Baylor fashion students benefit from new technology

By Ashley Yeaman

Baylor fashion design graduates have a competitive edge when they enter the job market thanks to available technology.

Baylor is one of two colleges in the country to have a Yuhan-Kimberly UJet MC3 Fabric printer, an $83,000 piece of equipment that allows students to bring their fabric designs to life.

Dr. Mary Simpson, lecturer of fashion design, said she believes the fabric printer, as part of the larger technology base the department has, is the reason Baylor was ranked one of the top 20 fashion schools in the nation by the influential blog “Fashionista” earlier this year.

“Our graduates have gotten jobs because of the technology component [we have] and the strength of their understanding of the technology,” Simpson said.

The fabric printer, housed in Martin House, is more than seven feet long and uses eight bags of ink, which allow it to reproduce a wide range of colors onto fabric.

Jaynie Fader, lecturer of fashion merchandising and design, said the printer offers several benefits that older printers cannot provide, including the ease of fabric traveling through the printer.

“[For] older printers that were used, you had to buy this specially treated fabric that’s really expensive, and it had this paper backing because [without it] they couldn’t get it to go through the machine,” Fader said. “We paid $25 a yard for this fabric.”

Any fabric can now be used, as long as it is not too thick, which saves students a considerable amount of money when creating designs for class projects, Fader said.

Fader said the machine produces bright,vivid colors, unlike earlier printers. Students and fashion designers are no longer limited on the number of colors they can use for their fabrics.

“Designers always had to be very careful about the number of colors because every single color was another screen. With every additional screen you add, that makes the price [of a finished garment] go up,” Fader said. “So now there’s a lot more freedom with their creativity.”

LeErin Player, a 2010 Baylor fashion design graduate who now designs workout garments at Curves in Waco, was one of the first students to work with the fabric printer in 2009, the year it was purchased.

“It just kind of opened up a whole new world in the fact that we weren’t just designing something for an assignment,” Player said. “We could actually design the fabric for a garment we wanted to make. Usually when we want to make a garment, we design it and then try to find fabric that fits with what we want it to look like. We never had an option of making fabrics fit what we wanted them to be.”

Player created fabric to mimic newspaper using the printer.

Lauren Rusten, a 2009 Baylor fashion design graduate who works at Fabrique! Fashion Fabrics in Richardson said the fabric printer added another element to her senior collection, a required final project in which students create six garments.

“I had peacock feathers in my senior collection, so I used everything from real feathers to the hues of the feather, and then printing my own rendering of a peacock feather was the third element of that concept,” Rusten said.

Rusten said allowing students to work with this technology can help them when they pursue careers.

“Having that type of technology at Baylor just allows students to learn one more program, one more system, which will benefit them in the end when they’re looking for jobs, and it’s something that some other schools aren’t capable of giving,” Rusten said.

The fabric printer not only benefits Baylor students, but is also an aid within the fashion industry, Fader said. She said before the printer, sending fabric to be printed was a time-consuming process.

“It would take about six weeks to get your fabric back before you could make your sample garment – your first garment,” Fader said. “But now in the industry, they can design the fabric, they can print it and they can sew up their sample that same day.”

This not only shrinks the development cycle, thus increasing production, but also allows fashion designers to quickly incorporate trends into their store collections, Fader said.

“If they see a trend out in the stores where they don’t have a garment that meets those trends, they want to get in their design and product development team and quickly develop a new product for that, that meets that new trend,” Fader said. “They want to get [products] out there before the trend dies.”

Rusten said she is grateful that she can include working knowledge of the fabric printer on her resume.

“Even in the most recent seasons of ‘Project Runway,’ it’s something that has shown up in the challenges because people realize that it’s important at every level, whether it’s designing lines, seams, silhouettes and also prints and patterns,” Rusten said. “And to think that I have learned that and am capable of it – it’s one more thing that I know that a lot of people don’t get the advantage of using and experiencing.”