Sasha Swedlund Designs Avant-Garde Streetwear With Elements of Afrofuturism for DEBUT
Born in Chicago, Illinois, and raised in Santa Rosa, California, Sasha Swedlund was immersed in the world of art from a young age. Her mother collected fabrics from all over the world, and Sasha developed a love of painting, prints, color, textiles, and fashion, which ultimately led her to FIDM. As a student at Santa Rosa High School, she participated in the ArtQuest Fine Arts program, a magnet program for the Visual and Performing Arts. She attended CalArts where she earned her Bachelor's in Fine Art, then participated in the study abroad program at Parsons Paris. Over the last decade, she's worked as a muralist and sign painter, and was accepted into the prestigious Advanced Fashion Design program at FIDM. Incorporating silhouettes inspired by natural hairstyles including afro puffs and Bantu knots, Sasha will be showing her DEBUT collection at FIDM’s Annual DEBUT Runway Show event, which will live-stream on Thursday, August 18, 2022 at 6:00 PM PDT. The only textile designer in DEBUT this year, her collection features a variety of prints she painted by hand. "The prints are collages of words about curl patterns, shapes of hairstyles, and the colors are bold and bright," she said. "It is a blend of elevated streetwear and avant-garde with elements of afrofuturism." We caught up with the artist and designer to learn more about her creative vision and journey.
Tell us about your DEBUT collection: My collection explores Black hair and natural hairstyles that Black women wear. It incorporates silhouettes that are from these natural hairstyles like afro puffs or Bantu knots. I am the only textile designer this year, so my collection is very print heavy and I mix and match a variety of prints I hand painted. The prints are collages of words about curl patterns, shapes of hair styles, and the colors are bold and bright. It is a blend of elevated streetwear and avant-garde with elements of afrofuturism. I think this will be the first women's streetwear collection in DEBUT.
What silhouettes and fabrics can we expect to see? Silhouettes are bold and unique. There are shapes pulled from hairstyles that have sculpting and are more 3-D. The fabrics are unconventional and not fashion fabrics. They are more industrial with little drape, lots of body, and a unique hand and luxurious.
What is your point of view, as a designer? My point of view as a designer is from the perspective of a Black creative and artist that blends the lines and can't be put in a specific box.
How do you hope people will feel when they see your designs? I hope they feel inspired by the colors, prints and silhouettes, and see streetwear in a different way that is elevated, authentic, and different. I hope they feel curious and excited to be creative in any whichever medium that they feel compelled to use.
Tell us a little about yourself: I'm a true artist and creative at heart. I've worked as a muralist and sign painter over the last decade and decided to go back to school at FIDM for Textile Design which combined my love for painting, fabric, and fashion. Fashion that blurs the lines of wearable art and goes in the direction of avant-garde is where I'm most interested in exploring.
What inspires you as a creative and as a fashion designer? I'm a curious person who is always learning, exploring, and trying new things, from travels, new skills to new careers. I think finding ways to solve any challenge is what inspires me, and then adding in my identity and how I can blur the lines or think outside of the box. Nine months ago I didn't know how to do any of the pattern drafting and I have spent my evenings after work and my weekends on campus learning and problem solving complex patterns for this collection. I designed a collection that I didn't think I could actually create, and learned how to over the two quarters. Being able to learn new skills and see the progress over the months of long hours and hard work gave me the drive to take on such a challenging collection as a Textile Design major.
What is a lesson you've learned as you've been working on your collection? I have learned that I can truly do anything I put all my energy into and this collection is living proof of that. From barely knowing how to read a pattern to drafting looks that have over 60 pieces showed me patience, consistency and lots of hard work. Also, designing a collection I want to create that isn't limited by my skill set is more important than designing only what I know how to do. Playing it safe is the biggest mistake and challenging yourself will continue to give back further down the road.
Tell us about your path to FIDM: I started at FIDM in the PD Textile Design program after working as a sign artist and painter for over a decade. When I was young, my mom collected fabric from all over the world and I grew up around so many people, fabrics, colors, and art. I had been around it my whole life and never thought of doing it as a career. I also remembered a teacher I had while studying abroad at Parsons Paris suggested I go into textile design and a decade later I decided to take her advice. It seemed like it was a good transition to do textile design that incorporated all my interests and passions under one umbrella. It combines my love of painting, fabric, and textile science, prints and fashion. While at FIDM, I have taken several of the specialty and collaboration classes like Mimaki and Chairing Styles, and also taught some painting workshops for events like 3 Days of Fashion.
How is FIDM helping you get closer to your career goals? FIDM has taught me the technical skills that are used in the industry as a textile designer and also connected me with an incredible network of faculty, mentors, and colleagues that have invaluable information which can lead to endless opportunities. FIDM has given me great opportunities like the specialty collaboration classes to work with great teachers, jobs through faculty and helped guide me in the right direction from resources and materials to career advice and freelance opportunities.
Any advice for someone considering applying to be a DEBUT student? Don't do something familiar or safe. It's hard for people to venture out of their comfort zone, but when they do, they create magic. I say, go as far as you can outside your comfort zone because you have teachers, facilities and fellow colleagues who can help, and it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Find your creative voice, do what you want to, not what people expect of you or what they want you to do. It is important to be authentic and don't hold back with whatever you create.