Fashion design may be complex, but it almost always begins with the same thing: inspiration. Through the design and retail program at UA, students learn how to transfer their inspiration into works of fashion.

Credit: Chloe Enos

“Finding inspiration is always fun,” UA alum Madison Quattlebaum said. “I might hear a song and then translate it all day into a dress or suit. I’m continually impressed by how it’s possible to take a two-dimensional object and configure it to form a three-dimensional piece of clothing that functions practically, but also tells a story about the person wearing it.”

Functionality remains an important factor in how these students design their clothes. UA Honors college alum Caroline Ruder says how she likes to design clothes using non-traditional materials that are still comfortable. To achieve this, her designs are loosely constructed.

Credit: Getty Images

“I think my inclination to keep that in mind comes from my marketing background,” Ruder said. “From all of the different sales classed I took, you start to see patterns of features that make a product more attractive to the consumer. I always try to keep functionality in my mind when designing because I think it increases the odds of purchase.”

Balancing functionality with creative design is an important aspect of breaking into the industry. Fashion is about creating, but it is also a business that must meet the demands of the consumer. Fashion retail is the side of the industry that determines how a designer can make profit and build a sustainable business.

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“Retail plays on the business side of the design process,”  UA junior Abbey Hagan said. “So if a designer comes to someone on the retail side and they say I want a 50 percent markup that’s when we come in to figure out the numbers and how the designer makes a profit.”

Appreciation for the process of design is something that doesn’t go unnoticed by others in the industry.

Credit: Chloe Enos

“The design industry is something that I admire so much as the amount of hours and hours that go into one simple garment is mind boggling,” Hagan said. “ I think that design majors don’t get enough credit for all of the work that they have to put in to their creations.”

For more images and a better look at Caroline Ruder’s designs, visit .