There are many designers and artists in the world who create amazing works of art, but they are rarely ever functional. Andrea Sisson is the answer to that problem. Entering her fifth year at the University of Cincinnati's DAAP program, Andrea is studying Fashion Design that fuses both creativity and functionality for the individual. Her Violin Suit, for example, was designed specifically for a violinist's needs emotionally, functionally and physically, and has garnered a good deal of attention.
Andrea's work is nothing short of amazing and innovative. With a Summer Co-op in Iceland and an upcoming line to be sold at Cincinnati's Brush Factory, Sisson is a busy bee with a lot of aspiration. She's even got her hands into a little bit of the fictional writing arena. Needless to say, you will more than likely be both seeing and hearing from this talented young designer in the near future.
CityBeat: Andrea, can you tell me where you are from originally and why you chose UC? What year are you in DAAP?
Andrea Sisson: I am from Cincinnati. Born and raised. I chose DAAP because of the amazing Co-op program and, I have to be honest, the in-state tuition for the fact that I pay for my own education. I am entering my fifth and final year at DAAP.
CB: When and what made you decide that fashion design was for you?
AS: I decided to major in fashion design after my last minute application and acception into the program. I always thought I was just an artist, but within my first year of foundations (first year of basic design classes at DAAP) I realized I was not an artist, but a designer. There is a difference.It has to do with an aspect of movement, space and problem solving that excites designers more than anything else. A designer is a designer, and that is what I mostly associate myself with. Fashion comes after that. Fashion comes after the function, shape and desire to create. Designing for the body is simply a problem to solve "in to". There is something about the human body that I love to work with, but I also think it is more about the human "character" and also about the emotional need of that human. I love to fulfill and completely understand this "character" I design for. I really actually like to design "with" others and not just "for" others.
So when it comes to fashion, I recently have trouble saying that I am a "fashion designer." Fashion can mean a lot of things. Right now, I associate myself with being a designer, which also means that I explore a lot of things besides just fashion (and have been doing that). I still go into "searches" where I think "Man, I should be a writer, or a philosopher,"(that was a funny one), or once, a history major. But being a designer means you can be all these things. I think being a designer is really just a certain personality and a way of thinking about EVERYTHING. Look at Buckminster Fuller, for example.
CB: What are some major inspirations for you currently as a designer?
AS: Buckminster Fuller (always), Iceland, human relationships and friendships,shapes, shapes, shapes! Music - beautiful music from Neil Young to Eddy Kwon to Nico Muhly. Writing brings out wonderful inspiration, and with that, reading. Nomadic things, like strollers, backpacks, houses (I'd like to build a house). Family.
CB: Can you tell me about your designs? Where and how have you used them so far?
AS: My most close-to-heart design is the violin case tuxedo for my friend and talented musician, Eddy Kwon. It is a tailored suit inspired by his music and his needs in playing the violin. Last quarter (Spring), I made a knitwear jacket/chair. It is a jacket with a big back-pack kind of deal that you don't store things in, but instead lean on like a chair. It is inspired by the nomadic lives of DAAP students throughout their 3 consistent years of moving for Co-ops every three months. We all need a place to rest.
CB: UC DAAP students are required to complete six co-ops throughout their college experience. Can you tell me about the co-ops you've experienced thus far? Where were they? What exactly was required of you there?
AS: Oh yes, two were in New York. Corporate and cubical deals. Little required in these types of places, thus little accomplished career-wise for Andrea. The best part was writing intense and juvenile e-mails about society to other cubical-dwelling DAAPers. So then I went to Italy to dabble a bit in theater for the production of La Bohme. I loved being involved in the whole process, from the costume to tech work, and even got cast as the clumsy waitress in Scene two! Italy was beautiful. I learned a lot about happiness and relaxation there that is prominently important to my everyday life. By far, however, the best is my recent fifth Co-op in Reykjavik, Iceland! I am working for fashion/industrial designer Sruli Recht. It is not only a completely amazing country to be in, but the job is so much more than I expected. I guess I am surprised how well I fit in here. It is so much of what I want to be doing - designing for a reason, solving problems, working with other designers, and collaborations with other medium and creatives like music, film, and dance. There is a strong collaborative world here in Reykjavik. The energy is spectacular. Everyday something new comes up to do, not only in my co-op, but personal design opportunities to work with some amazing people. I don't even consider it a co-op anymore. It is the true beginning of my career.
CB: Iceland sounds amazing and a very inspiring place to be. You spoke of it being the true beginning of your career. What do you hope to accomplish in the future as far as your career goes?
AS: For me, this collaborative thing is going pretty darn good. I'd love to continue to work with other talented people in design and in other fields. I don't see myself necessarily working for a company, but working with others. It's the only thing that makes sense right now and something I have learned that is a possible career path from being here in Reykjavik. One day, possibly grad school as well and I am currently starting up a little fiction writing, so look for that.
CB: Are there currently any buying or viewing options for your designs? If so, where or how can we find them?
AS: I am currently getting involved in the new development of a store and design co-op in Brighton of Cincinnati, "The Brush Factory." It is being started up by Rosie Kovacs (2009 DAAP graduate) and will involve an exciting co-operative effort from many young designers, such as myself. It will be opening sometime in the Fall or Winter and I will sell some of my designs there. While I've been here in Iceland, I have been working on some of my own product ideas to sell there and I am quite excited to get my own show on the road! I am also trying to get a Web page started up for viewing and selling as well. In the meantime, if anyone is interested in my designs or working with me (or Web people that like good projects), they can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
***If you like what Andrea's designs have to offer, vote for her in the Cincinnati Innovates contest! The winner of the contest receives a whopping $20,000 and you can vote once a day until September 1, 2009.
Vote for Andrea here: http://cincinnatiinnovates.com/contest/entry/The_Violin_Suit