UMN Apparel design students incorporate tradition through the process of designing their capstone collection.


By Sydni Rose

An inherent contradiction underlies any attempt to simultaneously modernize the world while embracing it’s many traditions. However, students in the University of Minnesota’s Apparel Design program have found ways to modernize their clothing collections while being inspired by, and incorporating, tradition.

Senior Chong Xiong created PAJ, a contemporary clothing collection for women, that found inspiration primarily in her Hmong heritage as well as colors and textures found in nature. The rich pool of tradition that can be drawn from these elements made their way into Xiong’s modern collection, but not without difficulty. “I struggled with translating my visual inspiration from my Hmong heritage into a modern contemporary collection,” she said.


Annie Holmes, a recent graduate from the program, chose to incorporate traditional techniques into modern trends by hand-dying her own fabric. “Some people would like something that’s hand-dyed and maybe a little bit imperfect— they might value that more,” Annie said.

Another senior apparel design major, Noah Garon, incorporated modern technology into his collection of evening wear for women. Garon’s collection Neshuma was built to provide medical and safety functions by embedding technology into the clothing itself. Still, Garon uses tradition in his creative process, “I try to touch on tradition every time I see something new because that’s where the inspiration comes from.” He made a point to mention how modern systems, both in fashion and elsewhere, overlook disabilities. Garon made it a goal to provide a new standard for clothing that includes people of all abilities.

While it can be difficult to find a balance between embracing tradition and modernity, these designers were willing to confront this unlikely combination and reaped the rewards. Each of their unique collections stand as a testament of their ability to honor tradition in a modern world. “Challenging tradition doesn’t mean getting rid of it,” said Garon, “it aids in designing for modernity—designing for the future.”