Academy of Art University Alumni: Eden Slezin Featured in NYFW20 with Mined on Denim
Finding one’s path in life is never easy, but at the very least you hope it’s interesting. Eden Slezin’s path has certainly been interesting.
For Slezin, the road to being selected as a designer to present at the New York Men’s Day event at this year’s New York Fashion Week was not direct. However, each step has contributed to his sensibility as an artist, from his time as a botanist, his years in the Marine Corp, his stint owning an outdoor adventure business, and his study at Academy of Art University.
Slezin often talks about his working class upbringing. His father worked as a painter, a trade Slezin pays homage to by manually treating his denim using an electric sander. Details like these create a throughline for Slezin’s work, from his roots to today.
He began his career as a professional botanist after graduating from his undergraduate education at UC-Davis. Realizing this wasn’t the right path for him, he took a leap and joined the Marine Corps in order to see the world. After 6 years in the Marines, he started his own outdoor business leading backpacking trips while simultaneously working for an outdoor retail store where he rose to a leadership position. After 10 years, he made another big leap – into fashion.
Eden Slezin enrolled at Academy of Art University to earn a Masters of Fine Art in Fashion, one of several programs the university offers to give students a deep familiarity and skill with the craft. He attributes his readiness to enter the professional world of fashion to his education at Academy of Art University, saying, “Everything I feel like I need to be a successful designer has gotten from Academy of Art University, except for the passion and desire to do it that I brought myself.”
Academy of Art University’s Tools for Success
While Slezin earned his Masters of Fine Arts in Fashion, in a different life, he could have earned any number of degrees at the undergraduate or graduate level in fashion or fashion adjacent fields at Academy of Art University. The school boasts degrees in 14 fields of fashion, from fashion marketing to costume design or footwear design as well as partnerships with leaders across the spectrum of industry from media to product development. Students often use the launchpad of the university to grow successful careers.
Academy of Art University offers a hands-on curriculum for every aspect of the creative process – this is necessary for students to be able to turn fashion concepts into relevant, sustainable, and beautiful work. Whether students have a passion for designing and styling garments or they wish to grow a brand and produce products, they gain deep knowledge of the fashion industry through the school’s combination of classroom education and practical mentorship by the renowned faculty. The school provides careful support for their students by providing a road to a showcase for their Fashion Design students – vital experience that ensures they will succeed in the real world.
The school also provides flexibility in approach – while Slezin opted for an immersive experience at the San Francisco campus, he could have investigated the online offerings in fashion studies provided by the school. One can understand why this variety of approach and flexibility would appeal to a student with such an interdisciplinary background as Slezin. His experience in the MFA program gave him room to explore and develop. In his time at the university, he worked hard enough to earn the attention of several esteemed faculty members as well as his peers. He was one of only eight students sent to represent the university at New York Fashion Week in 2018. The rest, as they say, is history. He stated, “Academy of Art University has allowed me to transition from a career which I was not that excited about to my dream career of being a fashion designer.”
His First NYFW Collection:
In Slezin’s first NYFW collection in 2018, “When I grow up…A School Boy Fantasy”, he began to show off his interest in bringing together all the seemingly disparate phases of his life. The elements of his life featured in “When I grow up…A School Boy Fantasy” span his time in the USMC (illustrated in the vintage military denim throughout) to fetish wear and schoolboy aesthetics drawn from his life as a gay man in San Francisco.
This was also the collection in which he began to highlight his interest in conservation and sustainable practices in fashion. His manual surface treatments of the recycled cotton denim got their start in this collection as did his use of recycled bicycle inner tubes. These practices give the collection its signature rugged style, a sensibility that continues to crop up in Slezin’s work today.
Slezin’s 2018 collection was a finalist for the WGSN + ARTS THREAD Future Creator Award, the Elaine Gold Launch Pad, the International Lab of Mittelmoda, and was selected for the CFDA Fashion Future Graduate Showcase, an award granted to exceptional students from programs such as Academy of Art University.
Attention to Detail:
Something special about Slezin’s development as an artist is the way that his attention to detail manifests in his work. From the care in his sourcing of materials to the purpose behind each addition to his collections, it is obvious that his mind is always attending to how the individual components each contribute to the whole.
This attention to detail is clearly present in his past work as a scientist, an officer in the Marine Corps, and his time as an adventure guide, leading others on outdoor excursions. One could also say that his ability to pick up the pieces and see how they fit together is what brought him to fashion. After a life changing trip to Rio, he experimented with creating garments in a different way than he’d seen in the American fashion industry. It changed everything.
He says it was at Academy of Art University where he was able to turn that eye for detail toward his passion of fashion. Slezin says, “there was a long period where I knew I loved it but didn’t think it was a career possibility. I went back to school and, really digging into the craft of it all, the sewing skills, design skills, illustration, quickly learned that this was exactly my calling.”
New York Men’s Day:
Slezin’s upcoming turn at NYFW was showcased by New York Men’s Day – at the show, he displayed an expansion on the thesis collection he developed while earning his MFA at Academy of Art University.
The collection got people talking – he maintained much of what was successful about his initial foray into NYFW: the clean lines, the sustainable construction using plenty of recycled cotton denim, processed using manual techniques such as sanding, and the playfulness of leveraging repurposed bicycle inner tubes. The silhouettes rely on the same youthful energy of “When I grow up…A School Boy Fantasy”.
Slezin is one of ten designers who were featured by NYMD at NYFW20, February 3 – 10, each of whom brought their own perspective in challenging, complicating, and energizing the runway.
Innovation is one of several core guiding principles of Eden Slezin’s work. His aesthetic is clearly inclined toward the future all while keeping careful grounding in the past. This might be attributed to his relatively slow journey to his career as a fashion designer. While others jumped straight into the industry through an undergraduate education, Slezin’s roundabout path to becoming an award-winning designer seems to have given him an ease regarding his career.
Where many designers at this stage in their career might begin to feel the heat of attention and question their instincts, Slezin seems to be marching dutifully onward. His 2020 collection has kept what was special about his work in 2018 and he’s given no indication that his thoughtful craft will slip up now.
Slezin’s own words might best describe the ways in which his winding journey from working botanist to USMC to graduate education and the fashion world has benefited him: “The experiences that got me here are a never-ending pool of resources and inspiration, and my work ethic is different because I know what it takes,” he says. “I’m more disciplined, and I can use that to my advantage.” Slezin’s journey showcases that it’s never too late to follow your passion.
About Academy of Art University:
As an alumni of Academy of Art University’s Fine Arts program and NYWF veteran and designer, Eden Slezin exemplifies that dedication and hard work through continual pursuit of passion can lead to big accomplishments. Academy of Art University offers a path for creatives in the fashion industry to succeed. It offers relevant degrees in the fashion world including fashion merchandising, brand management, design, product development, styling, visual merchandising, accessory design, textiles, costume design, and knitwear design. It is never too late to tackle following your passion.