Note: See the second half of “Refashioning the World,” featuring local designer Rebekah Mally, in our fall issue of Manhappenin’, available around Manhattan.
Annabelle Frese, senior in apparel design and production, recently started up her own fashion business, selling outfits, designs and commissions to the local community, all while keeping positive body image, cultural awareness and the environment in mind.
Frese creates a diverse range of clothing from a wedding look to a denim collection, to help people express themselves and feel comfortable with their style.
“I think a lot of people are afraid to wear what they want because it’s scary to be different…” Frese said. “I want people to wear what makes them happy and have fun with fashion.”
Her business began when friends started requesting that she make things for them, and as it expanded, she began selling commissions.
“The piece I really liked making, that I sold, was a wedding jumpsuit. It was very retro, with bell bottoms and a crop top,” Frese said. “It was all bright colors, with floral print and yellow panels. It was really fun.”
Frese’s experimentation with denim resulted in a collection that began as a school project.
“It was all from the same denim fabric, and then I bleached some to be a medium wash and some to be a light wash, then stitched it all together, and left it a little deconstructed,” Frese said. “It was fairly colorful for being all the same type of denim.”
Because Frese’s products are currently all custom-made, she charges $50 per hour for her artwork, in addition to the cost of materials. The wedding jumpsuit she created totaled $150.
She describes her style as “playful,” and is inspired by history and vintage fashions. However, she cautions against drawing too carelessly from existing styles.
“I also look to other cultures,” Frese said. “That’s a nice way to bring in another pace, but you have to avoid cultural appropriation by doing research, and make sure that culture isn’t offended. Do your own take on it, but be respectful.”
She says it can be difficult to make a positive impact with fashion, due to many existing issues within the industry, such as lack of concern for the environment and the abuse of models.
“When I started out, I felt like it was a very materialistic major, and I didn’t feel like I was making much of a change, or a good impact on the world because it’s very wasteful,” Frese said. “And it can be degrading as well. But done right, it can be a powerful industry and it can reach a lot of people. I think it’s important to think about the environment in the process because the apparel industry is the number one waste of water. And you have to be careful about not exploiting people, like models. Fashion gets a bad rap for sure.”
Frese says she won’t turn any job down, but hopes she can find a company with similar values.
Frese can be contacted for commissions through her website, annabellefrese.com.