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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Alpacas inspire clothing line

A+model+wears+a+Desix+USA+fashion+while+feeding+an+alpaca.+Karl+Robinson%2C+a+SE+associate+professor%2C+helped+create+the+designs+using+alpaca+fiber.+%0D%0APhoto+courtesy+Desix+USA
A model wears a Desix USA fashion while feeding an alpaca. Karl Robinson, a SE associate professor, helped create the designs using alpaca fiber. Photo courtesy Desix USA

By Karen Gavis/se news editor

A model wears a Desix USA fashion while feeding an alpaca. Karl Robinson, a SE associate professor, helped create the designs using alpaca fiber.
Photo courtesy Desix USA

An offhand remark about alpacas has resulted in a SE Campus teacher becoming a high-fashion clothier.

Desix USA, a clothing line named after SE psychology associate professor Karl Desix Robinson premiered Feb. 26 at the French Embassy in Washington, D.C., during DC Fashion Week.

Owning a high-end clothing line was not Robinson’s lifelong dream. The odyssey began a few years ago, Robinson said, when his sister, Patti Jennings, visited him and mentioned she wanted a farm.

“But she did not want to kill anything on the farm or plant crops,” he said. “I told her she should raise alpaca.”

And she did. Later, Jennings saw an advertisement offering government grants for farmers to initiate a new industry using what was on their farms. Robinson said Jennings recruited him to help write a value-added producers grant proposal, which successfully netted a $299,500 matching grant.

SE psychology associate professor Robert Boughner said he was a little surprised to learn Robinson was creating a clothing line at first, but once he looked at everything, it made sense.

“He was a good writer, so writing a grant was something he would be good at,” he said. “I guess it worked out for him.”

Sharon Wettengel, SE associate professor of sociology, said she was not really surprised to learn of Robinson’s venture.

“The clothing line may have been a little surprising, but the fact that he came up with the idea with his sister and the fact that he collaborated with her on the idea wasn’t really surprising,” she said. “He is always coming up with creative ideas.”
Today, Desix USA consists of four partners, Patti; her husband, Doug Jennings; Robinson; and Southern Methodist University graduate Janelle Romano.

Robinson said he has been part of the whole process and has “had quite a bit of input” in the clothing design.

“We wanted to create some of the timeless classics,” he said. “We are starting in the D.C., New York and Chicago areas where it is a little bit colder because alpaca is warm.”

Alpacas are Peruvian animals introduced in the U.S. in the 1980s. They are herd animals and cherished for their fiber, which has been called the fiber of the gods, Robinson said. The Jennings raise the animals at Willowbend Alpaca, theirIllinois farm. Robinson said the animals are well taken care of.

“They don’t eat their meat or anything like that,” he said.

Alpacas are a little skittish, like cats, but will come up and be friendly on their own terms, Robinson said. The alpaca’s fiber is strong, softer than cashmere and warmer than wool. It is also hypo-allergenic and usually knitted and handspun.

“It is not usually done on a commercial level,” he said.

Robinson said many commercial weaving looms have left the U.S. for overseas.
“We take the fiber off the animals and process it all the way to the shelf,” he said. “It is a very time- and work-intense project, but it is very exciting too.”

During the premiere of Desix USA, Robinson said he chose which out of a pool of 100 models looked the best in Desix USA fashions. Then, they had to be fitted.

Believe it or not, it was stressful, Robinson said.

Robinson said he was enthused when he first saw the woven material come off the loom, but when he saw the models, the cameras flashing, the lights and everyone cheering during the premiere, it was electrifying.

“It was so very exciting that we got to that point from a little ad about a grant,” he said. “It was, like, wow!”

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