Student Achievement

Isabel Holden ’20 Wins Prestigious Fashion Award

Julia Fishman
Isabel Holden ’20

Holden, a fashion design major who worked with chemistry students to develop a sustainable collection, is committed to cross-disciplinary and environmentally conscious work.

May 20, 2019—Marist Fashion Program design major Isabel Holden has won the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s (CFDA) Liz Claiborne Design Scholarship Award. Established in 2009, this prestigious $25,000 scholarship is awarded to an undergraduate fashion student each year.

Holden, who hails from Hopkinton, Massachusetts, and will graduate in 2020, was one of five Marist students selected to apply for the scholarship by creating a signature fashion collection that supports the Claiborne brand and also includes an element of sustainable design innovation. CFDA solicits applicants only from the top 20 fashion design schools in the United States. From there, four finalists are chosen to present their collections to a selection committee. Holden was awarded the top prize earlier this month and will head to the CFDA award ceremony in New York City in June.

“This is a high-stakes competition in every way,” noted Fashion Program Director Radley Cramer. “Faculty supported Isabel throughout the process and everyone in the Fashion Program is proud of this stellar achievement.”

Distinguished Professional Lecturer in Fashion Sonia Roy echoed the sentiment. “Because of the importance of the CFDA competition and the relevance of this project, it is incorporated into the curriculum of Marist’s junior year design course,” said Roy.  “The collaborative atmosphere of the Marist Fashion Program facilitates students' ability to capitalize on the knowledge and expertise of each of the faculty, so Isabel was able to brainstorm and bounce ideas off many of us during this process.”

Holden designed a collection of 12 looks for the competition and was very inspired by the sustainability component. She also wanted to take advantage of Marist being a comprehensive institution, so she collaborated with chemistry students. “I knew I wanted to do an all denim collection with a sustainable approach. So I used denim scraps and worked with two chemistry students who created a chemical process to extract the indigo dye from the denim. This gave me a dye bath for re-dyeing white denim later,” said Holden. Solids from the process were filtered out to save for another future use, thus further extending the sustainability concept.

“Fashion is moving to collaborate with other disciplines,” said Holden. “I believe science can play a big role in fashion; there’s so much opportunity to explore there.”

Holden also used scraps from a local Goodwill store to enhance some of her garments. “Re-use is very important to me,” she said. “During my interview and presentation I talked to the judges about how my collection was designed for Claiborne but the dye extraction idea could change the sustainability of denim manufacturing overall.”

Holden is not sitting still; she will be an intern at Abercrombie & Fitch this summer. “I am having an amazing journey at Marist,” she said. “It all started with the Freshman Florence Experience. When I returned from Florence to Marist’s main campus in New York, it was a big change.  But Marist is more than a top fashion school. It’s a supportive community and that makes all the difference.”

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