Salem High School grad can design clothes, the yearbook
By SARA GREGORY
Jun. 18, 2017
SALEM, Va. (AP) — Last year, Isaac Robertson got a request from his best friend: Would he make her senior prom dress?
Hannah Coulling had complete confidence in Robertson, who graduates from Salem High School and is headed to the Parsons School of Design in the fall. Robertson, who'd made clothes for Coulling before, agreed.
Robertson sketched out a design and with Coulling's approval, began sewing the white woven silk dress with a deep v-neck, ruffles and gold trim. He finished the dress on the day of prom and brought it to his friend. Sewn to her measurements, it fit perfectly.
"It was the most beautiful dress I've ever had," Coulling said. "Having him make a dress for me is probably one of the most memorable things, something I'll never forget."
At that evening's prom at the Taubman Museum of Art, word spread quickly about Coulling's bespoke dress.
"Everyone was coming up to me at prom and telling me to stand up and turn around," she recalled. "It was pretty cool, honestly."
Robertson's love of fashion started with music— Lady Gaga in particular. He was drawn to the way she used fashion to complement her music and came to see fashion as an outlet for his own feelings.
"Fashion's a really great medium to express myself and also create," Robertson said. "Something really intrigued me about being able to transform into anything you want to be for that day. There's a lot of power in it."
The past two summers, he's taken classes at Parsons and another New York design school, the Fashion Institute of Technology. At Parsons, he took an introduction to sewing class for six hours every day, learning to master the basic tools of the trade.
Being around other fashion students was a new and welcome experience, Robertson said. His Salem classmates appreciate his interest but don't share it themselves. In New York, his classmates came from all around the world and challenged him.
"It really just confirmed that this is where I'm meant to be," Robertson said.
Robertson spent the early part of the fall working on his portfolio for Parsons, making dresses, pants and tops to showcase his work. Classmates modeled the creations, all heavily influenced by the 1970s.
When designing, Robertson said he tries to think first of where a person would wear what he's creating. From there, he can visualize the music and atmosphere that are part of that scene and start to create.
Once the portfolio was submitted to Parsons, Robertson shifted his attention to the school's yearbook. He served this year as co-editor-in-chief and art director and designed most of the book.
The style principles he's learned designing the yearbooks translates to his fashion designs and vice versa, Robertson said. It's another way for him to express himself and tell the story of the school. This year's book features a letterman style "S'' on the front of the book, an idea that came from an ad in a fashion magazine that Robertson clipped and taped to the yearbook classroom's wall.
Katie Lewis, an English teacher at Salem High School and the yearbook's adviser, said Robertson is full of natural talent. His artistic skills were apparent as soon as he joined the yearbook his sophomore year, she said.
It's uncommon for someone in their second year on staff to take a top leadership role, Lewis said, but Robertson was picked to be art director his junior year. The yearbook he designed that year won the Columbia Scholastic Press Association's gold crown award, the top honor for student yearbooks.
"He's probably one of the most independent student designers I've had," Lewis said. "He just knew what he wanted and could make it happen."