“Consider transitions.” This phrase further catalyzed Emma Gage’s creative drive as a fashion designer, allowing her to utilize both her sense of empathy and her intricate craft to further define the full circle between all sectors of her life.
“In fifth grade, I remember asking my friends what kind of dresses they would want and I would draw it for them,” she said. She recalls her first experience with design being her winter formal dress during her freshman year in high school, acting as a bridge to defining her passions.“I remember feeling so cool wearing my own dress,” she said, going on to describe the specific neckline and pink and black ruffles she designed. “Being able to say, ‘Oh, I designed it,’ was a huge moment for me.”
Emma’s inherent drive from innovative obligation to personal progression are executed through her deep fascination with, and skill for unique storytelling—as reflected in both her own interests and her own creations. She describes her awe for Alexander McQueen. “I would carry around this massive book of his,” she said. “The reason that I was drawn to him is because there was so much emotion and a story behind everything he made.”
Such a concept has directly infiltrated Emma’s personal artistry and crafted her identity as a designer. “I would see the poetry put into the artwork he was creating.” Emma wrote one of her college admissions essays on a 1999 McQueen white trapeze dress, shown on the runway with two robots appearing from beneath the walkway, spray painting the dress with many different colors. “It showed the balance of working with technology within the creative process.”
Emma is an active advocate for fashion sustainability as well as combating human trafficking in the industry, aiming to further her work in both fields throughout her career. “For me, being a designer is all about the meaning behind it and caring for not only the people who put the clothes on, but also the people who are making them,” she said. “I’ve noticed that I want to tell a story with my clothes; I want there to be something that can somehow affect somebody else.”
Emma’s work experience in the industry began with an unexpected meeting with Betsey Johnson while on line to enter the Metropolitan Museum in Manhattan. “I convinced myself that it couldn’t be her in line in front of me,” she recalls. “I tapped her on the shoulder, and I just melted and told her all about wearing her stuff.” Within the next moment, Emma stood alongside her mother before the MET’s steps, holding an offer to work New York Fashion Week with Betsey Johnson and her hand-delivered business card.
Emma worked as a Betsey Johnson intern for three seasons up to her second semester of her sophomore year at Marist, recalling a positive and inspiring experience working closely with a longtime idol and worldly fashion inspiration. As a YMA-FSF Scholarship and Kate Spade’s Excellence in the Industry Scholarship recipient, Emma’s hard work and bottomless passion has carried her to great heights thus far.
She also spent the summer before her junior year interning for Nicholas K, dealing with e-commerce based work within the showroom, photoshoots and media relations. With plans of working in high-end design and earning a graduate’s degree, Emma continuously pushes herself as far as possible. “You can’t wait until you feel like you know everything to do something,” she said.
This past summer 2016, Emma worked with the Nexus Global Philanthropy Group, running an Ethical Panel for them in preparation for their conference at the United Nations, furthering her desire to transform the industry and preserve deep meaning behind every aspect of her work.
At the end of junior year, the fashion design department leaves emerging seniors a phrase to inspire their senior collection, in which they design and make themselves to present at the close of their last semesters. “Consider transitions,” seemingly embodies all of the concepts that have influenced Emma’s general life philosophy and mission through her design work in general. “There are a lot of things that happen in life that you don’t plan for,” she said. “And my family members have a lot of history in struggling with mental illnesses.”
Through her senior collection, Emma has created a line of garments inspired by the weight of mental illness and the transitions life embodies. “I wanted to show that through clothing, the weight or constriction of it, or the comfort and warmth of it with confusing emotions.”
“You have anxiety, depression, or PTSD—and I was looking at it from the beginning stages, but the transitions that you go through are often the ones that you don’t choose,” she said. “The women that I have created through these garments are so strong.”
Emma has four looks completed, including a massively oversized sweater that has arms that go all the way down to the floor, made up of 25 balls of 75-yard-long yarn, hand-knit, and an a-line dress with 32 gores within each of the 4 layers, 7 ½ yard circumference of each layer, 236 seams and a collar made out of goat stomach leather—all in shades of gray, black and maroon.
These large numbers embody the multiple layers within not only the clothing itself, but in the process Emma discovered creatively through her project, and in the density of layers embodied in each said “transition.”
Emma’s designs artfully showcase a vibrant transparency that has infiltrated the storyline behind her collection. “The seams have red lining coming through so that you can see where each of the individual gores are and the seams are exposed,” she said. “All of the seams on the long vest are exposed, so you can almost see everything that makes up the garment.”
Mastering her sense of human understanding and sentiment, Emma incorporated various important aspects of her background and upbringing into these designs—including embellishing a vest with horse hair from her own childhood horse’s tail. “I got it from my own horse that was put down during my freshman year,” she said. ‘I’ve always just had it, and now it is in a few looks that I’m doing.”
Emma has utilized the entirety of her craft to take as much substance from her life, through her undying empathy for those in need and her desire to creatively overturn hardship. “Taking things that happen and being able to see the good from them—I try to take everything and see the progression from it.”
As inspired by one of her favorite books, Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” Emma will use her creative voice in order to facilitate these worldly changes and use her voice as an artist. “We don’t always say things while we can,” she said. “Your voice is the most powerful thing you have. Whether it is expressed through writing, music, painting, business, fashion—that is how we are really going to connect with people.”