By Ryan O'Connell
Arts & Features Editor
Fashion students can immediately find yards of fabric free of charge at the Independent Alumni House, thanks to another of their recurring “fashion weeks.”
The redistribution, which takes fabric and sewing donations from alumni and stores, is set up to help fashion design and retailing majors financially by providing access to an assortment of fabric and sewing materials.
The fabric drive, while not new to Francesca Cerutti-Harris, has continued during her time as the executive director of the Independent Alumni House.
Cerutti-Harris said her predecessor had created the fashion and art supply center, when she overheard an illustration intern and her roommate talking about the added costs their majors both had in their education.
“I’m sure science majors have added costs and books and things like that, but it just seemed like a problem that alumni could help solve. She put out a call to alumni - many [of] who are artists or sew,” she said.
Cerutti-Harris said even before COVID-19, they had gotten large donations from stores that were closing down, but there was too much fabric to organize. She said this led to “fabric weeks,” and that usually several of them happen a semester.
She added the Alumni House tries to plan them during the first few weeks of school, or before a long break, so students could have something to work on at home.
Cerutti-Harris said the Alumni House views fabric weeks as not only a way to help students, but also to “tell them that we exist.” She added the Alumni House is an open space for students and alumni to study and relax, and they even award some scholarships.
“We want students to be aware of who we are, so that we’re reaching the students who need that assistance,” she said.
“It's a win-win,” she added. “You have older alumni who are downsizing, cleaning out their sewing rooms, and they want this stuff to be used. They have a love of sewing and they want to pass that on. So now you have students who are excited to receive it and people who are excited to give it.”
For students like junior fashion design and retailing major Lola Mwilelo, the Alumni House’s fabric week saves both time and money.
Mwilelo - who does not have a car on campus - said without the Alumni House’s fashion and art supply center, students would be expected to arrange a ride to and from a fabric store as well as buying the materials.
She added while the RamTram does take students to Hobby Lobby, the convenience and comfort of the Alumni House’s supply section drives her to visit whenever she’s in need.
“I go there every day! I have a project, I’m just going to go look at what they have, what’s new, because it just feels like a home to me, especially when I need something for a project. And I myself like to collect fabrics,” she said.
Mwilelo said she has benefited from every fabric week she’s been involved with, and she likes to visit the house with friends when looking for fabric, notions, or to relax.
“The Alumni House is definitely a good place to have, … especially, [since] we live at a school where there’s not a lot of stores where you can find the fabrics that you need,” she said.
Sophomore fashion design and retailing major Daniel Moore deals with some of the same problems, despite having his own car on campus. Even with the freedom of visiting any store he chooses, supplies and gas costs add up.
Moore, who said he has loved fashion all his life, couldn’t believe an opportunity like the Alumni Houses’s fabric week existed.
“I overheard two of my classmates talking about it and I was just kind of like, ‘That’s not real, you’re lying.’ But then I went there, I checked it out, and it was incredible,” he said.
Moore added the supplies the house had stocked extended beyond fabric, and the “notions” you could take with you - smaller pieces like buttons and zippers - rack the price up quickly at stores.
“Extra stuff like zippers, thimbles, sewing needles - they had a ton of that stuff too, which is super, super helpful, because it all definitely adds up when you’re going to a fabric store,” he said.
“I had a lot of fun there,” he said. “It’s kind of like a kid in a candy store getting to go around and see. … When you have an eye for creativity, you see all the possibilities with all this free stuff you can just grab and go crazy with.”