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Faculty Spotlight: Professor of Fashion Judiann Echezabal Talks Bridal, Sustainability, and More

From a young age, Echezabal was captivated by the world of colors, fabrics, and design. 

She remembers spending hours sketching and doodling fashion ideas in her notebooks. As she grew older, she found herself drawn to fashion magazines, runway shows, and the works of iconic designers who held the power to transform the way people present themselves to the world. 

Echezabal would spend her educational journey honing her artistic skills, studying fashion history, and trying to understand the technical aspects of garment construction. Seeking out internships and hands-on experiences, she immersed herself in the real-world challenges and excitement of the fashion world.

The more she dived into the industry, the more she realized that fashion was not just about aesthetics: it was a means of communication, storytelling, and cultural reflection. So, she aimed to use her designs to make a difference, challenge norms, and celebrate diversity and inclusivity.

“Today, as a fashion designer, I draw inspiration from various sources — nature, art, travel, and the unique stories of people I encounter,” says Echezabal.

“Each collection I create is an expression of my beliefs, experiences, and aspirations for a better, more beautiful world. Being a fashion designer is not always an easy journey. It requires resilience, adaptability, and continuous learning. But the joy of seeing my creations on individuals, witnessing how they feel confident and radiant, makes every challenge worthwhile.”

An eye on bridal

Specializing in bridal fashion was a natural progression for Echezabal, who is driven by a fascination for romance and a desire to create unforgettable moments – on one of the most important days of people’s lives.

“From the very beginning of my journey as a fashion designer, I was captivated by the beauty and elegance of wedding gowns. The intricate details, delicate fabrics, and the emotions tied to a wedding dress drew me in like no other aspect of fashion. I found myself mesmerized by the transformative power of a bridal gown and the impact it had on a bride's confidence and happiness,” explains Echezabal. 

In her early days as a designer, she had an opportunity to design a custom wedding dress for a close friend. Being a witness to her friend’s joy and gratitude filled Echezabal with an overwhelming sense of fulfillment, she says. “That moment was a turning point for me, and I knew then that specializing in bridal wear was my true calling.” 

“Beyond the artistic aspect of bridal design, I was deeply moved by the symbolism that a wedding dress holds. It represents hope, dreams, and the promise of a lifelong commitment,” Echezabal continues.

Many fashion design students wonder if they should specialize in wedding dresses or some other specific niche. “Specializing can be advantageous in some cases since it allows individuals to develop expertise in a specific area, making them more valuable and sought after by employers or clients in that particular field,” says Echezabal.

Students can become subject matter experts, which can lead to more significant opportunities, higher demand for their skills, and potentially higher earning potential. It can also help them stand out from the competition, especially in industries where specific expertise is highly valued.

On the other hand, specialization might not be suitable for everyone since some individuals prefer a more diverse skill set, which can also be beneficial, particularly in industries where versatility and adaptability are valued. Generalists can thrive in roles requiring a broader understanding of multiple disciplines – and the ability to solve a wide range of problems.

“It's essential to recognize that bridal fashion is a niche area within the fashion industry and, while it can be rewarding and creatively fulfilling, students should carefully consider their interests and passion for bridal design,” says Echezabal.

“If their interest lies solely in bridal fashion, it can be a perfect fit, but they might miss out on other areas of design, such as ready-to-wear, haute couture, or sportswear.”

What makes a good wedding dress?  

A good wedding dress is as intricate as it looks. Here are some things that go into building the perfect wedding dress, according to Echezabal:

Design and style: A wedding dress should reflect the bride's personal style and overall theme of the wedding. Whether that’s a classic ball gown, a sleek and modern silhouette, or something uniquely creative, the design should be a reflection of the bride's preferences.

Fit and comfort: The dress should fit the bride impeccably, enhancing her natural figure and providing comfort throughout the day. Proper tailoring and construction are crucial to ensure the dress sits well and allows for movement.

 
Judiann Echezabal

 

Fabric: The choice of fabric plays a significant role in the look and feel of the dress. High-quality, luxurious fabrics such as silk, satin, lace, and chiffon can elevate the dress' overall appearance.

Detailing: Intricate details such as beading, embroidery, lace appliqués, and embellishments can add depth and texture to the dress, enhancing its visual appeal and creating a sense of uniqueness. 

Construction and craftsmanship: A well-constructed dress showcases skilled craftsmanship. Finely-finished seams, secure stitching, and attention-to-detail are indicators of quality.

Versatility: Depending on the ceremony and reception plans, a versatile dress can adapt to different settings and activities. For example, detachable sleeves or skirts are able to transform a dress from formal ceremony look to relaxed reception outfit.

Timelessness: While trendy elements can be incorporated, a timeless design ensures that the dress remains elegant and relevant years after the wedding.

Balance: A balanced dress considers proportions, neckline, sleeve length, and other elements to ensure the overall look is harmonious and flattering.

Accessories: The right accessories, such as veils, headpieces, jewelry, and shoes, can complement the dress and complete the overall bridal look.

Emotional connection: A bride should feel a deep emotional connection to her wedding dress. It should make her feel confident, beautiful, and truly herself on her special day.

Appropriate for the venue: The dress should be appropriate for the wedding venue and its setting. A beach wedding, for example, might call for a lighter, more relaxed dress, while a formal ballroom wedding might require a more elaborate gown.

Budget considerations: A good wedding dress doesn't have to be exorbitantly expensive. It's important to find a dress that aligns with the bride's budget while still meeting her expectations for quality and design.

Ultimately, a good wedding dress makes the bride feel radiant, comfortable, and confident as she walks down the aisle to begin the new chapter in her life.

“What gets you in the creative zone?”

Many artists talk about the usefulness of having a muse to help them get in the creative zone. For example, a writer might use music with beautiful lyrics to write poetry. Echezabal is no exception. 

“My creative process is perpetual. I possess an unceasing desire to craft and conceive. Slipping into the creative zone is effortless for me. With an immense fervor for fashion design, I relish collaborative ventures,” says Echezabal.  

“The allure of beauty in my surroundings serves as constant motivation.”

Judiann Echezabal

 

What will students learn in Construction Techniques 2?

Students enrolled in the Construction Techniques 2 course will advance upon the foundational skills acquired in Construction Techniques 1. The progression will encompass a comprehensive exploration of crafting techniques focusing on designing a flared skirt, constructing a bustier, and assembling a jacket. 

Through the curriculum, students will delve even deeper into the realms of measurements, pattern creation, draping techniques, and elevated sewing proficiencies. The mastery of these advanced skills will provide a more profound understanding about the intricacies surrounding fit, precision, construction excellence, and overall garment quality.

Students will be able to benefit from Echezabal’s experience with:

The evolution of trends: Learning to stay ahead of the curve by closely observing market shifts, cultural influences, and emerging styles.

Authenticity matters: Developing a unique design perspective and staying true to their creative vision is crucial for establishing a distinctive brand identity. Authenticity resonates with customers and creates a loyal following.

Perseverance and resilience: The fashion industry can be highly competitive and challenging. It is imperative to learn how to persevere during setbacks, criticism, and failures and use these as an opportunity to learn and grow.

Embracing sustainability: Over the years, the importance of sustainability in the fashion industry has only grown. Students will learn how to incorporate eco-friendly practices, ethical sourcing, and mindful production so they positively contribute to the environment.

Building a strong network: Networking with industry peers, mentors, and influencers is an invaluable way to gain insights, find support, and stay informed on the latest developments in the fashion world.

Lifelong learning: Fashion is an ever-changing industry and there’s always something new to learn. Continuous learning, attending workshops and fashion events, and staying curious about emerging trends and techniques are all a part of lifelong learning.

Prophecies for the future of fashion

“The future of sustainable fashion looks promising as more consumers are becoming conscious of the environmental and social consequences of fast fashion. As awareness grows, consumers demand greater transparency and accountability from brands, pushing them to adopt more sustainable practices,” says Echezabal.

Diversity in all aspects of the industry – including models, designers, and the entire creative process – is also growing, according to Echezabal, who says it’s becoming a central part of the industry thanks to advocacy from various communities and a growing awareness on the importance of representation. 

The future is bright, according to Echezabal. 

“Companies who focus on what consumers try to tell them will continue to have the competitive advantage.”

Giving back

Echezabal designed a fashion design and marketing program in conjunction with Long Island University for at-risk middle school students. She was awarded Instructor of the Year for the venture.

The primary objective of this program was to instill newfound skills and resources to foster a sense of self-esteem and empowerment in the students. Participants were immersed in the art of pattern-making, sewing machine operation, garment fitting, and the comprehensive process of garment construction, also exploring the realms of fabric dyeing, printing techniques, and innovative fabric manipulations.

At the end, a successful fashion show was orchestrated, with students showcasing their creations with panache. An accessory program allowed them to also master the craft of crafting jewelry and purses and  a dedicated marketing and sales module provided practical insights for promoting and vending their merchandise to the public. 

The transformative experience stands as a pinnacle in Echezabal’s teaching career – allowing her to see the students’ remarkable evolution from initial reticence and avoidance on their first day to captivating fashion pieces confidently presented and sold to the wider community.

Want to take an even deeper dive into the fashion industry? Register for the next available session of Construction Techniques 1 or Construction Techniques 2.

 

 

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