By Jacob Bonta
Margaret Voelker-Ferrier dreamed big, was driven to build a career in fashion, and generously shared her experience with scores of budding creatives. The Voelker-Ferrier collection is the culmination of over forty years of collecting by Margaret Voelker-Ferrier (“Margie”). Margie spent her career as a fashion illustrator and tenured professor of the Fashion Program at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Art, Architecture and Planning. At the age of 28, while living in Paris, Margie had become one of Europe’s best-known fashion illustrators. Margie’s love of fashion spanned from the beautiful textiles that create a garment, the unique talent of the designers who craft exquisitely constructed outfits, and the remarkable power fashion has to mirror and embolden trends. Margie would often use different Barbies within her collection to illustrate this.
Cincinnati’s fashion scene owes a lot to Voelker-Ferrier. “Margie was the reason I was able to pursue my dream of attending DAAP for fashion design,” co-founder Rosie Kovacs of Sew Valley, a Cincinnati non-profit, writes. When Margie Voelker-Ferrier told her University of Cincinnati fashion design students that “anything is possible,” she was able to use her own life as the ultimate example.
Margaret Voelker-Ferrier Abstract Figural Oil Painting
Bob Mackie First in Series "Gold Barbie" Fashion Doll, 1990
Margaret Voelker-Ferrier Mixed Media Fashion Illustration
Hermès "La Maison des Carrès" Silk Twill Scarf Designed by Pierre Marie
The small-town dreamer turned global fashion expert didn’t just inspire generations of students to pursue careers in fashion, but she also cemented Cincinnati as a hub for fresh design talent. Voelker-Ferrier was born in a town of fewer than 6,0000 people, and from an early age, she showed a love of fashion and tireless optimism that was incredibly contagious. As a woman growing up in the ’50s, coming of age in the ’60s, and experiencing the transformation of women’s roles in the home and at work, Voelker-Ferrier felt that Barbie was an icon of each generation. Her collection includes early edition vintage pieces from the ’50s that reflect the original style of Barbie, as well as Barbies throughout the decades. Some represent her favorite couture designers, while others are as quirky as “the pregnant Barbie,” which comes with a baby inside Barbie’s abdomen!
Throughout and beyond her groundbreaking career as an artist and educator, her students earned national and international recognition for their designs as she spent decades raising the profile of the Midwestern university in the fashion world. On two occasions in the 1980s, she shepherded DAAP undergraduates to the International Young Students Designer Competition, an honor reserved for the top 10 student designers in the country. “She impacted my design sensibilities and my being,” says Clark, designer, and founder of the Cincinnati brand Grind and Glaze.
DAAP colleague and longtime friend Nancy Brinker noted that Voelker-Ferrier’s generosity extended to her talents as well as her refined sensibilities. “Margie was a brilliant fashion illustrator and watercolorist,” Brinker says. “She graciously shared her gifts.”
Brinker described her friends’ teaching style as quiet and respectful. “She gave her students the space to be designers, and above all, themselves. She gently led them into solutions and often waited until they sought her help instead of forcing them to do as she said. Her life was a series of teaching moments.”
We are honored to present the collection of Margaret Voelker-Ferrier a truly influential force of fashion and mentorship in Cincinnati.
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