Designer Spotlight: Karlee Christiansen



What kind of person do you picture as a fashion designer? She probably doesn’t listen to metal and rock music, design primarily in black, while living a sorority life. This is student designerKarlee Christiansen in a nutshell, and she breaks all stereotypes of the typical fashion designer. While some designers may turn to colorful patterns, prints and fabrics to design their garments, fourth year designerChristiansen feels most comfortable when she designs in dark colors, especially black.

Christiansen, who is double-majored in fashion merchandising and textiles and clothing, used to be a punk rocker back in her high school days.

“I remember in high school if you had some sort of spikes on, you were a crazy person and were seen as gothic,” Christiansen said. “I remember thinking to myself, ‘I cannot wait until this becomes the norm,’ and now that it is, it’s awesome.”

Christiansen was a part of last year’s Campus Couture fashion show, where she had the opportunity to showcase her dark, design palette. This was also the first time she saw her creations walking down the runway.

“I’m trying to get out of my comfort zone because for [this school year’s] Campus Couture it’s more of a spring feel,” Christiansen said. “But if I could design [for] fall forever, I would.”

Christiansen laughs as she admits that just about half the items in her closet are all black.

To add versatility to black fabric, Christiansen creates many of her garments based on texture. She’ll combine pleats with sheer fabric, or even leather with a floral print fabric.

“I remember for our first patternmaking class I liked her final project the most,” fellow student designer Karyn Piedad said.

“I just thought that she was the most unique and innovative with her designs and I love that she isn’t afraid to play up black with fun prints and metal details…”

Christiansen always loved playing with studs and spikes, so she decided to add metal studs and chains to the blouse to add her own twist to the garment. Once the studded collar tips began trending on the runway, Christiansen remembers telling her mother, “Look mom! You see that? I did that first!”

Some of Christiansen’s design inspirations also come from well-known figures, such as Betsey Johnson, Alexander McQueen, Ann Demeulemeester, Hakaan, and Alexandre Vauthier.

“Karlee is passionate about fashion,” Dr. Dong-Eun Kim from the Fashion Merchandising and Design Program said. “Her design style I saw in my tailoring class and advanced flat patternmaking class is edgy and modern with a funky flare.”

In the near future, Christiansen hopes to design at an apparel company with similar styles to Nasty Gal, and hopes to work her way up into a household name designer. She designs for women in their 20’s and 30’s who like to keep it classy but still have that edge, and want to be noticed.

“You can’t judge a book by its cover,” Christiansen said. “[People] think being a fashion major is a joke but it’s a lot harder than you’d think it is. People think we just sketch in class but it’s honestly so much more technical.”

Christiansen will be featured in Campus Couture again this spring, and will be taking a new spin on her collection from combining leather with floral prints, to possibly using brighter color palettes to step out of her comfort zone.

Make sure to keep an eye out for her garments on the runway as well as the many talented student designers from our fashion department.

Photo by Tal Heruty
Photo by Tal Heruty
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