By Lesley Snyder
An eye for design must be in the jeans. Daughter of Stephen and Judy Selin of Selin + Selin Architecture, 23-year-old fashion designer Morgan Selin was recently declared the winner of the Supima Design Competition, a “battle of the strands” among eight graduating seniors of the nation’s top design schools. The contest culminated with a runway show at Lincoln Center, NYC as part of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week. A Project Runway-esque competition sponsored by the Supima cotton company, the event was created to highlight young, up-and-coming designers. Contestants created a women’s eveningwear collection, each gown constructed solely of one type of unprocessed Supima fabric (denim, knit, corduroy, twill, or shirting); and Selin made it work. Transforming her kitchen and bathtub into makeshift dye labs, nearly every piece was hand-dyed and -sewn, as experimentation with new textile treatments and techniques added an award-winning level of complexity to her garments.
From designing elaborate Halloween costumes as a child, Selin went on to earn a BFA in Apparel Design from Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) earlier this year. Her passion never fit a pattern and neither has her clothing. Teaching herself to sew and hand-knit at a young age, Selin was too free-wheeling to settle for store-bought designs. It is this homegrown talent and drive for innovation that helps propel Selin’s creations onto the runway – and someday into entrepreneurship. “I’ve made a pact with myself,” she divulges, “that I will only join the market if I have something truly new and unique to add.” Her clothing certainly isn’t off-the-rack. Layers of intricately-sculpted fabrics, Selin’s pieces are constructed with an attention to detail that is seam-deep. “Despite my love of organic asymmetry,” she shares, “clean construction is important to me. With all the pieces I create, I try to hold myself to a standard where the inside of the garment is as beautifully finished as the outside. Even if no onlooker will ever see the inside, I want each garment to have integrity.” Her design philosophy has paid off. Not only did RISD faculty appoint her to represent the school in the Supima competition, but thanks to a faculty nomination, Teen Vogue featured Selin as one of six graduating design students in an article entitled “Head of Class: Get to know this year’s best student designers.” There’s no skirting around it: Selin is all dressed up with everywhere to go.
The concept for Selin’s Supima collection draws from nature: “the deep currents of the ocean” and “the texture of weathered metal,” Selin poetically describes. In hues of cool blue and silver, her collection practically floated across the runway, each gown drawing in the next as if on the cusp of a wave, like the ebb and flow of the tides. Selin’s stunning designs won her $10,000, which she plans to invest in a high-quality dress form and an industrial leather machine to expand her line of leather jackets. “It’s how I’ll make my bread-and-butter money,” Selin explains. As for a future career, there’s no design quite yet. In another decade or so, Selin would like to start her own clothing company using natural fibers and leather. Until she gains more industry experience, Selin intends to freelance while job-seeking. “There are several designers I admire,” she confides, “and I hope that if I am politely and respectfully persistent, I can convince one of them to hire me.”
Growing up in the Green Mountains, Selin’s designs and industry perspective spring from her Vermont roots. “I draw most of my inspiration from the natural world,” she reveals. Now that’s she’s found her sea legs on the high-profile runway, the current is sure to sweep her into the limelight again. “No matter where I end up living in the coming years,” Selin reassures, “I will always keep Vermont close at heart.”