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In a market replete with fast fashion options, up and coming designers are putting more emphasis on its counterpart: slow fashion. This approach prioritizes quality over speed, sustainability over cost, and individual expression over mass production. Fashion statements can make an impression, but lasting clothing from slow fashion designers can make a lasting impact, often reducing landfill waste and encouraging ethical manufacturing practices.
In no way do slow fashion designers sacrifice their vision or aesthetic when taking this different path to creating their looks. In fact, these designers and trends are making headlines. When it comes to slow fashion, designer Susan Zienty stands out from the crowd. The recent Academy of Art University graduate and rising designer has been recognized by the industry for her exceptional talent in more ways than one, and her own line is a showstopper.
Slow Fashion, Style Exploration, Susan Zienty
Zienty’s style exploration started early in her life when she played dress up as a child with dreams of Vogue. Always clear that she wanted to channel her passion for fashion, Zienty pursued an education in design by enrolling in the School of Fashion at Academy of Art University. Coursework ranged from core topics in drawing, construction, and fabric draping while electives and portfolio work left room for individual exploration.
As Zienty continued with her curriculum, she decided to pursue scholarship opportunities as well. Zienty became a 2017 recipient of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) Liz Claiborne scholarship. CFDA award winners are recognized for their potential as impactful contributors to the fashion world. Recipients often go on to represent prominent brands or establish brands of their own by combining their working scholarship with a diverse education. Zienty’s own experience provided her with networking access as well as a practical view of how designers work on the concepts behind major brands.
Zienty went on the following year to receive the Kenneth Cole Footwear Innovation Award, which included a fellowship at Kenneth Cole Productions. Coupled with guidance from her Academy instructors and collaboration with her peers, Zienty laid the groundwork for employment and her own brand launch after graduation.
Today, fashionistas can find perennial styles that exude luxury and comfort in bespoke handmade pieces with the Susan Zienty brand. Her work demonstrates a clear mastery of texture and textiles, with her signature silks taking center stage in everything from corsets to headscarves. All of her garments are made to order and made to measure, giving every customer a perfect fit and statement pieces made to last. Dedicated to local material sourcing and small batch craftsmanship, Zienty’s brand celebrates women as both wearers of her work and peers in the fashion industry. “The main source of inspiration is the continuously the women beneath my clothing,” Zienty shared in a recent interview.
Academy of Art University Provides a Foundation for Fashion at Any Speed
While Zienty’s talent and passion are her own, her path to success passed through the Academy’s School of Fashion, which she credits by saying, “All of the skills I acquired during my time at Academy of Art University have proven to be imperative for my success in the fashion and footwear industries.”
Fast, slow, or anywhere in between: Academy of Art University students are encouraged by their instructors to pursue what makes their take on fashion and design their very own. Curricula provide a framework for exploration without forsaking the fundamentals. Students are welcome no matter what stage of their design careers they happen to be in and are encouraged to develop or evolve their design philosophy in an inviting, engaging community.
Degree programs are also crafted to meet students where they are. Options for Bachelor of Fine Arts, Master of Arts, and Master of Fine Arts degrees as well as a four-year certificate program span liberal arts and fashion-focused content. Students are introduced to techniques that they will carry with them throughout their careers. By mastering the basics of technical skills, creators are able to bend the rules to exhibit their personal styles and define their own brands.
With faculty that are active professionals in the fields that they teach in, many are privy to the latest trends and techniques being used, from couture houses to established brands that set the styles each season. Even in courses such as Applied Textiles, Drawing for Fashion, and Fabric and Fiber Technology, faculty impress upon students how these topics are evolving throughout the industry. Toward the end of their programs, students work on portfolios, thesis presentations, and fashion shows that showcase the cumulation of their work.
Pushing the Envelope in Fashion Education and Design
Academy of Art University faculty also urge students to push themselves and their designs as far as they can go. Competitions, shows, and scholarships can all help students get exposure in the industry along with networking and connections that naturally develop through their interactions with peers and instructors.
Zienty’s CFDA Award is just one example of a student pursuing and receiving recognition for their hard work and talent, both in and out of the classroom. Beyond accolades, these opportunities forge pathways that fast-track students with a foundation from the Academy into real-world fashion environments where careers can take off. Zienty described her own experience as “an invaluable opportunity to connect with the industry and its professionals in a close and meaningful way.”
Academy of Art University assists students in identifying viable scholarships, internships, and other programs that can help them expand their understanding and improve their opportunities for employment. The Academy’s School of Fashion also participates actively in several shows throughout the year to offer students more occasions to show off their skills on a bigger stage.
Zienty’s path from design hopeful to award-winning slow fashion designer through Academy of Art University is exemplary of many program outcomes and student experiences. The access, background, and interdisciplinary coursework help students learn the basics needed to thrive in creative spaces. Close work with faculty and other students fosters an ability to collaborate, often overlooked in aspiring designers looking to establish a brand of their own. Academy of Art University is proud of Zienty’s achievements and those of the many graduates who have gone on to blaze new trails in the fashion world.