Claire Russell’s designs blossom



Claire Russell is sporting one of her original dress designs

If you are like most New Trier students, you have probably found yourself  standing before your closet the night before school realizing you have nothing to wear.  Now, in fairness, “nothing to wear” can mean everything from owning literally no clothes that fit to simply being tired or unsatisfied with what you already have.  For senior Claire Russell, the latter is rarely a problem.

Russell, who will be studying fashion design next fall at Indiana University, designs her own clothes.  While her interior designer mother might be responsible for Russell’s naturally artistic genes, the transition into fashion is relatively new.

When she first arrived at New Trier, Russell’s first interest was in theater.  However, at the encouragement of upperclassman Sarah Mallory, Claire transitioned over to costume design,and the rest is history.

“Sarah really inspired me to start doing fashion design,” Russell said.  “She was really involved with the clothing aspect of theater and really helped to encourage me to start designing costumes.”

Now, as a senior, Russell is putting her skills to work in AP Art, which is the most challenging and work intensive art course New Trier offers. According to Kathy Pilat, the AP Studio Art and Photography 2 teacher, in addition to talent, an AP Art student must be self-motivated.  “AP Studio Art students must be self-motivated, have a high skill level in a particular medium, be able to accommodate in their schedule the ability to do artwork in both class and after school every day.”

Claire’s concentration will involve fashion.  She decided to incorporate the theme of flowers into each outfit.  For those of us who only buy our clothing, it is hard to understand how much work goes into one individual garment.  Pilat, Claire’s art teacher this year, has had the chance to observe Claire’s detailed work and dedication first-hand.  “Claire has decided to relate her garments to various flowers by first sketching, then cutting, sewing, detailing, and fitting the garments to her subjects,” Pilat said.

Pilat, however, is not the only admirer of Claire’s talented work.  Senior Marissa Bokhari, Claire’s AP Art classmate, speaks to her ingenuity just as much as her talent.  “To fit a dress to a smaller model last minute she used a binder clip in the back,” said Bokhari.  “She is ingenious at coming up with things on the spot when something goes wrong.”

That’s just the beginning of the c

reativity.  Senior Amy Hauldren, also in AP Art, said Claire spends time creating phenomenal side projects.  She’s made a necklace from a map, a dress from playing cards, a dress from wrapping paper, and a corset from newspaper.

For inspiration and to keep up with trends, Claire reads a number of blogs and magazines including  Perhaps all the inspiration has paid off, as Claire recently finished her graduation dress that she made entirely on her own. Considering that most high quality, floor-length dresses are well over $100, using her talent to create an intimately personal garment, and save a good chunk of money, is a true stroke of creative genius.  As far as her personal style is concerned, Claire would describe it as “cute and bohemian.”

For those interested in seeing Claire’s work in person, six photographs of models wearing Claire’s dresses were put up for display in New Trier’s Ann Brierly Gallery.  Claire’s work was featured at the AP Studio Art Fair on May 22nd.

Do not be surprised if you see a line of Claire’s clothes sold commercially in five or ten years, because according to her peers and teachers, she has enough talent to make that a reality.  Besides making clothes for herself, she has also made clothes for her friends.  “All of Claire’s clothes look really good on people, I’ve even worn a few,” said Hauldren.  “Claire’s pieces are really delicate and feminine,” added Bokhari.  “Claire’s talent is rare and whichever path she takes she’s bound to succeed.”