designer.”

As a young person and artist, Cousseillant says she feels an obligation to not just be still in the world.

“We are here to try and make the world a better place, to make things better than they are; not just live stagnantly.”

She pointed out that this attitude also has a lot to do with fashion, in that clothes are meant to be worn. Fashion is always moving and changing.

For more, check out the images from Kathryn’s digital lookbook, shot by Madeline Hickey.

Styling: Tayler Nunes; Models: Tayler Nunes + Jenny Folsom; Graphic Design: Julia Shao

Stay tuned to Milk for more emerging designer.

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