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Lodi High grad turns to environment for fashion inspiration

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Posted: Sunday, August 6, 2017 7:30 am

Amanda Tison didn’t know how much her choice of clubs in high school would influence her career as a fashion designer.

While at Lodi High School, she joined the FFA, the Environmental Club and the Art Club.

Her interest in art — and screenprinting lessons from teacher Tom Nardanelli — drew her to fashion design. But it was her participation in the FFA’s Student and Landowner Education and Watershed Stewardship program and the Environmental Club that inspired her most recent project: a trio of swimsuits for SwimOutlet meant to raise awareness about climate change.

“I designed a collection of three trendy suits specifically for this cause,” she said.

Tison designs swimsuits, yoga clothes and other activewear for Spiraledge. The company owns SwimOutlet, YogaOutlet, Swim.com and Tend, and partners with organizations from Yoga Journal to USA Swimming and USA Triathlon.

The three suits in the #winterisNOThere collection sport slogans intended to raise awareness about environmental issues. All of the proceeds from the limited edition suits will go toward environmental nonprofits.

From Lodi High to fashion design

It was her experiences in high school that led Tison down the path of fashion design and fueled her interest in the environment.

The FFA’s SLEWS program was especially eye-opening. Tison and other students in the program helped local farmers rehabilitate and restore wild land.

“That was my first time really learning about appreciating nature and our impact on the environment,” Tison said. “At that age, they kind of introduced me to a world that I appreciated but never realized how much I took for granted.”

At the same time, she was learning screenprinting and realized she could use the technique to create shirts sporting her own designs.

“I never thought I could design something and sell it,” she said.

When it came time to choose a senior project, she found one that aligned with her growing interest in fashion.

“I got a mentor who had a boutique in Sacramento,” Tison said.

She shadowed her, and by the end of her project, she’d launched a small business specializing in handmade arts and craft items. She sold her products at craft shows in the Sacramento area.

The project earned her a NFIB Young Entrepreneur Scholarship in 2006, and inspired her to apply to the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.

“I was very, very lucky to be able to find a great art community in San Francisco,” she said.

Over the next four years, Tison learned about printmaking, paper creation, metal art and jewelry design. She studied textile pattern design and created a stationary collection for the university’s student store.

“In 2010, I had a chance to see my designs on the runway in New York. That was a big deal for me,” she said.

She graduated in 2010, with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in fashion, textile and surface design.

Continuing to grow

Tison began her career as a fashion designer before she had even graduated. She was hired as the design and merchandising manager for Spiraledge in 2009.

She’s designed several swimsuits for the company — including the patterns used in the fabric — along with yoga mats, pants and other products.

But having a steady job hasn’t kept her from continually growing and building her skills. Right now, that means learning more about the psychology of color. When she spoke with the News-Sentinel, Tison had just returned home to Concord from a workshop in Seattle. The course was taught by Leatrice Eiseman, a Pantone color expert.

“You really need to use color wisely,” Tison said.

In theory, colors shouldn’t be associated with negative emotions, she said, but cultures form ideas about colors anyway. For example, in western cultures black is a color of mourning.

Beyond that, people may form their own associations with different hues.

“A lot of times people do associate certain colors with things in their past,” Tison said.

She and her husband, fellow Lodi native Jonathan Tison, own a home in Concord that they call “Bizarre Lodi.” The zip code has the same numbers as Lodi’s, just scrambled, and Concord is a type of grape, Tison said.

However, they’re hoping to get a little closer to home someday.

“We’re slowly trying to move back to Lodi,” Tison said.

When she first graduated from high school, she wanted to go somewhere new, but she misses her hometown.

“I have this Lodi pride now,” she added.

Tison makes occasional trips home, where she enjoys visits to Cheese Central. She also explores Secondhand Rose and the other consignment shops in Downtown Lodi, looking for design ideas.

“I’ve seen a lot of changes (in Downtown). I’m proud of the fact they’re keeping it hip,” she said.

An environmental twist

Tison was excited when Spiraledge asked her if she’d like to design the #winterisNOThere collection.

“I’ve never been able to do a collection specifically to benefit the environment,” she said.

Though Tison’s love of art and design pulled her into the fashion world, she’s never lost interest in the environmental projects she took on in high school.

She still tries to get out in nature, whether it’s a visit to Big Sur or a jog around Lodi Lake when she’s visiting home.

“Lodi Lake is one of my favorite places. Whenever I’m in town I go,” she said.

Her favorite spot is the nature trail, where she keeps an eye out for deer.

Big Sur has inspired some future designs, Tison added.

“You see all these wonderful colors in nature,” she said.

She even pitches in during city cleanups sometimes, she said.

The #winterisNOThere collection was a fun way for her to connect her interest in the environment with her work as a swimsuit designer.

The collection will be on sale until Sept. 14, or while supplies last.

Tison hopes it won’t be the last of her efforts to use her fashion design skills for a good cause.

“We take things for granted, but we really should do our part as well,” she said.

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