When Colorado State University faculty member Anna Perry decides to create one of her intricate, exquisite dresses, it becomes an all-consuming project that keeps her in the design studio late into the night.
All of that effort in the wee hours — designing, cutting and assembling fabric — recently paid off in a big way. Perry won two major awards from the International Textile and Apparel Association, including the equivalent of a “Best of Show” prize at the ITAA’s annual conference in Santa Fe, N.M., on Nov. 13. The organization is composed of international scholars in design and merchandising, and faculty from more than 250 universities compete for the coveted design awards annually.
Perry received the “2015 Lectra Outstanding Faculty Designer Award” for her piece Sculptural Fashion and the “2015 Cotton Inc. Innovations in Cotton Design Award, Professional Level — First Place” for Chinese Phoenix. The former comes with a trip to Lectra headquarters in Paris; the latter includes $1,000.
Pieces of art
Perry’s dresses are more akin to pieces of art than wearable apparel, and each one takes about a month to make. She begins by creating a small replica of the dress to save money on fabric and ensure that her design will be successful.
Sculptural Fashion features cones with detailed lacework protruding from the midsection and an upside-down heart at the neck that Perry made using a 3-D printer. She created the lacework using a laser cutting machine borrowed from Scott Kreider of CSU’s Department of Art and Art History.
Chinese Phoenix gets its name from feathered cotton wings that extend from the shoulders. Below the wings is an accordion-like skirt with scores of fins made from pre-stiffened cotton.
“I used more than 13 yards of material just for the skirt,” she says. “Twenty-six yards would have been better, but I ran out of fabric.”
She also experiments with wearable technology. Some of her newest experimental designs involve a combination of electronics, computer science and fabrics.
Perry is a faculty member in the Department of Design and Merchandising, hired in 2014 to advance a new concentration in product development. In addition to her Ph.D. in apparel merchandising and design from Iowa State University, she holds a certificate in quantitative psychology and a minor in statistics from ISU as well as two master’s degrees from Shenzhen University in China: one in art and design and another in ancient Chinese literature. This distinctive mix of expertise will help Perry teach product development courses that connect the design process to merchandising. Students will study aesthetic and technical requirements of design along with sourcing, consumer behavior, trend forecasting, pricing and retail presentation.
Perry also won a Lectra prize last year — a graduate student “Best of Show” award for the piece Dream Whisperings. Her colleague Diane Sparks, a professor in the department, has won numerous design awards from ITAA, including the Lectra award in 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2010, as well as awards for Best of Show in 1995 and 1998, Historical Implications in 2004, 3D Visual Art in 2005 and Excellence in Draping in 2009.
The Department of Design and Merchandising is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.