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'Something that is distinctly me': Meet these creatives who make their own clothing

Nitara Kittles, a sophomore studio art major, poses in front of Wilson Library on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2020. Kittles is wearing an outfit she made herself.

Art is often reserved to what is painted, sculpted or mounted, but art is also what we wear. Each stitch, arrangement, cut and print in clothing and accessories are forms of creativity curated by several UNC students. 

Handmade jewelry is the specialty of UNC sophomore Anna Jordan. Jordan began selling earrings on an Instagram account in the summer of 2018 before creating a website under her business name, AnnaBanana. 

Lightning bolt and star earrings are among her most popular sellers, but Jordan said she likes to regularly make new things. 

In 2019, Jordan sold her jewelry at the Jewels of Hope fundraiser hosted by Carolina Women in Business. Part of the proceeds were donated to the Orange County Rape Crisis Center. She plans to sell her jewelry again at the event this year. 

Jordan said she keeps her prices low to accommodate for college students on budgets. With this level of accessibility, she sees others around campus wearing her creations.

Other than jewelry, Jordan also makes clothing. Her senior year prom dress and a cocktail dress are among her repertoire. 

UNC junior Hanna Duenkel also said she loves to make dresses, along with an assortment of other garments.

A purple scarf, the product of third-grade Duenkel, was the beginning of years of knitting, sewing and needlepoint work. She has made costumes for friends, pleated skirts, an array of socks and an annual fall sweater, among other projects. 

Duenkel said her inspiration for making clothing was to have things that fit her. After having her mother teach her to sew, she can fit and feel confident in the clothing she makes for her specific proportions. 

“I think this a great hobby and something that is distinctly me,” Duenkel said. 

Alongside her sweaters and skirts, Duenkel started needlepoint last spring and has made card wallets and key fobs with her stitched patterns that are then sent to a leather finisher. 

Emotional attachment and sustainability are some of the reasons Duenkel said she enjoys her creations.

“Self-made clothing holds so much sentimentality — you knit this scarf while visiting family, while on vacation or at school,” Duenkel said. “Plus, these things last for much longer than fast fashion.” 

Duenkel cited knitting especially as an example of fast fashion's opposite — the slow fashion movement. 

There are several places in Chapel Hill and the surrounding area that offer supplies or lessons for making clothing including, Chapel Hill Needlepoint, Freeman’s Creative and Mulberry Silks and Fine Fabrics.

Susan Kobesky, co-owner of Mulberry Silks and Fine Fabrics, said a lot of college students take garment sewing classes there. Anything from a simple top to a wedding dress is possible to learn, Kobesky said. 

Kobesky also said there seems to be a rise in the number of young sewers today. 

“I think people are sick of spending money on cheap clothing that fill up our landfills,” Kobesky said. “People are getting excited to make clothes that fit their bodies and can last for a long time.”

Duenkel also cited the film industry for incentivizing people to knit and sew. Sewing and knitting packages of materials and instructions are made to help people create pieces out of their favorite shows or movies. "Gilmore Girls" is a great example of this, with Mason-Dixon Knitting replicating Rory and Lorelai’s eccentric scarves with their make-your-own kits. 

“My mom and I saw 'Little Women' but instead of talking about how sad it was, we were talking about the shawls the women wore,” Duenkel said. “That night I went online and found the patterns they used in the movie.”

The internet is also a creative influence for a UNC student who goes by alias Gydanew. Gydanew said he was inspired at age 11 by Tyler, The Creator who made music and his own apparel. Now Gydanew uses his Instagram platform to showcase his upcycling and other artistic works. Varsity jackets and pants are examples of Gydanew's creations, but he focuses more on taking secondhand clothing and drawing, dismembering or adding prints to the cloth to make it new. 

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At UNC, Gydanew explores a breadth of artistic mediums. Photography and videography of his clothing are all part of his branding. Gydanew is working on his website and will launch a new way of selling his products. He said he doesn’t prioritize profit and focuses more on the creative outlet. 

Since coming to college, Gydanew has partnered with several creative communities at UNC, including Vintage Blue and WXYC. He also designed a shirt for It’s On Us, an event hosted by Greek life to raise awareness about sexual assault and to raise funds for the Orange County Rape Crisis Center. 

Gydanew said many of his looks embody the idea that there is innate fear and aggression in the world, and in acknowledging that, we can begin to see the positives. 

Creating clothing and accessories means something different to each person, whether it may be sentimentality, sustainability or self-realization. Each student creative is bringing his or her own motivations and inspirations to UNC and in doing so are shaping the fashion scene at Chapel Hill.