EcoSalon at NYFW: Pratt Alumni’s Principles of Design

Pratt fashion alumni celebrate timeless fashion for a new exhibit.

Pratt, one of the world’s leading design institutes and the oldest in the U.S. ( this year marks its 125th anniversary), kicked off its retrospective “Principles of Design: Pratt Fashion Alumni,” on Fashion’s Night Out (September 8th), exploring future-facing lessons from past and present design talent.

Pratt is home to cutting-edge, cosmopolitan design from the likes of Mabel Julianelli (BFA 1927), Samantha Pleet (BFA 2005), Ariana Bohling (BFA 2005), Laurel Mae DeWitt (BFA 2005) and Siobhan Barrett (BFA 2009), all talents among the 19 on exhibit at the Pratt Manhattan Gallery from now to October 8th.

At the opening night gala, I caught up with Sarah Scaturro, Textile Conservator for the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum and guest curator for the Pratt exhibit. “There is such incredible design all around us tonight,” says Scaturro. “My main work [for the Cooper-Hewitt] is to preserve clothing and fashion that lasts, so I’m clearly interested in timeless fashion – something strongly reflected here, tonight.”

Included in the show are slow, consciously creating designers like Samantha Pleet, known for her eponymous designs, made locally in New York City from organic and sustainable materials. Creating her own version of the American gamine, Pleet’s designs have been embraced by creatives and exposed through special collaborations with retailers like Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie, where her Shadow Cloak (below) will be sold this fall.

Ariana Bohling is another Pratt alum to watch. Taking a slow approach to fashion, this Oregon native creates leather shoes and accessories through limited capsule collections with artisans in Peru. “Hand-crafted care,” says Bohling, “is given to each piece.”

With the edgy designs of Laurel Mae DeWitt and her label LaureLuxe, sustainability takes a futuristic slant. Creating hand made accessories from recycled metal chains, DeWitt boasts clients like Lady Gaga and 50 cent.

Others, like artist Siobhan Barrett, use fashion as a medium for storytelling. “Siobhan is an especially interesting figure to watch,” says Scaturro. “She’s using clothing to create images,” referring to work like “Slowly Falling Apart,” (below), a photography and video installation featuring a cotton gauze dress being destroyed by its wearer.  While not innately sustainable, her creations make one consider our relationship with what we wear.

As for the future of fashion, Jennifer Minniti, the newly appointed Chair of the Fashion Design program at Pratt says, “We see a convergence between craft and technology. At Pratt we are really utilizing technology and embracing the local [New York City] Garment Center.”

With a hefty project underway by Save the Garment Center, a non-profit dedicated to preserving the local craft, the industry can certainly use the integrous talent of Pratt’s alumni—past, present and future and we look forward to watching their realationship grow.

“Principles of Design: Pratt Fashion Alumni” is on exhibit from September 9th – October 8th at the Pratt Manhattan Gallery, (114 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10011).

Images: Jennifer Barckley, top image of dress by Pratt Alumni Timothy Kuzmeski


Jennifer Barckley

Jennifer currently resides in New York City where she covers eco fashion and beauty for EcoSalon.