Sophia Luu plans to earn her doctoral degree in apparel and become a professor. When Sophia isn't studying, she enjoys reading, cooking with her family, visiting libraries and museums, and taking walks.
Rosenfeld intern Sophia Luu studies cultural significance of Japanese dress, aims to lead the next wave of sustainable designers
Sitting in her dorm’s community lounge in Taiwan, Sophia Luu reflects on her lifelong interest in fashion that pushed her to work to where she is today.
“I was always fascinated by [fashion] — textiles, embroidery, beading,” she said. “As a kid, my mom told me that I would always spend a lot of time choosing my outfits or playing dress up.”
Though experimenting with different colors and textures of garments was mesmerising to Sophia, she never considered fashion and apparel a true career option, just a “glamorous dream.” However, watching a fashion documentary called “The True Cost” for a high school AP class changed that perspective for her. The documentary opened her eyes to the environmental impact that the fashion industry has on the world — and Sophia wanted to do something about it.
Sophia realized that fashion may not only be a viable career option, but her calling as well. She began studying how to become a sustainable designer, and enrolled in Iowa State University’s apparel, merchandising, and design program.
“I was quite mind blown that fashion has this impact,” Sophia said.
Sophia has excelled in her design studies and expanded her skills in research by participating in the CHS Honors program throughout her college career and the Louise Rosenfeld Undergraduate Research Internship in 2019.
As a Rosenfeld intern, Sophia worked under associate professor in apparel, events, and hospitality management Ellen McKinney. Together, they investigated Iowa State’s collection of Japanese textiles and techniques to analyze design motifs in traditional Japanese kimonos.
“I love textiles so much because they have so many stories to tell. The kimonos are like a book in a foreign language, waiting to be read,” Sophia said. “All these small elements came together and it was really rewarding. You feel like you’ve really gotten to know somebody.”
Throughout her life, Sophia’s mother inspired and encouraged her innate creativity and interest in textiles; an old wedding kimono, beautifully embroidered and beaded, hung above the family’s dining room table throughout her childhood. Though she passed when Sophia was in high school, her mother continues to inspire her as she further explores textile creation and sustainable fashion. Sophia plans to eventually earn her doctorate in apparel design and teach sustainable design practices while researching.
“I want to educate a new wave of designers to be more sustainable,” she said. “As designers, we can do something to tackle these problems and make [people’s] lives easier.”