MECA 2019 | Cal Murphy

By Amanda Whitegiver | Photos by Amanda Whitegiver
May 3, 2019

With the MECAmorphosis and Senior Thesis show drawing the school year to a close, we interviewed MECA’s four Fashion & Textile Design Majors about their inspiration and what comes next.

Cal Murphy creates for the love of sewing and the process of creating. Her satiric take on the juxtaposition of old and new results in playful, refreshing designs.


IG: @heart_junk

A: How did you get into this field? What drew you to fashion/design?

C: I went to art school because I knew I wanted to make things. I like sewing and I took an intro to textiles class at MECA. It became clear right away that this was the best fit.

A: Why Maine; Why MECA?

C: I’m from Western Mass, a pretty rural part of it. I liked MECA because it is a similar size to my high school, with not too many people. I also have some family in Portland, and it was nice to know they were there in case I had a “Freshman breakdown” or something [chuckle]

A: Discuss your creative process, and the inspirations for these projects. What is the degree of work that actually goes into the production of a line? Connect people to the clothes and the labor of love that is fashion design.

C: I think it’s worth noting, I don’t design to sell. I really like the idea of [the designs] being one-off things. The designs I’m making for the thesis project are more of a joke; a satire on using the language of clothes and playing with those ideas. Most of my inspirations are really Sociology based: I love sociology- fashion itself is kind of a compact pre-existing a language. There are symbols that have meanings, and I like to see what happens to those meanings when I throw different things together

A: What are you favorite components of design? What are your greatest challenges? how do you address those challenges?

C: I Iove the processes of [pattern] drafting, sketching, the fitting, the nit-picky little hand sewing. None of that lends itself to selling. I enjoy the challenge of “Hey, I found this in a dumpster, can you recreate it?” Time presents the greatest challenge, in order to include the details I enjoy adding.

I think this Program could benefit from being a three year program, to really give everyone a good foundation. We learn a lot about different stitches, using the machines, drafting, processes; there is so much more we could learn with another year.

A: What are your plans post graduation?

C: After graduation, I’m heading into a Theater costuming internship. That is really where I see my work, in more of a Theater,Performance,Costume, or conceptual plane. It is more of a service than a product, about navigating people’s relationship with their clothes.

A: At what point do you feel like you will be able to say “I’ve made it” What does “making it” look like for you?

C: I think identifying a specific career point or skill set defeats the purpose for me. If I ever reach a point where I feel satisfied with everything I can do, I think that will be the end….I want to learn as many techniques as possible, I want to do as much as possible. I don’t need to be an expert in any of it, but I want to try everything; maybe it’s a selfish urge.  

I feel that within the garment industry, there’s a sort of capitalist-enforced helplessness. People don’t know how to sew a button on a shirt, so they buy a new shirt. The skills I’m gaining here [at MECA] and the things I’m trying to pursue help me respect my objects more, and from a sustainability aspect I feel good about that. And if I can help others, that would be nice, too.

The struggle I’m faced with is where I’m supposed to fit in a very capitalist, fast-fashion world, as someone who doesn’t really ever want to touch that, but obviously has to in [the sewing and design] capacity. I need to figure out what my relationship with that is, what I owe myself through it, and what other people need from it, that I can provide. It seems like tailoring is probably the answer [chuckle]

I don’t feel the need to have a recognized brand, for people to say “That’s a Cal design.”

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