Follow me: Exploring sustainable fashion

Alumni mentors share their workplace and knowledge with rising seniors

Debbie Kane
October 30, 2023
Student cuts fabric during fashion intership
Mentor: Heiji Black '96, clothing designer
Student: Katelyn Cui

Katelyn Cui ’24 worked alongside Heiji Black ’96 at Jeune Otte, Black’s sustainable women’s clothing brand, based in Chicago. Cui worked on all elements of the business, including sewing buttons, posting on social media and cutting patterns; the primary focus was preparing the brand’s spring/summer 2024 collection fora fall photo shoot. 

All of Jeune Otte’s clothing items are made in are purposed leather tannery using fabrics that are deadstock, mill end, organic or recycled. “We try to minimize our footprint,” Black says. “Part of our business model is education around sustainability.” 

“The Jeune Otte team’s connection with the people in their area and those with shared goals was what made it possible to source their fabric and produce locally,” Cui says. “Sharing with the community was the best way to build momentum and support.

”Among her greatest takeaways from the internship: informal conversations with her colleagues. “My co-workers and I just talked about life,” Cui says. “I learned about the fashion industry and what life is like after academics.”

She fit in easily at the studio. “You really have to know yourself,” Black says, “be confident and want to learn in order to absorb what is going on in a new environment. At the Harkness table you learn how to ask good questions and have an opinion. Katelyn did it in a kind and humble way. She was a total rock star.

This story was originally published in the fall 2023 issue of The Exeter Bulletin.

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