Mason Leonard ’21 gets inspired by the art and culture scene in New Bedford and on campus at UMass Dartmouth. “The culture on campus and in the city is strong and full of life,” the New Hampshire resident said. “And the opportunities to collaborate with so many other artists make me a better designer.”
Mason came to UMass Dartmouth when the small college he attended closed unexpectedly, and UMass Dartmouth set up pathways for those students affected to continue their education at UMassD. “UMass Dartmouth was very welcoming and helped with the transition,” he said. “I grew into the space.” Now he enjoys great collaborations with his fellow College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA) students. “There are jewelry and metal majors, and textiles studies, which gives us access to elements we didn’t have before. Taking classes with painters and sculptors and ceramic artists is a successful addition to my training,” he said.
The studios at the Star Store campus in New Bedford are just steps from museums and galleries in the downtown. He cited an exhibit on knots at the New Bedford Whaling Museum as the inspiration for his menswear collection. “There is such an arts culture here,” he said. “Between AHA! nights (a free monthly celebration of arts and culture), access to Providence with its arts scene, and access to the ocean and the Cape – it gives me many opportunities as a designer to grow and change.”
His focus now is on women’s wear, and he has spent this year exploring Avant-Garde fashion, which he describes as the extreme “red carpet design” celebrities often wear at events or as seen on runways. His spring collection was inspired by nature, where he tapped into the patterns in leaves and bark to inform his designs. But through his exposure to climate science and sustainability practices on campus, he is shifting his work to using more sustainable materials. “As a designer, I want to limit fashion’s carbon footprint and use organic cotton, hemp, linen, and other materials that are kinder to the earth.”
He adds that his journey in fashion is a labor of love. “It is a lot of work, developing the skills you need to create and finish garments. But if you have passion and drive, you need to be prepared for the time you’ve created something so beautiful it will make you cry.”