Project Long Talk

T-Shirts as Art

March 14, 2013 | 17 Comments

I walked past the colored cardigans, chunky jewelry pieces, gold-buttoned blazers, and processed to Crewcuts, the children’s line of J. Crew.  Seeing the pint-sized clothing bursting with color, sparkles, and textures I couldn’t help but feel ten years old again and was elated. When I shared this feeling of excitement with Jenny Cooper ’89, designer and creator of Crewcuts she says, “we want to let all little girls share in the excitement of clothing, sparkly things, the pleasure of a great fitting jean, and the splash of a color that tugs at your heartstrings!”

Cooper grew up in the Berkshires and was excited to move to the city of Hartford for college. Ready for a change, and the structure of an urban setting, she came to Trinity wide eyed and started her education with the Guided Studies program as a freshman. “When I was ten years old, I bought a multi colored seersucker fabric and made a pair of pantalones, and matching tube top,” says Cooper. She has always liked making clothes and her mother allowed it, even when it was outside of the box. Cooper majored in Fine Arts at Trinity and her roommate can even attest that her creation of clothing was happening on late nights in their dorm room in Anadama.

Beyond Trinity’s campus, Cooper wanted to see the world. She studied abroad in Florence, Italy and loves the impact that travel has on design. “My memories are not so much educational, or class related, but figuring out who I wanted to be,” Cooper says of Trinity. She interned at Real Art Ways and was able to explore what she wanted while still getting a well-rounded education.

According to Cooper, Crewcuts was conceived as much because people internally wanted more choices and fortunately the customers agreed. Prior to designing Crewcuts, Cooper worked primarily with women’s sweaters. She has been at J. Crew for 13 years.  Her favorite aspect of the job is the participation of her boys in the creation of the clothes and colors.  Cooper explains, “There is something very emotional about color.”

Cooper is so successful at what she does because she feels emotionally connected and involved in the process of designing the line. She gets excited when I mention sparkles and explains that Crewcuts is actually creating their own colors of glitter fabric. Cooper says, “as a company, we are very tactile and visual.” J. Crew designers are able to see everything they produce before they produce it.

Her favorite item within Crewcuts is the t-shirt. Cooper says, “T-shirts are wearable art, not everybody does art, but everybody gets dressed.” Everyone does have to choose what they wear for themselves. With her fine arts background, Cooper uses her Trinity education every day, creating wearable art for lucky children.

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