March 28, 2012
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -
Leah Eber is a familiar name in the track and field industry, but what most people don't know is that she is also popular in the fashion world as well. Eber is currently in her senior year of majoring in apparel and design technologies, in which she recently showcased her work at the Purdue Fashion Show last weekend.
"The fashion show went really well. It was a whole year in the making so when I was done I couldn't believe it because I had put so much time, emotion, and money into the show," said the senior. "Just knowing I had accomplished the projects was surreal and realizing my senior year was coming to an end. It hit me, and I was just like `wow.' It was amazing how fast time had flown."
In her recent collection, titled "Se7en," Eber incorporated different outfits that represent the seven continents on Earth.
"My inspiration is from textures, people, and different cultures. I wanted to base my collection on a global aspect. I dissected it a little bit and went into a specific country that inspired me in each of the seven continents and used that for the show."
The designs were shown on models at the fashion show along with the designs of 28 other seniors.
Eber showed off her fashion expertise on the runway. On the track, though, it shows in the record books. Winning Big Ten Field Athlete of the Year, honored as back-to-back Big Ten Champion in the long jump, and above all else, a First Team All-American with a bronze medal finish at NCAAs, Eber measures up as one of the best track and field athletes at Purdue. Her successes on the track seem to mesh with her success in the classroom.
"Part of me feels like I live a double life because it seems like they are similar, but they have huge differences as well. I don't think my friends in my major really know maybe what event I do or maybe the things I have done. But the more and more they have been hearing about it and seeing things, they have been asking me about it," Eber said about her friends in class.
"Since I am really close to a lot of my teammates, they know the side of me that I am majoring in fashion design and some even ask me to make them things. They definitely know about it and we talk about it."
As easy as Eber makes it sound, it's not a simple walk around the track with balancing a major that is demanding outside of class while also being an athlete in a division one school. Apparel design and technologies requires the students to work in sewing labs outside of class, which makes it difficult for Eber when she has competitions that last all weekend, almost every weekend.
"It was definitely more difficult at first like my freshman year," said Eber. "Then it got easier because I just got use to kind of being able to balance both. The most difficult thing about balancing both of them is time. The sewing lab can take up to hours and the whole construction aspect of making a garment takes a lot of time as well."
Track and field is demanding with the amount of time athletes spend at meets for the few events that they are in. Most athletes are able to take their homework with them on the road and complete assignments while away. For some, though, the labs and utilities that their major demands cannot be brought with them to work on for the weekend.
"I am gone every weekend with competition, so I basically learned how to sew very fast and get everything done very quickly during the week. It has caused me to then not have as much conflict with my sport and schoolwork," the apparel design and technologies major said.
"Once I get in a situation where I know I am competing I really just like that to be my focus and I don't want to have to worry about homework, projects, or schoolwork. For me at least specifically, I have a goal, and I have something to do. So it really helps to get things done for school that way I can just focus on the meet."
Fashion has been in Eber's blood since she was a little girl, as well as always being on the move.
"Ever since I was probably 12, I wanted to be a fashion designer. I wanted to design clothes, and I always loved color and drawing," said the long jumper. "I didn't always love sewing though. My mom taught me how to sew when I was seven. I hated it because I couldn't sit still. I couldn't sit down at the machine, but my mom said I needed to learn to sew. Once I got older I learned to love it."
Creativity is something that Eber thinks everyone has, but in different ways. She explained that people tell her that they are not creative at all and that they could never do what she does. But she believes that people are surprised with the different definitions of creativity that exist. Not only is creativity in building a dress, but it can also be in baking. She describes creativity as being diverse. To many, she is diverse because of her talents in the two worlds she believes she is living in, with track and with fashion.