Rey Pador has worked as a fashion designer and taught design all over the world, from New York and Paris to Antwerp and India. But it’s the city of Detroit where the 39-year-old says they truly feel the creative energy of the people.
So, when an opportunity arose for Pador to come to Detroit’s College for Creative Studies and oversee the new apparel design curriculum — which launched last September as part of an expansion of the school’s fashion design program — Pador was thrilled to accept.
The apparel design addition and Pador’s hiring were both part of continual efforts by CCS to ensure its place as a competitive institution for fashion design on a national scale. The fashion program was created in 2015 by world-renowned footwear and accessories designer Aki Choklat and was then called the Fashion Accessories Design program. It provided students with skills exclusively in accessory and footwear design, focus areas that Choklat and CCS felt were lacking in the Midwest. It was in late 2021 when faculty began laying the groundwork to add apparel design to the curriculum, and the program was renamed the Fashion Design program.
“Apparel design was something that many students had asked for, so there was already a strong demand for it,” Choklat says. “We feel like, now, we have a strong overall fashion [curriculum] in order to produce super skilled and competitive students.”
As an associate professor, Pador aims to continue bringing that vision to life.
Born and raised in Germany, the child of Filipino immigrants fell in love with making art and clothing at a young age. While Pador’s mother taught them how to sew and alter their brother’s hand-me-downs out of necessity, fashion design as a career move was out of the question.
“When you’re born into a brown household, dreams like becoming a fashion designer or an artist are not on the register,” Pador says. “[If] I wanted to work with clothes, I needed to do something that would be helpful in a way that is more of a trade.”
So Pador went off to tailoring school in Germany, where they gained skills in dressmaking and industrial sewing. Eventually, Pador began advancing their true dream of becoming a fashion designer, obtaining their bachelor’s and master’s degrees in fashion design from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, Belgium, and working
for a season at Marc Jacobs.
Following a stint in Paris, Pador returned to Antwerp and created their (now shuttered) consulting company, Ghost, through which they offered technical solutions and design concepts for renowned fashion houses and designers, including Dries Van Noten, Christophe Lemaire, and Balenciaga. As a professor, Pador has taught at the Gurukul School of Design in India and the Art Institute of Chicago.
After applying for the associate professor position at CCS, Pador was invited to take a tour of the school.
“I was amazed [at] how the facilities are and how elaborate everything was,” they say. But it was actually a separate moment back in Chicago, during a concert by Detroit techno artist Kevin Saunderson, that solidified Pador’s decision to move to the Motor City. “At the end of the concert … he said, ‘Detroit will always be the future of everything.’ … I called the dean [at CCS], and I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll take the job.’”
Pador’s approaches to both design and teaching are holistic and community driven. They aim to impress upon students that Detroit is a flourishing creative hub — while also acknowledging its manufacturing history — and that those students have what they need to succeed in their careers right here in the city.
“I was really interested in developing the idea that my students learn first locally, then nationally and internationally,” Pador says. “My mom always said, ‘If you don’t know your roots, you don’t know where to grow to.’ … I really advocate for building community through your work.”
This semester, Pador is teaching a special projects course, Studio Atelier Collection Building for Apparel, during which students learn the entire process of creating an apparel collection.
“When I saw Rey’s portfolio, I was quite stunned that someone with their experience literally dropped into my inbox,” Choklat says. “The mixture of their professional experience and teaching experience was ideal. Rey knows what the industry needs and knows how to prepare students for this demanding but fulfilling fashion life. … 2023 is just the start of our quest to make CCS and Detroit the most desirable fashion destinations in the world. It’s the vision Rey and I both share.”
To that end, Pador is looking forward to leaving their mark both on CCS and on the city at large. “What I learned about Detroit is that it’s very community driven, which I love,” Pador says, reflecting on their first few months in the city. “In Detroit, everyone feels that wind of change. I’m looking forward to exploring more of what Detroit has to offer.”
Flip Through Some of Pador’s Design Work
This story is part of the March 2023 issue of Hour Detroit. Read more in our Digital Edition.