The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, July 17, 2009


Julia Faye Blum wins prestigious Parsons design award

Each year, New York’s Parsons School of Design (recently renamed Parsons The New School for Design) holds a gala runway show of selected senior thesis fashion design collections created by its senior students, and makes awards in several categories for outstanding collections. Competition was fierce this year, and in the end, Carlisle native Julia Faye Blum tied with fellow student Robert Fitzsimmons for the prestigious Designer of the Year award in the womenswear category. Fashion design luminaries like Donna Karan, Marc Jacobs and others were in the audience to applaud the award winners, but what was unusual about 2009’s April gala was that for what may be the first time in Parsons history, a womenswear Designer of the Year award went to a designer of lingerie for a collection entitled, “Ardor.” That designer was Julia Faye Blum.

Blum first sees her garment in the window of Saks Fifth Avenue in New York City. Each year Saks celebrates the work done by select graduates of Parsons The New School for Design. Blum’s designs earned her the coveted Designer of the Year award for womenswear at the Parsons’ annual fashion show.

Winning collections not only represent the best of the most contemporary art in fashion design, but also the best in contemporary craftsmanship. Students spend hundreds of hours designing and building their collections. Blum’s hand-stitched, corseted garments received special commendation for the quality and detail of their craftsmanship. She says that just one garment

Blum works her designs in silk. The purple corset to the left is shown in its early basting-stitch stage before the final hand-work is done. Blum’s designs are intricately detailed, some including over 200 separate pieces of fabric. For this garment, multiple layers, including lining, underlining, boning and the pleated outer layer required hundreds of hours of hand and machine stitching.

involving blind stitching and laying-out of many individual pleats took over 100 hours to complete. The thesis collection is a year-long process, beginning with a concept, sketches, making patterns and muslin samples, and then finally constructing the garments in the fabrics in which they will be presented. Blum talks of fitting in “concepts class and some lecture classes, and a lot of 18- to 20-hour days” during the year.

The path to the Designer of the Year award began, for Blum, when she was quite young. “Lingerie,” she says, “has always been something I wanted to do, since an inappropriately young age. As a child, when I saw [Disney’s] The Little Mermaid, I was fascinated with Ariel’s seashell

bra. Later, I saw [the musical] Gypsy, and I was off and running.” What attracted Blum to Ariel’s seashells and the burlesque garments of Gypsy, however, was the structure and shape of the garments themselves. As she grew older, she was inspired by the work of designers like Christian Dior and John Galliano. Shortly after she received the Parsons award, she said in an interview with Fashion Week Daily Dispatch that, “The original New Look is one of my first and greatest inspirations. What Dior did for the female silhouette is absolutely amazing, and I am also fascinated by Galliano’s ability to sculpt the body.” Garment sculpture, for Blum, is an art form, and she has studied its techniques closely.

“As a freshman [at Parsons], my first year in New York, I discovered great lingerie designers. Sophomore year was devoted to sewing and crafting, and our last project was to make a corseted dress.” During her junior year, she went to “Parson’s Paris, where I studied with a teacher trained in lingerie and corsetry. I learned so much, but one thing I really learned was that I still have so much to learn."

Blum’s garments are labor intensive. Here she hand stitches pleats on the side panel of a corset. A separate piece of douppioni silk was used to create each pleat which was then blind-stitched into place. Blum estimates that for this garment, the pleating alone required 100 hours of hand work.
This capelet, made of three colors of silk organza, is actually composed of 100 flowers. Each flower was created by assembling 32 flower-shaped cut-outs that were sewn together and attached to a lined fabric cape. This creation required more than 60 yards of fabric.

Blum’s senior thesis collection grew out of one creation: “literally a body suit, with ivory satin and tulle. I thought it was the ultimate feminine garment. I think it is really empowering to be in a garment that is so structured.” She conceptualized her project around the blending of what she calls “a western ideal” with “some Art Deco, and some eastern cultural elements like origami and kimono shapes.” She says she is fascinated by adding “special details onto solid foundations.” She adapted one of the corsets in her collection into a bodice for the velvet dress she made for herself to attend the gala evening. Like her dress, her completed project is far from a collection of garments meant to be worn under other clothing,

but represents, as she sees it, “high-end lingerie that is fashion art” in and of itself. This is the sort of fashion art she envisions creating as her career progresses.

“I’ve had a month’s break since graduation,” she says. “I think I would like to work for someone first, as an assistant designer, and work in the industry to get experience. I’d like to start on a small scale, but eventually start my own line.”

Her first post-graduate project is in talks right now. An eclectic group of designers is planning an art show in New York in November, and Blum will create designs for this. The sky is the limit for this fresh new face in fashion art. Here at home, we can keep abreast of Julia Blum’s November exhibit and “next big things” by logging on to

© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito