Chanté Gossett is an independent FASHION DESIGNER from Kansas City specializing in hand-dyed and printed textiles. Her vision is directed by patterns, prints, and silhouettes and her work is meant to be functional, thoughtful, and inspired. Her goal is to create garments that bridge the gap between fashion as art and fashion as function. She earned her degree in Textile Design from the University of Kansas.
WHAT ROLE DID FASHION PLAY WHEN GROWING UP? HAVE YOU ALWAYS BEEN INTERESTED IN FASHION AND TEXTILES?
Oh man, absolutely! My family was never very big on fashion, but I was always a very particular person about aesthetics. I often refused to wear certain clothes growing up and was a complete brat about it at times. I can’t say much has changed but I’ve gotten a little better, hah. In middle school I carried a sketchbook everywhere I went and was constantly sketching designs and coming up with insane garments that I wished I could create. I never really had the means or the skills to actually execute them until I was in my last couple years of college when I began really focusing on making garments.
Your work often features fabric that you hand dye. How did you get started in this technique?
My degree from KU is in Textile Design. It’s in the Fine Arts program and is pretty rigorous as far as teaching technical skills. You learn weaving, dyeing, printing, crochet, knit, felting, basketry, digital and hand rendering, and of course sewing. Sewing is the basis of most everything.
There is not really any fashion programs in Kansas so I felt that this was the closest thing. Growing up, I really enjoyed art and fashion. I guess that’s how I directed all those skills to clothing. The hand-made fabrics are really the most important aspect of it all. It’s something completely unique that cannot be replicated. Especially with dying, you never know what type of results you’ll get which is amazing at times but can also really set you back if you’re trying to achieve something specific.
I was always attracted to functional fashion. A lot of “fashion as art” can often be pretentious in many regards. I think a lot of avant garde “fashion as art” is incredible, beautiful, thought provoking and inventive but also unattainable. I personally don’t create pieces like that because that’s not who I am as an artist. I want to create something that feels like it could exist within the realm of functional fashion but has some unique quality that makes it distinct but also unassuming. Textile Design really fits into that notion extremely well and has allowed me a lot of creative freedom to play with materials, techniques and processes.
“I want to create something that feels like it could exist within the realm of functional fashion...”
Describe your process and how an idea becomes a garment for you.
I start each collection with the fabric. I determine whether I’ll be printing, dying, embellishing etc. The designing of the actual silhouettes come after I’ve nailed down a solid concept for the fabric or the print of the collection. After I design the garments, I being doing dye and print tests. This usually takes several weeks of trying different techniques and doing various color tests before I can get the results that I want. After the tests, I begin creating yardage for the collection.
One of the techniques I use to create my fabric is a printing process using disperse dyes. It’s kind of a weird process but I love the results. I’ve used it in every collection I’ve created thus far. It’s incredibly time consuming but absolutely worth it. You begin by painting the dyes onto paper. The dyes are later transferred from the paper to fabric using a heat press. Initially the colors on the paper look very dark, almost black, so you really have no clue how it will look on the fabric. Only after you transferred the dyes to the fabric using the heat press, do you see the actual colors. Once you open the heat press you are met with vibrant colors and can see every little layer of paint and every little brush stroke.
After creating the fabric, the pattern-making begins. I either develop original patterns or alter old patterns to create my specific silhouettes for the collection. Once that is finished, I begin construction, my most dreaded stage of the process. I struggle with sewing the most as I am self-taught. There are so many small technical details to garment construction. It can be extremely frustrating at times, especially during fittings when something looks off. On the other hand, it’s extremely rewarding when it finally all comes together and the garment looks and fits the way you had envisioned. I’m a perfectionist and highly detail oriented so I tend to be a bit neurotic about details which draws out the process quite a bit.
What is one current trend in fashion that you would like to never see again?
HmM, that’s a good question. I’m terrible at keeping up with trends. Maybe the whole Coachella girl look. High waisted cutoffs, teeny crop top, flowy kimono and floral crown. It’s just become such a cliché. You can’t go to a music festival without spotting at least 40 different girls in variations of the same outfit.
“...with dying, you never know what type of results you’ll get which is amazing at times.”
What are you most excited about?
So many things! Planning new collections, planning new shows, making new things that people will love, hopefully starting to sell my work in the near future, getting connected with so many amazing people through this journey. Since starting this whole process it’s really taught me how lucky I am to have my support system of friends and family. I’m excited to see what the future holds for the brand that I’m creating, although it can also be really scary and daunting at times. That’s part of the fun though.
WHO IS YOUR STYLE ICON?
This is an awful question for me because I think I may be the laziest fashion enthusiast that ever existed. I hardly keep up with what’s going on in the fashion world- maybe I should make an effort to do that in the future. I wish I had some really cool, prolific, obscure person to say is an icon for me but I’ll just go with Miroslava Duma. She was an editor for Harper’s Bazaar Russia and is this gorgeous, tiny lady who can basically pull off anything and look incredible. She’s constantly getting photographed for street style blogs and I don’t think I’ve ever seen her in something she didn’t look phenomenal in. I wish I had her wardrobe and confidence, maybe also her height (I’m 5’9″ so you won’t be catching me in Prada platform heels anytime soon).
“WE HAVE A LOT OF UNDER-THE-RADAR STYLISH PEOPLE HERE IN KC.”
WHAT IN KANSAS CITY INSPIRES YOU?
A lot of things. For starters I feel as though we have a lot of under-the-radar stylish people here in KC. Half the time I don’t even think they are aware of how cool their look is because it comes so naturally to some people. On the other hand, there’s also a lot of terrible fashion here in KC. You just have to know where to look.
The Nelson Atkins is also a huge resource that we as Kansas Citians have to take advantage of—so much amazing art right at our finger tips. I often derive a lot of the inspiration for collections or new ideas for my fabrics from art. The most recent collection I created was inspired by a series of work from one of my favorite artist, Gerhard Richter’s squeegee paintings. I’m in love with the depth he was able to create by applying layers of paint and then removing it with a squeegee to create texture and reveal the layers underneath; it’s a truly beautiful thing. The printed pieces I used in the last collection were all created with his paintings as the inspiration. I painted dye in layers onto large sheets of paper and then used different types of squeegees to mix the colors and create texture. It translated beautifully with that process.
IF YOU COULD MOONLIGHT AS ANOTHER PROFESSION, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Maybe a photographer? Editorial type work. Or any career where you get the opportunity to travel a lot and do what you love; photographer seems to fit the bill. My best friend is an amazing photographer and has shot my work from day one. I’m pretty jealous of some of the amazing projects she’s worked on. I’ve recently begun shooting 35mm film while traveling and it’s been a lot of fun. I hope to do a lot more in the future.
What do you hope to see happen in fashion design moving forward?
I’ve been seeing a lot of 3D printed garments and recently saw a video of two dresses that were created in a collaboration between a fashion designer and robotics designer. The dresses have eye tracking sensors, allowing them to move subtlety and light up when someone looks at them. It was really beautiful. I’m excited to see people exploring new materials. I think the idea of super futuristic garments that are a fusion of science and design is really interesting. Obviously thats a pretty extreme example and not quite functional for the everyday person but they’re interesting concepts nonetheless. I wonder if any of the big fashion houses will ever pick up on any of that or turn their noses up to it. I also wonder if it could trickle down to the mainstream and nike will be making 3D printed sneakers anytime soon for all those Health Goths out there.
What are three words you use to describe Kansas City?
Charming, easy-going, developing.
Unique to Kansas City, what is one local restaurant, store or space that you love?
Happy Gillis (biscuits and gravy are my lifeblood) or Cafe Sebastienne for the natural light, art, and incredible food.
As far as favorite spaces go, although not in Kansas City, the KU Natural History Museum. I realize a lot of people probably find this place the opposite of a cool space but I used to frequently go there while in school when I needed some time alone. It’s comforting to me in a weird way how still that whole place can be between the taxidermy animals, their painted environments, and the stale air. It’s the kind of place that probably hasn’t seen a lot of change since it opened. It gained a special place in my heart for whatever reason. Usually there aren’t many people there so you can just wander around with your headphones on without people bothering you. For an introvert like myself, it served as a nice escape when I needed it.