Alumni Spotlight: Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung

Reid Bartelme, Fashion Design ’12
Harriet Jung, Fashion Design ’11

Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung

After twelve years working as a dancer in New York City, Reid Bartelme (Fashion Design ’12) decided to launch into a new career in fashion. FIT was a clear choice for making that transition, and it was where he connected with fellow classmate Harriet Jung (Fashion Design ’11). The two bonded over their obsession with Belgian fashion designer Raf Simons and, throughout their studies, they nurtured each other’s work with considered critique. Their shared fashion sensibility and aesthetic would soon lead them into a great business partnership. Since graduating, they’ve teamed up on costume design projects for such dance productions as the New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre. We caught up with this talented duo to talk about their collaboration, Reid & Harriet, and their ideas on fashion and dance.

Tell us how your design collaboration started.
Bartelme: In the fall of 2011, I began receiving costume commissions from dance companies and a job came my way that I thought would be the perfect opportunity for the two of us to design collaboratively. Justin Peck, from the New York City Ballet was looking for a designer to dress a small piece of his, and so he asked to see some of my work. I asked him if it was okay if I showed him a combination of work from both Harriet and myself. I suggested to him that we redesign an existing ballet in the New York City Ballet repertoire, so he could see how Harriet and I design as a team. These drawings that we presented to Justin were our first collaborative effort.

Jung: In general, our design collaboration is very fluid and open. We throw out ideas at each other and build upon each other’s ideas. It’s a creative, collaborative discussion and process.

Furiant, a ballet by Justin Peck, costumed by Bartelme and Jung. Photo by Erin Baiano

Reid, as a longtime dancer, did you set out to design dance costumes after completing your studies?
Bartelme: No, actually. I thought that once I graduated from FIT I would apply to work as an assistant to a designer at a label, but the summer after school was over my costume business took off.

Did you always know you wanted to be a fashion designer, Harriet?
Jung: Initially, I thought I wanted to be a doctor so I completed a Pre-Med degree in Molecular Cell Biology from UC Berkeley. Obviously, that changed. After more self reflection, I realized where my talent and most importantly interests have always been.

What are some recent dance projects?
Bartelme: We just finished a set of costumes for American Ballet Theater. It’s a piece choreographed by Marcelo Gomes and will be performed at the opening night of their fall season. We also designed costumes for Mr. Gomes for the opening night of their Spring season. We also designed two Justin Peck ballets over the summer swell as a duet choreographed by Emery Lecrone.

Do you find there is a relation between the expression of dance and fashion design?
Bartelme: Yes. There is a great deal of rhythm in dance, and control of proportional rhythm is key in fashion design. There are also similar dynamic qualities in dance and fashion design: fluid, hard, crisp, transparent are all dynamic qualities that can be applied both to fashion design and dance.

Jung: They both stem from an idea or story wanting to be shared. Like dance, good design requires a balance and a sort of natural progression as a collection and within each garment. A strong, clear vision is also extremely important for both.

Harriet, how is designing dancewear different or similar to designing eveningwear at Jill Stuart?
Jung: Comfort is a secondary design priority when designing eveningwear or womenswear. If we can make it look great and keep it comfortable–that’s a real feat. In dancewear, however, comfort, functionality, and movement are essential. We need to fuse design and the technical needs of the dancer together from the beginning.

How does the motion of the dancer factor in to your designs?
Bartelme: There are two different ways this factors into the design process. The qualities of the dancer will often elicit and an emotional design response and have a profound effect on the design itself. Second, there are many construction parameters that need to be considered in dance costumes. The dancers need full range of movement, and the costumes need to stay in place and remain neat even during vigorous physical movement. It is also best if the costumes are washable and durable so they can withstand abnormal amounts of sweat and frequent washing.

What’s your favorite part of this work?
Jung: Lots, but one of my favorite parts is initially seeing the piece and speaking to the choreographer about their vision for the piece then coming up with our vision and concept for the costumes. It’s the most creative and stimulating part for me.

Bartelme: I love that in each job I begin I get to explore a different aspect of my design personality.

Favorite item on your desk?
Bartelme: Unlined moleskin pads, mechanical pencil and refillable eraser, and two grey scale markers.

Jung: Mechanical pencil! My watercolors.

Most treasured possession?
Bartelme: Vintage Commes Des Garçons dresses from my mother.

Jung: My box of letters and notes from friends and loved ones. They’re not as common these days.

What advice would you like to share with peers and current students?
Bartelme: It is impossible to know what will come your way in the future, but it is important to approach all your work with rigor and integrity. Discipline in your design practice will really serve you well. With diligence and time the practice of design becomes more fluid and more rewarding.

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