Thursday, September 30, 2010

Camilla Olson (B.S., M.B.A., M.F.A., etc.)

The runway show I really wanted to attend while I was in NY and couldn't because of my aforementioned metal show was that of the only school that shows at NYFW, the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. I particularly wanted to see the (MFA) graduate collection of Camilla Olson, whose bio and caged theme both had caught my eye on the AAU Fashion School Daily blog. I had completely forgotten to follow up on the show online when I got back, so I was quite happy when Camilla contacted me to let me know that there were photos up of her collection. The one dress that caught my eye in particular is still my favorite (above), but I do love the general aesthetic of the collection as a whole, as the cages, inspired by samurai armor and the movie Blade Runner, are made of silk faille, and the underdresses are laser cut silk chiffon and habotai. I think the best part of the collection, however, is the designer herself. Having acquired first a BSc in Microbiology and then a MBA in Marketing, Camilla's route to her MFA at the AAU was too interesting to leave unquestioned. And so, I questioned her: 

(Me:) Why the transition from sciences to fashion design? Are any skills in particular used in a lab transferrable to a sewing room, and/or while designing textiles?

(Camilla:) I am a curious person and like understanding other people's perspective. My nature guided me into a Bachelor of Science degree so that I could explore the microscopic world of microbiology. Later I completed an MBA in marketing to better understand the commercialization of scientific discovery. I became a venture capitalist and then founded five companies from the entrepreneurial side of the table. I worked hard and then retired from the business world and volunteered full time in my community. For pleasure I rediscovered the joys of sewing that i began in elementary school. On a lark, I took my daughter on an open house tour at the Academy of Art and ended up enrolling myself. 

While my BS is in microbiology, I worked in electron microscopy labs at the University of Maryland Medical School, Oxford University, and Johnson & Johnson. The J&J work included some fiber research which I often think about when sewing. I think the microscopy work aids an instinctual understanding of different fibers and fabrications. Also, I have always loved working in a lab and I equate that feeling to working in a studio. For me, it is pure heaven to be making something with my hands in the studio or running experiments in the lab. 

Camilla, you're fantastic. And I can conclude that there's still hope for me to use my artier skills (and BA)! Though I do hope it doesn't take until after retiring from my lab job to put those skills to use... 

Camilla has many exciting plans lined up for her following this degree, so stay tuned to her website to see what other wonderful things this ambitious lady accomplishes. 

(Photos via Apparel

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