charlene haze alcantara


My first class of Garment Construction 1 entailed being acquainted with an industrial sewing machine, threading our new friends, and practicing perforations.

I’ll be working with machine 23, a Juki, that feels as if he can stitch n’ bitch at the speed of light. I haven’t mastered him yet. But I’ve been at home practicing with my baby Singer (who can’t even remotely compare to an industrial sewing machine’s speed) and going to the sewing lab in-between classes just so I can practice my perforations.

Perforations are great exercises for beginners or those who want to perfect their craft. By following the lines of a pattern on paper, you receive the feel of power and control of your machine while practicing your hand & eye coordination – an essential step before moving forward in your relationship, I say. 

We only need to turn in 3 sheets of these perforations, but I must have practiced with close to 30 sheets, only having 6 or 7 of them I’m truly proud of. 

Purchased a Rowenta iron the other day. It was a grip, but supposedly the best commercial iron that’s the closest you can get to a professional iron/steamer. 10-year warranty on the sole-plate means this baby is going to be with me for the rest of my career (unless I can ever afford the $600 irons we have in the workspace).  


Details of the Magazine Dress.

The dress had completely morphed away from the original sketch, as it truly was an experiment on material and sculpture. You can see that even in its final state shown in the photo shoot, how much it differs from its different stages of creation: preliminary sketch, ad selection, and mid-construction. 

I cannot stress how much effort and time this dress entailed. The final photo did not even serve it true justice because of the power of studio lights against glossy magazine pages. Nevertheless, I hope these snapshots serve as testament of how a tedious task of folding and cutting paper can lead to build a transformable sculpture. 


Drawing #5 for Drawing 1

This week’s drawing was a focus on draping. May seem intimidating, but the stripes on the fabric are supposed to serve as a guide. However, if you’re drawing this for over 4 hours, there are going to be times when you’re eyes are overly focused (aka - cross-eyed). I got lost a couple of times during this still life, but I learned that you have to simplify sometimes and focus on one section to make it “sing.”

This drawing was also our first grade in the glass - I got a 95.5%. 


We’re coming towards mid-terms this week, I can’t believe we’re already on Week 7 (I have tons to show you all!), and the one thing I’ve lucked out on this semester is having no mid-terms to stress about since my classes are mostly studio. But of course, there’s an undying balance in life that throws weekly projects/assignments that substitute the stress my other Columbia(ns) may be feeling this week. 

Lately, I’ve noticed myself on the edge. While lack of sleep and constant brainstorming or this “on” mentality probably contributes, I can’t help but harshly realize that sacrifice is a big play for my survival as well as success in Art/Fashion school. Streaming through Facebook can hurt (I know, lame) and so is being on the other side of the door while my roommates and their friends are chugging, laughing, and causing ruckus ‘til dawn approaches. Life seems so easy on the other side of that door.

But staying behind (or should we say stepping forward) is part of the job. What’s more bittersweet is realizing that I’m growing/drifting apart from the ones that I’ve grown up with. We’re all taking different paths. And while we share “how are you’s” and past memories, there’s no mutual stimulation about our current endeavors. Sacrifice. It teaches not only what is more currently/temporarily important, but may lead you to what you value in relationships/friendships. I seek stimulation, even out of drinking. Ever tried absinthe? 


I had to create my very first painting for 2-D Design, after we concentrated on the color wheel during class. Believe me when I say that I was not looking forward to this assignment. Only because 1) I didn’t know how to paint nor work with acrylic 2) I can’t even shade, so I felt like painting was jumping the gun. Nonetheless, I sucked it up, turned on John Coltrane and painted for hours and hours at end. We were to paint the perspective of outside our windows, but the cloudy and rainy days of Chicago’s weather was uninspiring with my boring block, so I painted one of my favorite photos I took of Chicago’s river and buildings. 

I was unsatisfied at first, because I tried to contribute complimentary or secondary colors to my painting but felt like my attempt fell short. However, the drowned colors and forced perspective from the midnight sky has contributed to it’s interesting factor. After many days (and acknowledgment from my class), I am proud at my first try at painting. 


My attempt at Futurism (with a little Dadaism) + dedication to S/he.

This assignment was for my 2-D class, where we experimented with collage materials to capture the sense of movement and statements of Futurism. I honestly love the playful manner of their typography and graphic design that came out of Futurism and almost arrogance of the art movement as a whole.

This took me hours and days at end, but luckily I automatically had a vision of this piece inspired from two rules from the Futurist Manifesto and one of my favorite poems by Saul Williams. 

2. The essential elements of our poetry will be courage, audacity and revolt.
  7. Beauty exists only in struggle. There is no masterpiece that has not an aggressive character. Poetry must be a violent assault on the forces of the unknown, to force them to bow before man.

From She
(Saul Williams)

i presented 
my feminine side 
with flowers

she cut the stems 
and placed them gently 
down my throat

and these tu lips 
might soon eclipse 
your brightest hopes


This is from our first week on working on our dress project. The first day, as mentioned before, was tracing, cutting, and transferring marks from our pattern pieces to our muslin and interfacing. I only hope that I get faster at this process, because it literally took the whole class almost 5 hours to do this (and leaving the rest for homework). 

Personally, I don’t mind the homework. I want to ensure that I keep my skill level high to build in good habits. Efficiency will only follow itself after repetition. 

After talking about line, drawing contours, and sketching portraits of our classmates, our homework assignment for 2D Design was to draw a self-portrait using conte crayons.

I’ve never been a fan of self-portraits, only because I’m afraid I’ll completely butcher or characterize myself. But I was actually quite proud of this one. 


Dress Project for Garment Construction I
Attaching interface to the bodice. 

As we’re steadily finishing the bodice and moving on towards a completion to the dress, I felt more caution when executing these next couple of steps when dealing with the bodice. Muslin is so transparent that it feels that one little mistake can alter your dress. 

Attaching the interface is comprised of several steps, including the curve seam finish, intersecting seams, and understitching the neckline. I felt that these have been the most difficult and most time-consuming. Nevertheless, so far so good though!


I’m new to all of this. I wasn’t aware about my interests in fashion or any prospects of making it as a career until I was 20 (although now looking back, I should have realized this sooner). And at 20, I was clueless and did not know anything about the industry, nor did I have the greatest fashion/style sense. I thought brand and fashion houses are the epitome of fashion and yet Forever 21 was god. Of course, I’ve learned and realized better.

I had no sewing experience prior to my first sewing class at Columbia. No drawing experience and never explored my artsy/creative side until college.

I never could afford the nicest clothes - streetwear, brand names, fashion houses. I don’t own a brand purse, or anything luxurious at that fact. I don’t even own an authentic pair of Jordans. Can you be fashionable and respected even without being glorified with brand names presently? Will I one day own a Marc Jacobs, Hellz Bellz, Dior, Jordans, Versace, Jeffrey Campbell, or Chanel, etc.?

Am I against all odds here? Is it even possible to ‘make it’ –  even if I’m not an original style rookie, haven’t been sewing my entire life, or only learned in my adulthood the contributions of Christian Dior to the fashion world? Is it possible to make it even if I’m not attending the most reputable fashion school(s) in our country (I’ve left Academy of Art and denied SAIC)? Can you receive an equivalent education and still go head-to-head or succeed from a more affordable art school?

Is it possible to become a successful fashion/technical designer or respectable creative person even though I’ve taken an unconventional route?

I believe you can. I may not become the next Karl Lagerfeld, but the next 3 years and beyond some can serve as a realistic experiment as to what can happen when you dream, believe, and apply yourself. Yes, It’s not going to be easy; I’m building from the ground up. But let’s hope I can live happily ever after – meet my fairy godmother and be connected to my dream after working incredibly hard and immersing myself into what I’d love to be/do for the rest of my life.

Excuse the tiny photo, but we’re a tiny class.

My Garment Construction 1 class. :)

I’m thankful that we have such a small, but intimate class setting. My class and I are able to learn more efficiently and effectively, yet still receive one-on-one time with our instructor. And since this is my first construction or sewing class ever (I have no previous knowledge/skill), this environment is welcoming for the rest of the program. I was intimidated to walk into this class the very first day, but the stereotypes of snooty classmates or instructors were definitely debunked after the first 10 minutes. 



Never again, will I ever screw-up or not know how to finish a seam using the turned-and-stitch method. It only took me three weeks to keep correcting my small mistakes, but the point proves itself – persistence pays off.

Now I currently hold a 100% in the class. 


Our first day of 2-D Design was a nice warm-up and practice for our hands and eyes. The first drawing practices included the infamous lesson of Blind Contour Drawing, or when you can only keep your eyes on the subject. In this instance, the subject was our free hand, and our eyes could never meet the paper during drawing. By keeping engaged with the subject and never lifting your charcoal, you practice and train yourself to “see the line” instead of focusing on what you think you see. It’s harder than it sounds. A hand may just be a hand, but its outline contains small grooves and nuances beyond the five-finger silhouette that only when seeing can you notice. 

This was followed by Semi-Blind Contour drawing exercises, when you are able to peer at your paper once in awhile, helping apply accuracy to your drawing while still concentrating on seeing the line.