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Rambler Studios: Youth Design their Lives Through Fashion Program

By Henry Street Settlement

Rambler participants design, sew, model, and sell their hand-made creations. Photo: Rashawn Austin 

During the lonely pandemic summer of 2020, a fashion design program intended to unleash young people’s talent took root on the Lower East Side. Starting online, then in person the next summer, and now appearing at the Artists & Fleas market in Brooklyn, Rambler Studios has opened the door to a career in fashion for approximately 60 young people.  

The program, developed in Amsterdam and Berlin as an outlet for youth to express themselves through fashion, was imported to New York City by Henry Street’s Jeremy Reiss, executive vice president of partnerships and innovation. Now running yearlong, it has become a regular offering for youth in Summer Youth Employment Program, where it functions as a paid educational internship. A Henry Street social worker was available all summer to bring holistic support, helping participants address any individual or family mental health, career, or financial needs. Rambler Studios has fast become one of Henry Street’s popular routes to opportunity for young people ages 15 to 24 who would not otherwise have had a chance to affordably pursue this career path  

Rambler participants were invited to sell their wares at Artists & Fleas market in Williamsburg. Photo: Rashawn Austin 

After the first season, taught remotely from Holland under the direction of founder Carmen Van der Vecht, the students now study with Andres Biel, a New York fashion designer who got his start in a Henry Street sewing class taught by the iconic sewing teacher, Ruth Taube. When Taube retired from teaching at the start of the pandemic (at the age of 97), Biel moved the Rambler studio into the Home Planning Workshop in the Vladeck Houses, where she had taught for 54 years.  

Rambler Abraham Kennings said that the Rambler Studios program gave him his first exposure to sewing. “I never thought of going into fashion as a career, but now 100 percent I feel I can do it. The Rambler family gave me a joyful and safe environment to create.” 

A distinctive quality of the program is its emphasis on the collective power of creativity. Students learn about working in a professional studio while gaining the self-esteem that comes from seeing their designs turned into clothing styles. For the past two years, students have unveiled their creations on the “runway” at Henry Street’s headquarters in an end-of-summer fashion showcase;  on August 23.  And, in fall 2023 and winter 2024, they had the chance to earn income from the sale of their work at Artists & Fleas market in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. the August 23, 2023, event was featured on NY1 News. And, in fall 2023 and winter 2024, they had the chance to earn income from the sale of their work at the Artists & Fleas market in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  

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