Lucy CRELLI ’13, Artist

Lucy CRELLI ’13 is a recent graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design who put her Apparel Design degree to the ultimate test when she presented her thesis collection at New York Fashion Week (NYFW) in September. Committed to creating garments that spark a conversation and shape a narrative, Lucy’s “The American Dream Collection” was her own personal political statement on the 2016 presidential election, combining bold colors, ethereal fabrics, and constricting, sculptural pieces on the runway. Not just an artist, but an activist and change agent on her college campus, Lucy served as president of the Global Initiative at RISD, a student-run organization dedicated to increasing engagement, collaboration, and community within the student body. Now back in Pittsburgh and searching for a job, Lucy shares what the NYFW experience was like and how Ellis inspired her higher education experience.
Years at Ellis:Grade 9 to Grade 12
Location:Pittsburgh, PA
Education:B.F.A. Apparel Design, Rhode Island School of Design

Tell us about the experience of presenting your own collection at New York Fashion Week (NYFW).
The NYFW experience was completely overwhelming but exciting! As soon as I got to the venue, I could see crowds of people at the entrance and street photographers snapping photos of impeccably dressed women—that's when it hit me that it was actually happening. It was incredible seeing my clothes on the runway, especially after knowing how many amazing designers had already displayed their work here just in the past week.

What inspired The American Dream Collection that you presented at NYFW?
I started my senior thesis collection knowing I wanted it to be a political statement. I began with the bra and then as the presidential election progressed, I realized I wanted to use my art to talk about current events. I was taking a course called 2016 Election at RISD and it was also my first time voting in a presidential election, so my thesis was really a culmination of my views, my art, and the issues I care about deeply.

What was the most exciting thing about showing at NYFW? What was the most challenging?
The most exciting thing was being able to experience something on this scale in the fashion industry. I’m not planning to pursue a career in fashion, but I do plan to continue my own creative practice in sculptural apparel. As for the most challenging, it was definitely intimidating to have so many industry professionals in the room. My work was a lot more sculptural and artsy than the other designers, so that was a bit nerve-racking because my collection was definitely more outside the box.

You had an Ellis alumna model in your show at New York Fashion Week, how did this come about?
Eleni (Eleni CONTIS ’14) went to RISD with me, and we were both on the cross country team at Ellis. We collaborated on a piece for a show about women’s social justice earlier this year. She didn’t model in my senior show at RISD, but once I found out I was going to be at NYFW, I needed some replacement models and happily, she was willing!

Why did you decide to pursue apparel design in college? Do you have plans to work in the fashion industry now that you have graduated?
I chose to study apparel design because I wanted my artwork to serve a purpose more than just self-expression. I want my artwork to be viewed as an avenue for change and I thought apparel design would be the best medium to do that. Fashion has a huge following of people who don’t necessarily keep tabs on the art world. There are commercial benefits and a reach to mainstream media outlets in fashion that you don’t necessarily have in the traditional art space. I also thought apparel design was a unique way to study feminism through the female form.

What inspired your love of art and fashion?
I’ve been an artist my whole life. I grew up taking classes at Carnegie Museum of Art and the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts. When considering high schools, I debated between Ellis and CAPA and ultimately chose Ellis because I wanted both the arts and an academic focus. Ellis ended up being the perfect decision and the teachers there, especially Ms. Moldovan and Ms. Sturdevant, still influence my work today. An anthropology focused course I took at Ellis made me realize my worldview was very limited and made me aware of all the injustices people face around the world. It really shaped my path and made me interested in studying humans.

What comes next for you?
My grand vision for my life and career is to use the arts as a tool to solve social justice issues.

How did Ellis influence your activism?
Ellis definitely changed my life. I didn’t realize until I came to Ellis how different my worldview was. Ellis taught me to be a leader, to not be afraid to speak up, and to use my voice. At Ellis, I was regularly learning about women’s issues and women in history. Before Ellis, I went to a coed Catholic school, and any mentions of women in history were sub-notes in history books. At Ellis and through Ms. Sturdevant’s three years of Art History courses, I began to view the representation of women differently and in turn, it influenced my perspective and my artwork.

How would you describe yourself in three words?
Passionate. Curious. Driven.

What does ‘Esse Quam Videri’ mean to you?
I never thought of the motto directly in connection to my work, but I really try to practice what I preach. The messages I preach can be seen in my artwork, and I make sure to practice these message in my community outreach and activism work.

What is the last book you read?
Woman: An Intimate Geography by Natalie Angier.