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Passion for fashion

Freshman opens up about her love for designing clothing

MeKayla Ford

MeKayla Ford

Photo: Rachel Hamilton

Photo: Rachel Hamilton

MeKayla Ford

Story: Rachel Hamilton, Photo Editor

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First grade art class. The teacher was reading a book about a little boy who was talking about art. The book showed famous paintings and asked, “Is this art?” The answer was always yes. At the end of the book, the little boy scribbles on the wall, again the question is asked “Is this art?” The answer “yes” caused debate among the students. But young MeKayla Ford knew it was.
“I’d just had this epiphany and I knew it was art and I couldn’t explain why,” said Ford, now a freshman. “I realized that the world was full of art and that art didn’t have to imitate something.”
The teacher went on to tell the first-grade class about Picasso and Van Gogh. “I’m going to be French and I’m going to be an artist,” Ford thought as she went back to her class.
“Obviously, now I’m less concerned with the first thought, but the second one is still true,” Ford said.
Her interest in art continued to grow and expanded to more than what she learned in the classroom. Ford learned about fashion and it captured her attention unlike any other art form. Learning about clothing design changed Ford’s life, it gave her goals and a purpose.
Ford’s interest in fashion sparked around the age of eight. At the time, her older sister, Markeyna, took a sewing class and practiced at home. Her desire to learn sewing was first inspired by the fact she wasn’t supposed to be in the room where her sister practiced.
“When you’re in second or third grade, 16 seems so far away and so mature and so much older and more knowledgeable,” Ford said. “I did look up to my sister when I was younger.”
Ford was also fascinated by the idea that clothes did not just show up, they had to be made. Watching Markeyna work, changed her understanding of the process.
“I realized that it didn’t just happen and that I was watching it happen right in front of me,” Ford said, “I also think that seeing how clothes are made was one of the last pieces of me growing up and seeing how the world fits together, how everything comes from something.”
From that early curiosity, Ford’s passion bloomed. Seven years later, she is fluent in fashion lingo, creates and wears her own designs and lives a normal life as a freshman.
Fashion isn’t Ford’s only interest. She is involved in many clubs and activities including Girl Scouts, Black Student Union, Gay Straight Alliance, bowling and Student Council. Ford goes to a club meeting almost every afternoon and has bowling practice Monday through Thursday. Evenings are for homework, but sometimes Ford gets distracted by sketching or working on her latest project.
While Ford enjoys school, fashion is her passion. “There’s a lot more freedom of what I want to learn and where I want to go when I’m designing,” Ford said, “I’m going to go somewhere and be something and be happy because it’s something that I love doing.”
When designing, Ford starts with sketching, the most fun part for her.
“From there I plan the pattern, choosing textiles, figuring out the logistics of making it and figuring out how to translate the proportions from a sketch to actual life,” Ford said.
Ford first makes the design with muslin, a cheap cotton-like material, to see how it looks. Once it’s complete, she moves onto the pattern she is going to use. It’s not always smooth sailing from there.
“Sometimes, if I’m making something and I realize that I only have one yard (of fabric) and I need one and a half yards, that turns into using panels and adding color blocking,” Ford said. “Usually it turns out pretty fun.”
Panels are a way to widen a seam by adding another fabric or pleats and color blocking is adding another color instead of just having one.
Ford has only four months to create 12 outfits. In the fashion world, designers have deadlines. Ford is practicing what that atmosphere would be like by completing an entire line for herself to wear on a Girl Scout cruise in April.
“I decided that I was going to make everything I was going to wear on the cruise,” Ford said.
The deadline gives Ford a real-world feel for what it’s like to work as a fashion designer. Croquis, or sketches, are hung around her workspace, swatches and material samples are attached to the croquis, and one outfit is underway on the mannequin.
Eventually, Ford wants to have her own label. To get there, she plans on attending Parsons School of Design in New York. After completing school, she hopes to work for another designer.
“I want to be like one of those names up there like Coco Chanel and be a big deal,” Ford said.

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Passion for fashion