2019 Designer Profiles: Hannah Ni
Every year, the MODA Fashion Show wraps up winter quarter with the perfect homage to student talent, hard work and creativity. In anticipation of the show, we have been interviewing some of the designers involved in this year’s show. Meet Hannah Ni, a 4th year Economics and Statistics major.
Have you ever done fashion design work before? What are some of the most challenging and rewarding aspects of the process?
I've never done fashion design work before, let alone even touched a needle! To be completely honest, I was scared of even using a sewing machine at first because it did everything so fast! Because I started to learn from literally nothing, I think the most rewarding aspect of the process has been looking back to just a few weeks ago and seeing my progress in such a short period of time.
For example, when I first started to use the sewing machine, it took me so long to get my machine set up correctly and make sure I did all the steps (thread the needle, wind the bobbin, change machine settings, etc.). Now, it would probably take me a few minutes at most.
Another rewarding aspect of the process is coming away with a greater appreciation for fashion and clothing in general. Just like cooking a meal, there are so many steps involved in the process that most people are not aware of–for design, you're spending most of your time tracing and drafting your patterns, cutting your fabric, and making modifications/alterations. That last point is actually very time consuming because getting clothing to fit on my models is not a walk in the park! I'm definitely a lot more appreciative of being able to pull on a pair of jeans that fit perfectly now.
What are you looking forward to most about the show?
I always tell people the MODA show is one of my favorite events at UChicago because it's one of the few times where students showcase work that they're extremely proud of outside of a classroom or academic setting.
This time around, I'm looking forward to being one of those students and seeing all those hours in the costume shop come to life on the runway. I know every designer will say that, but I really mean it because I almost didn't do this. As a fourth year, I thought it would be too late to pursue something new; I've never been a part of MODA, I'd never taken an art class before this year, and I don't really follow fashion news or designers. I'm so glad I took the chance because the opportunity to do something like this doesn't come often. So in that sense, I'm looking forward most to the personal fulfillment of achieving something I did not think was possible.
Who do you have in mind when you're designing?
When I'm designing, I think first about my models, and then about myself (sounds narcissistic but I promise it's not!). Clothing is not made to live on its own–its made to be worn, and when it's worn, the person becomes a part of the look. As such, it's very hard to separate a model from the outfit. Whenever I'm envisioning my pieces, I always envision them on my models and think about my models' body type, hair, mannerisms, body language, etc. That way, when I'm making artistic decisions along the way (Do I want to add a contrasting color here? Which shade of fabric should I buy?), I know who's going to bring the piece to life.
To the second point, I think about myself as well because I want my pieces to be wearable. I think a lot of people (myself included) don't feel like they would have the confidence to wear pieces that are spunkier than the average outfit, but I want to design my clothing such that it's classic enough with slight twists that make people think "hey, maybe I would wear that."
If you could give yourself any advice on the design process, what would you say to your younger self?
Well, I would definitely say I still am my younger self and have a lot to learn! But besides that, I would say to slow down and take things step-by-step. Designing is a never-ending process–there's always more you can do and fix, and as a perfectionist that's not always a good thing. Sometimes I find myself overwhelmed by all the little things I could do and it helps to just think about what my plan of attack is. That way, I also don't rush into things that always come back to bite me down the line when I end up having to undo a million stitches.
All images courtesy of Hannah Ni.