If a career in basketball after college unravels for Duke senior women’s basketball player Erin Mathias, then maybe she can take a whirl in the fashion industry.
Mathias, who is a visual and media studies major and an I&E certificate student, pulled together her own fashion collection this summer. She debuted it Thursday at a campus fashion show.
“I kind of grew up in a very hands-on and creative home and always making things,” Mathias said. “So the design aspect kind of came naturally to me. I just really fell in love with the whole industry.”
Mathias is proud of her collection. She said she went through about 40 sketches before settling on nine looks that made her catwalk cut. The final selection included 29 garments with six looks designed for women and three for men. However, some of them could be easily worn by women or men.
Mathias said she favors working with denim and leather. She sources her materials from various places. She’s even been known to dig through the bins at The Scrap Exchange for material and inspiration. Recently she grabbed a bunch of bottle caps that she re-purposed as embellishments on a dress design.
“I went in there and I noticed they had a large bucket of bottle caps so I bought a whole bunch and I decided to spray paint them different colors,” Mathis said.
Mathias’ interest in fashion goes back a long time. Some of her first projects as a child were turning old pairs of jeans into purses.
Her reason now for sewing and designing is practicality.
She makes many of her own clothes and often alters those which she has purchased. Standing 6-foot-4, the sometimes-starter, otherwise key reserve Duke post player said she doesn’t find many clothes that fit right off the rack.
“I usually make everything fit myself,” Mathias said. “I do wear a lot of it. It is obviously difficult for someone so tall to find pants, especially that fit in length, jackets that fit in length. It’s nice to fix it myself.”
But she’s not yet the chief designer for the team. That could change after the fashion show. She’s had five teammates modeling her designs.
“I haven’t specifically made anything for anyone, yet,” Mathias said. “But having them model my clothes is really cool.”
Mathias said she started getting serious about sketching and sewing during her freshman year at Duke. Her interest in fashion led to a New York City internship with designer Charles Harbison.
“Being in New York City and being surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the fashion industry, I saw how competitive it is,” Mathias said.
During her two months in New York, Mathias said one of best memories was assisting on session destined to outfit Beyoncé for a awards show. While she didn’t get to meet the superstar singer/actress, Mathias said helping sew a button onto the outfit was a lot of fun.
“I got to put an outfit together for her and sew on a few buttons onto a jacket that she would eventually try on so that was very cool,” Mathias said.
Her influences are classic designers.
“I look up to people like Diane von Furstenberg,” Mathias said. “She’s just a very prominent female in the fashion industry. She’s definitely up there with top, top-ranking firms.”
Mathias said fashion designers have to be self-starters and that’s why she’s sought out entrepreneurship opportunities, as well.
“I’ve gotten to take some really cool courses and learn about entrepreneurship,” Mathias said. “It has allowed me to go ahead with this whole fashion thing and be creative.”