CAZENOVIA — On April 30, the Cazenovia College fashion programs debuted the “Look Again” clothing collection at The Key consignment shop on Albany Street.
Look Again is a sustainable clothing line created by students in Visiting Instructor Elise Thayer’s product development class.
The two-semester course provides hands-on, real-world learning in the development of innovative, customer-driven apparel for a specific target market.
Students develop an understanding of design, production and merchandising concepts through a collaborative project with local industry partners.
According to Thayer, the fall course, product development principles, focuses on working with an industry partner to develop a line concept. Throughout the semester, students conduct trend and market research, complete initial designs, and begin fabric sourcing.
The spring course, product development applications, explores technical design and manufacturing in the global marketplace. Students design and construct pieces and merchandise a ready-to-wear garment line under the Look Again label.
Both semesters are particularly focused on the design and production of upcycled and recycled clothing.
“Currently, students everywhere are concerned about the environment and how to live more sustainably in all aspects of their lives,” said Thayer. “Fashion students realize the need to balance the goal of the fashion industry to provide garments that meet the needs of everyone, while [also] reducing the impact on the environment.”
Thayer added that she believes it is important for students to explore the role of fashion within the wider circular economy — a model of production and consumption that involves sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products for as long as possible.
“[The] objective is to produce goods and services in a more comprehensive and sustainable way,” she explained. “Circular fashion focuses on producing products more thoughtfully with equal importance placed on both production and end of the life of a garment.”
As of April 25, the students had produced about 30 to 40 pieces, including tops, pants, shorts and accessories.
The collection features three design categories:
Curated vintage: One of a kind finds, handpicked from The Key.
Reworked: Existing pieces that have been enhanced or embellished with personal touches, such as embroidery, decorative stitching, paint, tie-dye, or patches. Reworking also includes combining garments to create new fashion pieces.
Repurposed: Pieces designed from existing vintage materials. New designs and patterns are created, and unique garments are cut from thrift finds donated by The Key and by other individuals involved in the project.
“We would bring the [donated clothes] in and collectively think about what we wanted to do with them,” said Jayda Devine, a junior fashion merchandising major. “We had to think about what was trending and how we could make them look the way our college campus and people our age, and of course others as well, would find interesting and trendy.”
Cara McDougal, a junior fashion merchandising major and fashion design minor, added that the students also worked to ensure that each piece tied into the overall brand aesthetic and aligned with the project’s sustainability goals.
“We tried to work sustainability into every aspect of the collection, not just the clothes,” she said. “[For example,] the tags are tied onto each piece using scrap fabric.”
McDougal described the project as both fun and challenging.
“I think what many people don’t realize about the retail industry is that there is so much planning and so much detail that goes into a collection,” she said. “[As a shopper,] you don’t even notice all the research and development that went into getting to the final product. It was really cool to see it go from nothing to what we have today. It took so much time. Every little detail — every color, every tag, every trim, everything you can think of — was decided on and had to be approved by the jury. It was a lot of decisions, but it was really good experience.”
The Look Again project was originally developed as part of a sustainability class taught at the college from 2004 to 2007.
According to Thayer, the brand was created at a time when The Key was looking to expand its younger customer base and Cazenovia College fashion faculty members Joanne Gilbert, Laura Pirkl and Karen Steen were seeking to expand the network of community and industry partners supporting the fashion curriculum.
According to Thayer, The Key provided unsold merchandise for fashion students to re-make into new garments, which were then sold at The Key.
“Originally, [this] was an elective course and project that was embraced by the college’s fashion programs, the Cazenovia community, and The Key,” explained Thayer. “Ironically, it was difficult to sustain the project when the semester ended and the supply of garments dwindled. We feel the time is now right to revitalize the project, due to renewed student interest and community members who often requested we return to the project. We have developed ways to support Look Again between semesters with internships and incorporating aspects of production in other classes . . . The current importance of connecting with local producers and businesses [also] supported the revitalization of the college’s partnership with The Key.”
This year, Pirkl served as a consultant to the product development class.
A Cazenovia College alumna and former adjunct professor, Pirkl is now a freelance designer and design director of JES Apparel in DeWitt.
She has 28 years of experience in the fashion industry and has spent 13 years as design director for American Fashion Network, working with many national retail stores and private label brands.
The complete Look Again collection was debuted at The Key during a private event open to program students, college administrators, Albany Street business owners, and guests of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church.
Attendees included Reverend Robert Trache, interim rector of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Cazenovia College President Ronald Chesbrough, and Village of Cazenovia Mayor Kurt Wheeler.
“It has been a fantastic experience working with Cazenovia College to assist in the development of the Look Again store-within-a-store,” said Firari. “We started this project several weeks ago by donating clothes for the students to repurpose and up-cycle in their design classes, and we have provided the perfect venue for them to also learn about merchandising, sales, and retail store operations. Professors Thayer and Pirkl have held classes in the store, and their students have been very involved with the entire project. It has been fun to interact with such creative and energetic students.”
Guests were presented with party favors and treats made and donated by Latte Da Café.
The collection is currently available for sale at The Key.
Located at 66 Albany St, The Key is a charitable consignment and donation shop founded in 1960 by the women of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. The two-level retail space offers a wide selection of clothing, footwear and household goods at a fraction of their original costs.
For more information on The Key, visit thekeyconsign.com or follow “The Key Cazenovia” on Instagram and Facebook.
To learn more about Cazenovia College’s fashion programs, visit cazenovia.edu/academics/programs.