Tucked away behind double doors in a private corner upstairs at the Stanley Marketplace, Factory Fashion Academy is no ordinary design studio. Inside, six and seven-year-old girls measure themselves from hips to ankles, getting ready to make skirts. Nearby, a group of slightly older girls practice using electric sewing machines before choosing their design fabrics. In a few days, the space will be a professional drag queen fashion show on a hot pink catwalk.
The community art space, which opened this month inside the marketplace, is the latest initiative from Factory Five Five, a theater and art collective in Aurora that launched in 2020 for teach fashion, design, tailoring and drag queen classes (which include elements of cosplay, upcycle techniques, and sessions on corset making, hair stacking, makeup, maintenance and wigs). Fashion classes – available in a range of abilities, depending on dexterity and prior experience – are open to anyone aged 5 to 18 and are affordably priced around $ 300 for a class. 10 weeks. Classes last approximately three months and end with a fashion show with the professional collaboration of designers, influencers and models. The space can accommodate up to 135 guests and will tackle both amateur and professional projects, including collaborations with the theater and cinema branches of Factory Five Five.
“I think working together is important,” says Skye Baker Maa, owner of Factory Five Five. “Part of what we’re trying to do here is have our fashion program work with our theater people. We want the younger students to see the whole process.
Maa reserves a VIP section at trade shows for all fashion students. For her, it is important that students see and contribute to a range of experience levels and types of art.
Julianna Aberle-McClellan, who teaches the Academy’s younger students, is one of nine fashion and costume designers Maa hired for a team she dubbed the “Fashion Avengers.” Together, the group is raising the next generation of fashion designers. Although young, their students’ designs are, as Maa puts it, “tight and precise”; some of them even give them the opportunity to design clothes for professional performances produced by Factory Five Five.
On September 10, such collaborations came to life in the collective’s immersive show, Daisy’s Day Speakeasy: A Prohibition-Themed Murder Mystery in partnership with local contemporary dance company jk-co and Five Five’s Bizarre Cafe. He was completely exhausted.
The public, encouraged to don their best attire, provided a password to access a secret door. Cast members dressed as waiters crept between tables, dropping martinis and old-fashioned dishes into the hands of patrons. A woman in a slit red dress danced on stage as the crowd playfully screamed. Guests were then intermittently torn from their seats to join the dancers on stage, get toasted by the detective, and dance in the final act.
The Black Box Theater where the Daisy’s Day sweatshop was held, the Stanley Marketplace fashion room, and design classes have been new since COVID-19. When Factory Five Five first offered fashion classes in January 2021, they filled up so quickly that Maa had to acquire a second location within the Stanley Marketplace. She attributes her success to creative problem-solving and meticulous planning.
“We are trying to help the students find the right path,” Maa says. “Part of finding this path is always an intersection with professionals. “
Maa’s expansion of Factory Five Five to include two new spaces and a fashion academy has allowed her to merge the arts and immersive theater markets for anyone aged five to 65. From a young fashion designer tailoring a professional dancer’s flapper dress to a college student film capturing a theatrical production, this company has it all in-house.
Find more information about upcoming Factory Five Five courses and events online.