Alumna wins Fulbright to study fashion in Nepal
Published: Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, September 7, 2010 01:09
As concerns about environmental sustainability grow in the fashion industry, university alumna Bethany Meuleners believes the fashion world could learn a lesson or two from the apparel culture of developing nations. Meuleners was recently awarded the Fulbright Scholarship to spend 10 months in the Kathmandu Valley of Nepal studying local apparel practices and applying them to fashion.
Meuleners, who graduated from the university in 2005 with a double major in apparel design and fashion merchandising, said she wanted to study the work of local artisans in Nepal and examine how those techniques can be incorporated into mainstream fashion.
"I wanted to go to a country that was rich in textile and apparel crafts, but that wasn't as prominent in the fashion world and was a little more remote," Meuleners said.
She received a Master's degree in fashion and knitwear design from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco this spring. Her previous experiences studying in London and Peru inspired her to apply for the scholarship, Meuleners said.
"Traveling has definitely affected my perspective and designing," she said. "It was traveling to Peru on a study abroad at UD that drove me to wanting to do the Fulbright. Having a more global perspective gives you so much more to draw from for inspiration."
The Fulbright scholarship, which is aimed at improving understanding between different cultures, will cover her travel expenses, housing and everyday costs.
"They have it laid out so that you can live comfortably in the country you are going to," she said.
Meuleners debuted her first collection in February during the Academy of Art University fashion show at Mercedes-Benz New York Fashion Week. She also recently launched be.sa, a San Francisco-based clothing label, with fellow Academy of Art University alumna Sabah Mansoor Husain.
Meuleners said her next collection will focus on sustainability and social responsibility, drawing from her experiences during her trip to Nepal.
"I will be working with local artisans to learn the local knitting and felting techniques, and then work on how these could be incorporated into modern fashion while remaining culturally relevant and sustainable for their economy," she said. "Ultimately, I would like to design a collection with this in mind."
Meuleners has lived abroad and traveled extensively, and she said each country brings new challenges, perspectives and opportunities.
"I've never been to Asia, so there will definitely be a certain amount of culture shock," she said. "But new ideas come from new experiences. There is so much more to see and learn from if we step outside of our comfort zones."