From gamedays to weddings, UA style

From+gamedays+to+weddings%2C+UA+style

Caryn Lee is a junior majoring in apparel design and merchandise. Photo courtesy of Caryn Lee

Alejandra Tenorio

When people think about The University of Alabama, or the state of Alabama in general, their first thought rarely pertains to the world of fashion. 

Despite this fact, Caryn Lee, a Los Angeles native and junior majoring in apparel design and merchandise, chose Tuscaloosa over the fashion capitals of the world, such as New York City and Milan. 

“I wanted to go to school someplace without snow,” she said. “Our [fashion] design program here is amazing.” 

Ranked one of the top 50 fashion schools in the U.S., Alabama has produced many of the industry’s up and coming new faces. With a close-knit and caring faculty in charge of the program, Lee said the biggest motivation are her professors. 

“They like to push you outside the box,” she said. “Especially when I studied abroad this past summer in London, I was the only little American girl in a class full of people from all over the world, and so, my teachers knew that and pushed me to think outside my comfort zone.” 

Having grown up in a place like Los Angeles, a city known for it’s beautiful beaches, high-end designers and diversity, Lee said the biggest surprise she had coming to Alabama was how diverse the people in Tuscaloosa were when it came to fashion. 

“At home, it’s the basic crop top and high-waisted jeans, no matter where you’re from,” she said. “But here, it’s cool because you get to see all the different fashion styles people have because of where they’re from. No one ever looks the same.” 

Though there are styles that most students adapt into their everyday fashion, such as Chacos, duck boots and the extra large frocket tee, Lee said there’s a great diversity on campus when it comes to fashion – especially on game day. 

“Game day fashion here is seriously the best; I’m super passionate about it,” she said. “I love seeing people go all out. It’s definitely something I look forward to every Saturday.” 

After a few years of deciding what sector of the fashion industry she wanted to pursue, she has finally decided couture bridal is her passion. 

“There’s just something beautiful about the delicate lace look of bridal dresses,” Lee said. 

With inspirations ranging from Marchesa to Vera Wang, Lee is set on designing at that end of the spectrum, but with a twist – she wants to have her own boutique as opposed to chain stores, where her clients can sit down with her one-on-one and come up with the perfect dress for the occasion. 

“I like getting to know the person,” she said. “It allows for my design to be more personal, and I can tell after spending some time with a person what dress they want without them having to tell me.” 

The biggest question any fashion design student in the states will get is “Why not New York?” and Lee has finally figured out exactly why not. Aside from not wanting to live in a place with heavy snow, she is certain there is no other place like the South for weddings. 

Lee has already brought to life some of her designs, which were modeled in Fall 2014 by Ashtyn Norris, a sophomore majoring in telecommunication and film.

“Her designs were insane, and I couldn’t have been more proud to be able to wear her clothes,” Norris said.  

With her mind set on becoming the next big name in the fashion industry, Lee will never do something without fully committing to it. 

“Caryn never does anything halfway, and she will do whatever it takes to get something done,” Norris said. 

Spend only a few minutes with Lee and you can tell just how passionate she is about both designing and the fashion industry itself. 

“I could go on and on about designers all day,” Lee said. “They’re just super intriguing, and it’s fun to see where they come from and what makes them design the way they do.” 

As to what inspires Lee to design the way she does, she said it is all of the various different people she has met throughout her life and their backgrounds that makes her see the beauty in incorporating different fashion styles into her own. 

With her senior year quickly approaching, she hopes to find an internship that will allow her to grow as an artist, designer and person. Though she does not know where she will live after graduation, she does know one thing for sure: moving to Tuscaloosa was the best thing that happened to her both artistically and personally.