Fashion designer and mentor Rob Younkers develops a Hamptons-based summer camp for the next generation of creatives.
Rob Younkers guides budding designers at Stitched Fashion Camp at Guild Hall.
“My first memory of creating anything was making clothing for my troll dolls out of felt,” says Rob Younkers of his childhood sewing sessions alongside his grandmother.
Last summer, in an effort to ensure others had the same chance he did, Younkers—who balances teaching at Parsons, designing for Ariana Rockefeller’s eponymous collection, and creating his own men’s line (set for a fall debut)—launched Stitched Fashion Camp, a hands-on workshop for aspiring fashion designers ages 8 through 16, alongside his boyfriend, Joe Zee, Yahoo editor-in-chief and executive creative officer of Yahoo Fashion.
During the one-and two-week sessions at East Hampton’s Guild Hall, participants gain firsthand insight into the design industry while working with Younkers and Zee to develop their own personal panache. “We really try to give them an experience that’s true to the industry experience,” explains Younkers. Such intentions are evidenced by the camp’s detailed itinerary, which begins with mood board creation and ends with a showcasing of the campers’ ready-to-wear pieces as well as the resources themselves: a fleet of new Singer sewing machines and customized textile design capabilities from Spoonflower.
For Younkers, whose experience working with kids began when he mentored a 14-year-old designer on MTV’s Made, the means that justify the end. “The process of them seeing a sketch they did and then wearing that sketch on their body is so important,” he says. “Whether or not they become the next Valentino, Versace, or Oscar de la Renta, they’re learning a skill that so many people don’t learn anymore.”
It’s a skill that Younkers wants to bring to others through additional city launches, holiday pop-ups, nonprofit involvement—including at this summer’s Super Saturday benefit on July 26—and even a shift in age groups next summer, when he hopes to debut adult classes in the Hamptons. Still, his passion is rooted in helping to build big-time designs via small measurements. “Working with kids makes you remember why you got interested in something in the first place,” he says. “They’re so wide-eyed and hungry for information, and that makes me take things a little less seriously. I always tell them, ‘So you made a mistake…. We’ll do it again. We’re making clothes; this is supposed to be fun and exciting.’” Guild Hall, 158 Main St., East Hampton