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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Crafting a sustainable style: Exploring the Wond’ry Fiber Arts Lab’s fashion innovations

Discover how the Wond’ry Fiber Arts Lab is revolutionizing fashion design through sustainability, and learn how you can join the movement.
Scarlett Mickel
The Fiber Arts Build Lab Makerspace equipped with eight industrial sewing machines, as captured on March 7, 2024. (Hustler Multimedia/Scarlett Mickel)

From a professor’s corner desk with a singular sewing machine to an entire Makerspace equipped with eight industrial sewing machines, design spaces and dress forms, the Fiber Arts Lab, also known as the FAB Lab, in the Wond’ry has grown exceptionally since its founding in 2022 and seeks major initiatives in its future. 

Professor Sargent Capps founded and currently runs the FAB Lab here at Vanderbilt. She, along with her new team of maker technicians, have curated the space to welcome designers at all levels. She hopes to foster an environment that uplifts the unique endeavors of each designer. 

“One of the main goals of the FAB Lab is to inspire and build student’s creative confidence and resilience inside and outside of their classes,” Professor Sargent Capps said. 

Due to growing student interest in fashion and design, the FAB Lab adapted from the professor’s personal workspace into an interactive and remarkable Makerspace open for all students, faculty and alumni. The FAB Lab focuses on adaptive and sustainable fashion, encouraging students to make their own clothing from recycled fabrics or redesign current pieces to be more functional. Students are free and encouraged to use all materials at their disposal for their creative projects. 

Current projects

Tobi Akisanya, a senior, is working to redesign medical gowns to be more accessible and functional for doctors and nurses. The renovated gown consists of layered diagonal pockets along the front, making it easier for medical practitioners to assess their tools while being fashionable at the same time. 

Senior Tobi Akisanya’s prototype for the medical gown redesign, as captured on March 7, 2024. (Hustler Multimedia/Scarlett Mickel) (Scarlett Mickel)

Akisanya is not the only student creating adaptable pieces like this. Professor Sargent Capps noted that other undergraduate and graduate students come in with radical designs in hopes of reinventing the norm. 

Two of these students, seniors Sophia Chung and Yunah Song, co-founders and co-presidents of Heart Strings, have collaborated with the FAB Lab to create sustainable toys to donate to the Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. 

Through workshops, the club members [and] FAB Lab staff make plushie stuffed dinosaurs and bereavement envelopes to serve the Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital,” Professor Sargent Capps said. 

The FAB Lab is involved with various projects across campus as well. Fashion Week is actively using the FAB Lab and its resources to bring students’ clothing lines to life. Vanderbilt Fashion Week is scheduled for the end of March, where a team of students are working hard to produce and design the show. This year, it will be hosted in the Wond’ry and would not be possible without the resources and maker technicians at the FAB Lab. Every day, student designers enter the FAB Lab to work on their pieces and grow their lines for the show. 

Getting involved 

For students interested in joining, the FAB Lab hosts two fundamental workshops a week that are suggested for beginner sewers to take before accessing the tools at the FAB Lab. The hour-and-a-half workshop focuses on learning the basics of sewing, like working an industrial sewing machine, sewing along a line and designing a miniature pillow. The hope is that new designers can walk away with the basics to start and learn the simplest ways to make their ideas tangible.

From there, students are welcome to use the maker space anytime they want during hours of operation. Located on the second floor of the Wond’ry, the space provides designers with sewing machines, fabric samples, sewing supplies and various notions. You’re likely to see one of the Maker Techs (students who work at the labs) like juniors Jeremiah Crosswhite and Lark Harrington, who will assist you in turning your sketches into tangible pieces. Harrington explained that the FAB Lab is super welcoming and gives off a homey environment. She mentioned enjoying helping in each workshop and guiding designers. 

“I find it super rewarding to watch students grow throughout the design process,” Harrington said. 

Students can also get involved by enrolling in one of five courses that directly use the FAB Lab as a learning space. These include 1001-07 (Commons iSeminar), THTR 3891: Sustainable and Adaptive Fashion Design and Production, THTR 1111-05 (First Year Writing Seminar): Sustainable Fashion Issues, Practices & Possibilities, THTR 2781: The History of Fashion and THTR 3741: Costume Design. 

First-year Vera Powell is currently in Sustainable and Adaptive Fashion Design & Production with Professor Sargent Capps. Since being in the class, Powell has a new appreciation for second-hand fashion, which has inspired her to make her own clothes at the FAB Lab. She is currently working on a new skirt for spring using the fabric, sewing machines and dress forms all provided by the FAB Lab. 

Current designs using the dress forms provided by the FAB Lab, as captured on March 7, 2024. (Hustler Multimedia/Scarlett Mickel) (Scarlett Mickel)

“I feel so lucky to be able to make any item I want here,” Powell said. “The FAB Lab provides resources to be sustainable, encouraging us to reinvent and recycle instead of buying something that consumes a lot of resources.” 

Hopes for the Future 

The FAB Lab plans to broaden its spectrum by interacting with other Makerspaces. The Wond’ry hopes to curate a seamless crossover between each Makerspace, integrating them under one roof. The Making and Design section of the Wond’ry consists of five different Makerspaces including the Mechanical Makerspace, Electrical Makerspace, Emerging Tech Lab, Virtual ArtLab Studio and of course the  Fiber Arts Build Lab. Currently, each Makerspace director shares ideas in weekly meetings with the incentive to compartmentalize into one homogenous Lab.

With these cross sections, the FAB Lab and the Wond’ry look to bring groups together that would have never crossed paths otherwise. As each of these projects develop, the FAB Lab hopes to serve the Vanderbilt campus and Nashville community as a whole, welcoming everyone and the designs they bring. No matter the skill level, no matter how extravagant the idea, the FAB Lab is there to help you every step of the way. 

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About the Contributor
Scarlett Mickel
Scarlett Mickel, Staff Writer
Scarlett Mickel (‘27) is from Santa Monica, Calif., and studies political science in the College of Arts and Science. She enjoys playing volleyball, baking cookies and thrifting in her free time. You can reach her at [email protected].
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