Founding Chair, Fashion Design
Brantley founded Otis Fashion Design, and has been teaching for 32 years. She has invited leading fashion designers such as Isabel Toledo, Francisco, Costa, Todd Oldham and Cynthia Rowley to act as mentors for design projects that are shown on the runway each May. Brantley, a graduate of Parsons School of Design, took a sabbatical and traveled to Ecuador and the Galapagos, where she continued her research about sustainable design.
I had imagined the Galapagos as the last pure, clean place on earth but found it contaminated by the huge growth in tourism, and the problems brought by man (including pigs, rats, dogs) that upset the ecosystems. Unfortunately, most flora and fauna across the islands are endangered. But what inspired Darwin’s theories about the interconnectedness of species and the balance of nature remained there for me to see. Centuries later, finches still eat the fungus off turtles and red crabs continue to “groom” iguanas.
I brought those Darwinian concepts back to Otis Fashion Design to encourage the collaboration that comes from the interconnectedness among faculty and students, the process of living and working and learning together. Uplifted and inspired, I returned to teaching with a renewed commitment to sustainable fashion design.
During my sabbatical, while spending time on my own professional fashion design practice, I came to the realization that the retail world is not ready for sustainable design that requires too much explanation. We are teaching our students that fashion design must change in order to sustain our planet. But I recognize that there is still a lack of understanding in the industry and among consumers. They both need to be taught the sustainable principles. To be truly successful at fashion now and in the future, education will need to be a part of the design process.