Chicago is making waves in the world of fashion, and one of the city's fashion students is doing it cruelty-free.
Tammy Montella, a 22-year-old recent graduate of the Illinois Institute of Art-Chicago, is a finalist in The Humane Society of the United States' nationwide "Cool vs. Cruel" design competition.
The competition asked Art Institute students from around the country to reinterpret runway designs by Diane von Furstenberg, Tom Ford, Derek Lam or Moncler using no animal products whatsoever. Fur, silk, leather and wool were banned. The competition this year even ruled out faux fur.
"You learn how to use alternative by being more creative," said Montella, who currently lives in Munster, Ind.
She reworked a Diane von Furstenberg jacket with a fur collar, leather sleeves and alligator detailing into an animal-free design using different polyester blends to give a fur and leather-like texture. Printed chiffon polyester cut into squares were used in place of fur on the collar, while the new sleeves were made of stenciled plastic-coated polyester.
"It's a really fun competition that [Art Institute students] really should participate in," Montella said.
She is one of 21 students from the Art Institute schools around the country chosen as finalists in the competition, now in its ninth year. The national grand-prize winner will earn a cash prize as well as an all-expense-paid, week-long internship in New York City with one of the competition judges.
Before "Cool vs. Cruel," Montella was accustomed to using creative design techniques to work around using expensive animal-based materials.
"As a student you dream of [using animal-based materials], but when you're on a tight budget you don't use fur anyway," Montella said. "I was never really into it anyway, I'm more of a hand-knits or synthetics designer."
Montella typically finds inspiration for her designs in artwork, citing Andy Warhol as one of her favorite artists and major inspirations.
"Also just nature in general, architecture--anything that's very art-inspired," Montella said.
The winner of 2013's "Cool vs.Cruel" will be announced at the end of this week.
Want more? Discuss this article and others on RedEye's Facebook page.