From Physics to Fashion

Two University of Texas fashion seniors unveil what really goes on behind the scenes of UT’s fashion show, Synthesis, scheduled for April 19.

By Alessandra Rey, Photos by Alessandra Rey and Ed Lehman
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Before Coco Chanel ventured into fashion, she worked as a cabaret singer in the early 1900s. Vivienne Westwood was a primary-school teacher before building her own fashion empire, and prior to dominating the wedding industry, Vera Wang was known only as a figure skater. 

For Van Anh “Annie” Le and Hailey Sellars, two of the University of Texas’ most promising textiles-and-apparel students, fashion wasn’t a first choice either. 

“I was originally a physics major,” Sellars says. “I was looking for something more creative. I’ve always been interested in making things. In the 5th grade, my dad bought a sewing machine and I was obsessed with that thing for the longest time.” 

Sellars, 21, switched majors after her first semester and will graduate with a concentration in apparel design and a business certificate. 

Coincidentally, Le was also a physics major. 

“I’m also a pre-med student. I found out that there was a textiles-and-apparel program at UT, which I didn’t know about, and it got me thinking. But I didn’t think I was creative enough,” Le confides. 

Now both in their senior year, Le and Sellars will get the opportunity to show off their own five-piece collection to a room of UT staff, students and prominent fashion moguls. The fashion show, Synthesis, is a culmination of the students’ yearlong work on their masterpieces, which include active and evening wear. 

The students are in charge of their pieces from start to finish, including brainstorming, sketching and producing. Sellars says she first found her inspiration in nature. 

“I’ve been really obsessed with pleats lately. In palm leaves, for example, there are a lot of repetitive patterns. I just love how structured and neat it is.” 

Le giggles as she praises her classmate’s work. 

“Her pieces are actually really beautiful,” she says. 

Le explains she has an obsession with a technique called structured volume, which uses various textures to create space within the fabrics themselves. 

“I look at architecture as a starting point for my designs,” Le says. “For my collection, I found a lot of different fabrics with different weights. They all act differently, depending on how you use it. The entire collection is going to be in pink-mauve color because, well, it’s my favorite color.” 

The students work together in their Advanced Apparel Design course, which meets twice a week in a lab from 2 to 5:30 p.m. in UT’s Gearing Hall. 

“But we’re in the lab way more than that,” the girls say almost simultaneously.  

It’s true many are unaware of just how many hours go into orchestrating such a magnificent event. And Le and Sellars are eager to share their own experiences. 

“I left the lab yesterday at 1:30 in the morning,” Sellars says. “I only left because I had class at 10 a.m. that day.” 

Le confides she wants the fashion-show audience to realize how much time and effort the class has put into their designs.

“We spend a lot of late nights, a lot of sacrificing in terms of food and sleep. Not to make it sound bad, but that is a part of what we do,” she says.

Even with the late nights and missed meals, both rising designers can’t help but discuss their projects with pride. 

“When you tell people you’re majoring in fashion, they always give you this look,” Sellars says, and Le is quick to nod in agreement. “They either think it’s really cool or that it’s unstable. I think they think it’s really easy, and its not. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.” 

Le admits many of her fellow students think of fashion as just clothes, “but it’s so much more than that,” she adds. 

Both students, though unsure of their full-time career paths after graduation, are excited to keep fashion an important aspect in their lives. 

“I have an internship in New York this summer,” Sellars says. “I’m not sure if I’d want to stay there after, but fashion is all I’ve done, and what I want to continue to do.”  


Synthesis is produced by UT’s University Fashion Group and takes place at 7 p.m. April 19 at the Frank Erwin Center.


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