Fashion Design Alumna, Krista Wilhelm, to Show Collection at CMU Lunar Gala

By: Justin Shook Filed under: Fashion

February 14, 2018

Krista Wilhelm
Fashion Designer Krista Wilhelm. Photographer Tom Macconnell (AS, Digital Photography, 2017).

From a small farm town in Ohio to completing a Bachelor of Science in Fashion Design degree at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh in 2017, Krista Wilhelm is showing her all-new collection on the runway of one of Pittsburgh’s largest fashion shows held by Carnegie Mellon University, Lunar Gala. Though strapped for time, Ms. Wilhelm answers some of our dyer questions about what drew her to fashion design and what it’s like preparing for a large scale show, while sprinkling in some advice for aspiring designers.

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a very small farming town in northern Ohio. I used to tell people if you blinked while driving through you’d miss the entire town. It’s so small it’s actually considered to be a village!

What got you interested in fashion?
I’ve always had this crazy love for fashion. It stems all the way back to when I was a child and I would dress my Barbie dolls. While my mother was growing up, my grandmother made almost all of her garments and siblings garments (which was common at the time). However, as I was growing up my mother became my personal tailor. It didn’t matter if I needed my prom dress completely recreated or needed to have a hole in my pants fixed, she would take care of it. So in a way you could say my mother and grandmother were the ones that got me interested in fashion, along with having a true passion for it.

What's your educational background?

I attended The Art Institute of Pittsburgh where I received my bachelor’s degree in fashion design. I was able to achieve a 4-year degree in a little under 2.5 years with a lot of hard work and being completely dedicated to my field.

In what ways has your education prepared you?
While at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh, I came in contact with some amazing instructors who taught me a lot of great techniques that I use today. Rikki Hommel was definitely my biggest supporter among the faculty. She taught all of my sewing and pattern making classes from my very first day, when I knew nothing, to my graduation presentation. Her wise counsel and advice has definitely helped prepare me for this fashion show, especially since I had to make all new pattern pieces for each look and sew each look.

What inspires you and your designs?
To be completely honest, my family is what inspires me. I was blessed to grow up with two amazing sisters, and don’t even get me started on my parents. I’ve never met two people who are as selfless, supportive, loving and encouraging as my parents. Everything I am and everything I’ve accomplished is because of them.

When it comes to my design aspect, it’s a hard question to answer because I get inspired by so much around me on a daily basis. I could be walking down the streets of South Side (a neighborhood in Pittsburgh) and see a mural that inspires a collection. Or I could be at an aquarium and get inspired by the colors and designs of the fish. Inspiration surrounds us daily. It just depends if you see it or not.

What area of fashion do you focus on and why?
There are actually two areas of fashion that I like to focus on. A lot of my work consists of evening gowns with a touch of lingerie. I love being able to allow a woman to get in touch with her sexy, feminine side. Putting one of my gowns on someone and seeing their personality turn into this sexy, empowered, mysterious woman is one of the best feelings in the world.

One of my other favorite things to do is hand sewing. I’m not really sure why, seeing that it makes my hands hurt for days after. Hand sewing allows you to get incredible detailed work that brings a garment to life. Most people don’t realize the amount of blood, sweat and tears that go into a gown with bead work and appliqués.

Fashion model posses at gothic style church black dress
Wilhelm's senior portfolio collection. Model Lindsay Rose (Fashion Design student). Photographer Tom Macconnell (AS, Digital Photography, 2017).

How did you hear about the Lunar Gala fashion show?
I heard about the event through Justin Shook who is in charge of campus relations, including social media, at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh. He contacted me one evening about the event and I noticed the deadline was within the next 48 hours. I immediately panicked and didn’t think I had enough time to prepare the layout of my work the way that Lunar Gala had wanted. Putting fear and anxiety aside, I worked extremely hard on it. I stayed up all night putting my designs and information together for submission. A couple of days passed, then I received an email asking for an interview, and well, the rest is history.

What's been the most exciting part about it?
The most exciting part for me has been getting back in touch with designing for myself. Working long hours during the week, and on the weekends, makes it hard to focus my attention on it. This opportunity has allowed me to get back that burning passion for designing, again!

How are you preparing for the show?
I’m preparing like every other designer; working around the clock with bags under my eyes and little to no sleep (laughter). Every second in my day that I have to spare, goes towards my collection. It doesn’t matter if it’s five minutes or five hours. This collection represents more than just a style of clothing, it represents me.

Tell us about the Lunar Gala theme, Ferox, how you felt when you received the theme and how you're applying it to your designs?
Of course, once I was told about the theme I became even more excited because the entire processes finally felt real. Ferox is fierce, disorder and confusion. The idea behind the fashion show is to return to what we once knew as a human species, and to put an end to Ferox by using force. I’m using all black material to give a dark, mysterious vibe, as well as, a lot of sheer fabrics and hand bead work to bring a sexier untamed feel to my collection. I’m extremely excited to see my collection come to life on stage!

Fashion model posses at gothic style church black dress
Wilhelm's senior portfolio collection. Model Lindsay Rose (Fashion Design student). Photographer Tom Macconnell (AS, Digital Photography, 2017).

What challenges have you faced to do this show?
Time. There, unfortunately, is not enough time in a day for me. I work a full-time job with crazy hours, so the availability of my resources becomes limited. I’ve had to make five new evening gowns in less than six weeks. To some people that may seem like a ton of time, but as a designer, six weeks feels like two days. I’ve had to sacrifice a lot of important events and time spent with family and friends to focus on my designs. I’m also working with some new techniques with this collection. Figuring out where to incorporate these new ideas and techniques has definitely been a challenge.

What advice would you give someone starting in fashion?
Never give up! The fashion industry may be one of the hardest industries out there. As long as you believe in yourself and have a true love for what you’re doing, you’ll make it. Maybe not right away, but you will make it.

If you could design an evening gown for any star, who would it be for and why?
Blake Lively, hands down! Aside from her stunning looks, her fashion sense is perfection. Her sexy, but elegant style is everything I go for when creating a look. Not only does she have good taste in clothing, she’s straightforward and real. She openly addresses difficult issues such as sexism, child exploration, sex trafficking and so much more. She has stated her opinions on feminism in the most respectful, but effective way possible.

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By: Justin Shook Filed under: Fashion

February 14, 2018