Alexander Ziemba Pushes Fashion Boundaries With DEBUT Collection
Alexander Ziemba’s first fashion success came early, while he was in high school. “My mother taught me to sew and the fundamentals of pattern drafting when I was about 16 or 17. The first full garment I ever created was a replication of a pair of Balmain biker jeans. I still wear them.” Growing up in Santa Maria, California, he attended St. Joseph High School before heading to the University of San Francisco, where he completed a B.A. in Design. It was then that he realized he wanted to focus solely on fashion, and enrolled at FIDM and earned his A.A. in Fashion Design in 2021 before entering the Advanced Study Fashion Design program. His transformational collection “I CAN CCCCCCC” will be shown at this year’s annual DEBUT Runway Show event, livestreaming on March 31, 2023, at 2:30 PM PT. “The whole internal theme of the collection is transformation. Transformation of what you'd expect, what you have seen, and what you know in regards to fashion.” We caught up with Alexander to learn more.
Tell us a little about yourself. I grew up in the central coast of California. There aren't a lot of creative opportunities there. It's mainly agriculture and farming. I was always very artistic and creative, though, and didn't find much interest in other topics that didn't allow for that creative aspect. My mother is an artist so I get it from her. When I was in high school I started learning to sew and pattern draft because I would see clothes I desperately wanted but there was no way I could afford, so I would try to make them myself.
Tell us about your DEBUT collection. My DEBUT collection is titled “I CAN CCCCCCC.” With the collection I really tried to explore shape and experimentation with how far I could push the boundaries of the designs. I tried to approach the overarching idea of transformation in different ways or lenses that I hope will translate to the audience, even if the concepts aren't immediately understood. If I'm being honest, I've never really cared to be understood. I've always found it a bit boring. I'd rather the work I do be misunderstood but provocative in some way.
What silhouettes and fabrics can we expect to see? Playing with texture was another big focus of mine moving into the design process. I wanted to incorporate a wide variety of fabrics into the looks and use fabrics in ways that sort of subvert their expected uses. Some of the fabrics I ended up using were waxed cotton, film/rubberized coated knits, a variety of knits including ribs and jerseys, nylon/poly weaves, a few different boucles, brocade, tulle, sherpa, faux leather, and faux fur. I notice I tend to design looks that would usually lend themselves to a fall/winter collection, for some reason I just love the way heavier fabrics drape. You can achieve so much volume and body. As far as the silhouettes go, I'm not exactly sure how to describe them. I guess you'll just have to wait for the show.
What is your point of view, as a designer? As a designer, all I strive for is to continually push the idea of what fashion looks like. When I design I try to think of a root concept, and then how it can be taken to the next level. People make these boxes around fashion and I don't really care about those, because working/designing within them can't bring you anything truly new. Yes there are very important rules to design, and as a designer you have to respect them, but in my point of view, take those rules and push them as far as you can.
How do you hope people will feel when they see your designs? As long as they truly experience something from the work, I'm satisfied. I suppose I'd like people to walk away with the understanding that beauty can take form in something you wouldn't expect. At least that's the goal, right? Beyond all the theory and layered themes and concepts, to also make something beautiful. Although I'd be the type to set it on fire after just to provoke some sort of emotion. The real beauty of something is tied up with the emotions it inspires. That's really what I aim for. Whatever emotion it ends up causing for people, I'll leave up to them.
What inspires you as a creative and as a fashion designer? That's a difficult question. I've never been very good with this question because I often find it hard to narrow down to any one thing or list of things. I find inspiration in so much. From personal experiences to the things I see around me, the work of designers/artists I admire, people I know and used to know, even down to just the way I feel on a certain day, all of these things sort of melt together for me and I apply it to a concept. That's probably very vague sounding but that really is how things creatively come to surface for me. I start with a concept and just try to pour as much of myself into it as possible.
What is a lesson you've learned as you've been working on your collection? I've learned that you can't let yourself get too into your own head. There are times that you will doubt yourself. Putting together a collection is so much work, and as you're working through all of the issues that are bound to arise, you will find yourself doubting your own judgment. Your only real problem is if you start to believe it. You just have to refocus yourself and stay on track, remind yourself what your concept is, make a call, and move forward.
Tell us about your path to FIDM. After high school I knew I wanted to explore design and fashion but I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. I ended up attending the University of San Francisco where I studied design. I was hoping that the design program there covered a wider range of design than what was actually offered. It focused mainly on graphic and web design. I learned a lot about design and the rules and principles of good design during my time there, but I knew after graduating that I wanted to move strictly into fashion design. That's when I decided to enroll at FIDM.
How is FIDM helping you get closer to your career goals? I learned a lot from my time at FIDM. I've refined and sharpened a lot of skills that I came into FIDM with and I've had the opportunity of learning under and working with some great teachers who really encouraged me to continue experimenting with shape and design overall. FIDM also presented me with some great opportunities such as DEBUT. I'm thankful for everything I've learned and experienced at FIDM.
Any advice for someone considering applying to be a DEBUT student? It's a lot of work. I can't stress that enough. You really have to be ready to put in the time, and sacrifice other interests and countless hours of sleep. You really have to want it. I would honestly say, if you do not feel ready to fully design, create, and sew a whole collection on your own, do not apply. However if you feel DEBUT is something you want, and feel ready for, creatively take it as far as you can.
Categories: Fashion Design Student