Chico’s Senior Manager, CAD Design, Christina Kusek always knew she wanted to be an artist. After graduating from Syracuse University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 2001, she got a job in New York City, where she designed prints for some of the most renowned companies in the home fashion industry, including F. Schumacher & Co. and Stark Carpet. Christina joined Chico’s in 2008, drawn by what she describes as the “artistry, heritage, and passion” of the brand. Bringing her diverse artistic skills to the table, she creates many of the one-of-a-kind, chic motifs that captivate our customers every month, such as her latest print that combines floral, geometrics, and a variety of hues.
Did you always know that you wanted to be a designer? What other art forms have you worked in?
I have always known that I wanted to be a designer. The question was “What kind of designer?” As a young girl, I had an interest in sketching gowns, but unfortunately the sewing gene skipped a generation with me!
I then found my passion for clay arts, wheel-thrown ceramics, and sculpture, where I lived in the art studio daily. I thought I was going to be a ceramic artist until Syracuse opened my eyes to the world of possibilities within 2-D and 3-D art forms and, ultimately, the art of surface pattern. I also had a concentration in fiber arts and fell in love with the woven structure and how I could create a whole new world of sculpture with threads and multimedia.
Where do you find artistic inspiration, and what apparel designers do you especially admire?
I get inspired by history, art history, nature, and architecture. I find the intricacy of the details fascinating, the cultural styles of ornament, and the evolution throughout history. There’s something about bringing a little of the past to life in a modern way that gives me goosebumps. At the same time, it’s important not to overthink things. I approach my work by letting my intuition guide me, no matter what I do.
As for apparel designers, there are so many “greats,” but my all-time favorite is Oscar de la Renta. I like designers who honor print and pattern in an elegant and timeless way, using it to accentuate the body as an art form. I also love emotional florals, exquisite embellishments adorned with gold threads, intricate beadwork, and the gowns that take your breath away.
Have you always been drawn to prints? What about them appeals to you?
The technical side of me loves prints for the science behind them—the “How did they do that?” factor. From the dyes to the fibers, prints put their stamp on things. Prints are personal; they can be ever so subtle or take on a personality, mood, or season.
It’s important to offer a balance between statement pieces and what we call “calmer” pieces that accentuate our customers’ wardrobes with small-scale and mini prints that can almost read as a solid, with just a touch of something special. I love color mixing. I’ll put rich purples and reds together, shades that light fire and warmth in my heart. On the flip side, I can also really melt into a good watercolor blend of teals to greens—colors that take me out to sea.
What was the motivation behind your latest print for March 2020?
This artwork was one of the last pieces of the puzzle for the March collection. We were almost there, but something was missing. Building it was a compilation inspired by all the brilliant pieces and feminine touches we had layered into the line: variations of the traditional and modern floral, bold geometrics, and a gamut of colors juxtaposed to live harmoniously. A patchwork is a perfect avenue to bring together all the nuances and subtleties of the collection. It instantly conveys, “I’m unique. I tell a story.”
“I get inspired by history, nature, and architecture. There’s something about bringing a little of the past to life in a modern way that gives me goosebumps. At the same time, I approach my work by letting my intuition guide me.” —Christina Kusek
Can you elaborate a bit on your creative process—from initial concept to final execution?
I always start by doing some research. At Chico’s, we have an amazing team that sets the mood and tone of the season, a jumping-off point that informs what we do and how we will bring these prints to life. If I am painting something specific, I like to research imagery to make sure what I create is authentic—how a petal falls, architectural structures, or how a bird might perch. Sometimes a print is painted in sections and then manipulated and put together like an intricate puzzle on a computer and possibly strategically engineered for a specific garment.
Whether it’s a large masterpiece or an overall repeat of a paisley, animal, floral, or dotted print, all designers do a lot of revising. Our final artwork is put into repeats or built out for engineered placements. It is then prepared for production by color separating for rotary or screen printing and digital methods.
What’s your vision for 2020?
I am most excited that 2020 inspires so many of us to let go and let’s see. 2020 shines a spotlight on new awareness to what we truly desire, what fulfills and uplifts us. And that includes our customers, as well. My goal is to keep shining that light, as well as receiving that beautiful glow in return from our customers.