From Client to Designer to Laser, A Quick Wash, and Custom Clothing Appears

High quality custom clothing may cost consumers more initially, but it stays in style far longer – maybe forever. With today’s computer and laser technology, even sophisticated and unusual designs move quickly from the minds of customers and designers to finished, long-lasting products.

Students Alex Propios and E-Lorraine Johnson team up for an episode of “Off Field Fashion.”

“Sustainability isn’t just one thing. It’s a change in your mindset to achieve real change in environmental impact,” says Michael Ferrero, Executive Director of FIT’s DTech Lab. Ferrero is executive producer of “Off Field Fashion,” a YES Network series that teams up FIT designers with professional athletes and celebrities.

Textile/Surface Design professor Susanne Goetz recently oversaw an “Off Field Fashion” episode that featured laser technology. Goetz is particularly interested in new technologies, sustainability, and artisanship. Excerpts from the episode are here:

To put it another way, today’s customization tools combine key goals of what FIT wants to lead in the industry – customization, sustainability, clothes that are functional, and timeless.

FIT recently tested these ideas. Two of Prof. Goetz’s students, E-Lorraine Johnson and Alexander Propios, successfully created a jean jacket and jeans for two professional soccer players, Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, a midfielder for the Los Angeles Football Club, and Gedion Zelalem, midfielder for the New York City Football Club, the reigning MLS Cup champion.


“There’s more to customization than couture,” says Johnson. “My goal is to own my own plus-size design firm and to cater to bodies like mine that are under-represented. People say not to judge a book by its cover, but why not help make that cover fabulous?”

Technology plays a major role in customization, so FIT called upon commercial establishments that already use some of this technology. The teamwork, from student to faculty to production firm, was seamless.

“This technology already enables customization at commercial scale because it allows quick steps from concept to clothing,” said Prof. Goetz.

At present, much of the customization work takes place with surface design, but already it is changing the industry.

Ferrero described the challenge: To develop a custom design to be applied on denim for Tajouri-Shradi and Zelalem to wear during a fashion photo shoot.

As Johnson said, because “these are custom designs, [they are each] for one person so it’s really important to get to know them. Fashion is personal.”

E-Lorraine Johnson with Gedion Zelalem

After his discussion with the athletes, Propios designed a pomegranate motif, after the national flower of Libya, for his designs for Ismael. He noted that the Romans were importing pomegranate from there 2000 years ago.

Johnson said “Gedion is into his Ethiopian heritage. I wanted to pull out such elements as the Lion of Judah and possibly the star motif that’s known on the Ethiopian flag,” but after talking with him “wanted to give it a street style, a hip hop and graffiti contemporary look.”

Johnson’s street-style Lion Motif of Judah motif on the computer ready to to be transferred for the first pass on the garment

Some of this can already be done by remote video-conferencing and mailing samples back and forth. But soon, local fabric samples might be routinely picked up or viewed at outlets near the production folks and near the customers.

After researching Tajouri-Shradi’s Libyan background, Propios began drafting different designs for the florals and placing them in different spots on the denim. “Ismael is mad about his style. He loves to dress up and go  shopping. He is a citizen of the world. He seemed really open to what we had to offer him,” said Propios.

Propios and Johnson with Bill Curtin, owner of BPD Washhouse.

The production process itself, at BPD Wash House in Jersey City, went quickly–faster than the students had imagined.

“The speed of that laser is insane,” said Johnson. The Jeanologia laser, amid flashes of light and flame, burns off the denim’s indigo dye at different levels of intensity to “print” the pattern.

Computer-controlled laser burns the custom pattern into the denim’s indigo dye. “Let It Burn!” said Johnson.

Said Propios, “My designs go from hand-drawn motifs on to my computer onto their computer and just shoot down to the fabric with the laser … it was just so cool.”

As is typical in denim processing, BPD stone-washed the pieces. BPD uses a more sustainable version, formed from powdered “scrap” pumice molded into small blocks held together with an adhesive. They last six times longer than regular pumice.

“Innovative technologies like laser denim finishing allow smaller designers to experiment in a facile and interactive way,” said Ferrero.

The students discussing their experience with FIT President Joyce Brown

To follow Prof. Susanne Goetz on IG go to: @goetz.susanne; Alexander Propios: @alexanderpropios; and E-Lorraine Johnson:

To learn more about the Textile Surface Design AAS and BFA programs visit: Textile/Surface Design at FIT.

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