Expressing social and political issues through fashion design
Growing up, Chelsea Grays was always encouraged to be creative. It came from his mother who was an avid painter, which led Grays to start drawing as a child. When she was a young child, her mother not only had to take care of herself, but also her younger brother, Grays’ uncle. This meant passing on clothes that she would get too big.
His childhood will soon turn into an award-winning fashion design company. In 2018, Grays created a collection inspired by a neighborhood in San Francisco she passed through every day on her way to school – a neighborhood known for its high crime rates and a large homeless community. Using racial discrimination as a theme, she compared the color of a person’s skin to the color of a paper bag to determine social privilege. This earned him a Geoffrey Beene Fellowship, a one-year exchange program with the Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale to pursue a bachelor’s degree in fashion and clothing design. In his eyes, Paris offered a world of global fashion design where nowhere else.
For his recent unisex of 27 pieces 2020 collection – “Fashion is oversaturated” – Grays turned his attention to upcycling. Fashion, especially in France, who contributes enormously to global pollution. Prime Minister that of Ãdouard Philippe Office declared that more than 650 million euros of new consumer products are wasted every year. Grays therefore developed looks using recycled fabrics, recycled clothing and recycled materials (i.e. bath mats, bedspreads, etc.).
We caught up with Grays to find out more about this, her internship plans in Europe and how she wants to deepen her knowledge of how the fashion industry works.
What made you choose Paris for your styling studies? What did you gain there that you couldn’t get in a local institution?
I chose Paris for its beauty, and being a strong capital of fashion, it also has a strong influence around the world. I originally wanted to live in London, but Paris is the second best thing – so I took the opportunity when I could.
I learned skills that apply to fashion of course, but most of the skills I learned outside of that were about fit, balance, and how to keep my talents from being put. to profit. The skills I learned were discipline, how to drape, how to craft, a new development process and most of all, how to trust myself.
Is there a story to your love for fashion? I saw that you have also studied psychology before, tell us about your inspiration to switch to fashion design.
That’s a great question! When I was younger I used to sketch and watch parades. I loved pairing clothes, but sometimes people made fun of my unique style of dress or that I wanted to be a part of the fashion world.
In high school my friends always confided in me and I always wanted to be a doctor when I was young. I thought I wanted to study psychology with a minor in childhood and development, and my desire was to become a marriage counselor.
It fell apart when I learned that marriage counseling was more about helping negotiate their separation. At that time my mind was already turned to the fashion industry and I decided to get my masters in fashion design.
I learned that the editors of magazines such as “Vogue” and “Pantone” have psychological backgrounds.
Tell us about your professional career since leaving the Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne.
I’m overwhelmed with creativity so can’t stand still these days! I decided to continue working on my brand, I can seize opportunities if they interest me. I would love to design for another company, but I currently have tunnel vision trying to make sure my brand has an impact.
It’s at the beginning, so it takes a lot of work. It’s a compliment when people think I have a whole team, but that’s basically me. I’m putting all my energy into my brand right now, so that eventually I can have a team.
How do you use the knowledge and skills learned in fashion design in your current lifestyle?
The most influential information that appears in my current work – as clichÃ© as it sounds – is to think outside the box. For example, I made huge pants and my teacher suggested adding zippers to make them pants and a sweater.
Who would think of that? Be unconventional but understandable. It was more of a lesson than a skill. Protecting my intellectual property is extremely important and it’s always something I’m learning to navigate.
Currently I am creating a new collection of menswear by combining the process I learned in Paris and San Francisco. I am always inspired by the world around me, I try to create change using clothes as a bridge.
What were the elements of practical learning in fashion design?
Among the various elements that have contributed to the course, I am currently using all the elements when designing and creating my new collection. For example, creativity is about visual appeal, things need to be understood without speaking.
Mainly because I am in Paris, I am still learning French there and there have been several times the teachers do not understand what I am saying. The work should speak for itself, so there should be documentation of everything – from a reference to why you picked a certain yarn, to a photo of your scraps on the floor.
This is something I have to keep in mind as it is natural for me to sink in and get lost in work. Sometimes I have to take a break and remember to pull out my phone to take a photo, so I will remember the whole process.
What skills or knowledge would you like to acquire more in university?
I would have liked to take business courses and learn how to manage and build a brand. All of the classes were geared towards creativity, which is great, but some designers are studying to build their brand rather than working for other designers, and that takes a broader perspective.
There is still a lot that I don’t know about marketing, branding, networking, etc. I have to do a lot of research on my own to make it all come to the surface. I would love to work for a brand, but I don’t mind working for myself.
I focused only on building my brand to make sure my voice and point of view was truly heard. I also would have learned to knit because I’m in love with it, but I don’t know how.
What advice would you give to students who are considering enrolling in the same course as you?
Dark! Enjoy every moment, be focused and don’t hold back. Learn French, if you decide to study in France. This is probably one of the only times that as a designer you can freely do whatever you want and get honest feedback. Many designers hold back their opinions because they are afraid of outside opinions.
Although I do not agree with this state of mind, I understand it. School is really a cushion to be free, you won’t be kicked out of school for doing everything with your creative expression. Be confident, be direct, say whatever comes to mind, ask all the questions and persevere! Go ready to conquer the world!
If you were given $ 1 million, what would you do with it?
First, I would find a way to invest to develop it and create a non-profit organization. It’s an idea I’ve had since I was young when I was studying psychology – much like a college campus but for men and women who experience domestic violence.
I would find a stable space to have a workshop to develop my brand and create a scholarship program to help students like me study abroad. I think people grow the most when they experience life “outside their garden”.
Finally, I would pay my dues and respect the people who helped me along the way. I really want to do something amazing, beyond myself to have an impact on a global scale.