Are they the world’s next great designers?
On Thursday night, seniors from the Fashion Institute of Technology will present their final collections to New York’s fashion insiders and tastemakers at the school’s annual Future of Fashion show, hosted by Nicole Richie.
It’s a chance of a lifetime.
“It’s their first taste of what putting together a fashion show is about,” Joanne Arbuckle, FIT’s dean of the School of Art and Design, told The Daily Beast. “They are learning how to stay true to themselves while being open to the guidance of someone who is very well established in the industry.”
“But quite frankly,” she added. “It’s where some students get discovered.”
Along with Acra, dozens of notable notable alumni have emerged from FIT’s design programs: Brian Atwood, Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, Ralph Rucci, and Nanette Lapore are just a few who have become household names.
And while students surely aspire to forge the same path for themselves—FIT has a “93% job placement rate,” according to Arbuckle—it’s more about making sure the students are secure enough to identify that success can come in many forms.
Arkbuckle notes that her area of expertise is children’s wear, “but you’d never hear the name of a children’s wear designer.”
For months, students have been working with a team of well-established critics from a variety of specialized markets—sportswear (Phillip Lim, Azede Jean-Pierre, Victoria Bartlett, Nicholas K), intimate apparel (Morgan Curtis), knitwear (Annalise Frank, Tess Giberson), and children’s wear (Bonnie Young)—to finalize the projects they’ve spent four years planning for.
But even before the looks could be showcased in a show of their own, a panel of judges from the industry—bloggers, editors, and fashion directors—had to pick their top choices from a collection of over 200 submissions.
“I am in sheer awe from the creativity coming from the students’ work,” fashion blogger BryanBoy, who was one of the judges, told The Daily Beast. “There were a few looks when I thought, ‘Wow, this piece belongs to a high-end retailer like Barney’s or Bergdorf’s,’” noting the knitwear was a particular standout for him.
“The biggest challenge for students is developing a strong vision that is unique and distinct from what we are already seeing in the marketplace,” he said. “Many students fantasize about going to fashion school and immediately launching their brand when they graduate, but in reality very few individuals have managed to do that. Having a strong vision is the key to achieve that.”
With a tightly curated collection of more than 70 looks hitting the runway on Thursday night, we caught up with the seven critic award winners from the pre-show Judging Day.
Esmeralda FyhrCritic Award Winner: Intimate ApparelHometown: Cranford, New Jersey
“The inspiration for my collection was DNA and the spiraling structure of the double helix,” Fyhr told The Daily Beast, describing that her intimate apparel is rooted in bustiers as the “foundation piece that could be worn for a variety events,” while her gowns are “more of a boudoir statement piece reserved for special occasions.”
Fyhr has seen a big trend in innerwear as outwear in her hometown of Cranford, New Jersey, which is why she wanted to study intimate apparel.
“The bra you wear is almost more important than the shirt these days as clothing is designed with sheer fabrics, low armholes, and open back details in order to showcase a variety of underpinnings.”
As her designs unfolded, she used lace (“which resembled the double helix”) and layered sheer materials to create pieces that could move further than the bedroom.
“Clothing that crosses categories and performs a variety of functions in a person’s wardrobe is essential in such a fast-paced world,” she said, adding that “being a part of this [Future of Fashion] show is an amazing opportunity to expose my designs to industry professionals,” and contribute to the cross-pollination of clothing categories.
Fyhr plans to continue working as a freelance design assistant after graduation as she pursues a full-time position at a lingerie company.
Sofia MenasseCritic Award Winner: SportswearHometown: Mexico City, Mexico
“I have been working on my senior thesis since I was in a study abroad [program] in Hong Kong,” Sofia Menasse told The Daily Beast, noting the inspiration she found in the city’s architecture.
“My design philosophy consists in a minimalistic, geometrical aesthetic combined with a detailed search for texture, dimension and light. I draw upon monochromatic tones and atmospheres, which have stimulated me to a soft, neutral and unique line.”
Fast fashion is the biggest trend she sees both at home in Mexico, where the market only recently opened up for fast fashion brands such as Forever 21, Gap, and Zara, and for the future of fashion.
“Everyday fast fashion grows internationally [and] I believe many of these global brands are a colossal platform for fashion,” she said. “I wish for an industry that supports fast fashion companies while improving working conditions. We must always remember clothes are handmade.”
Menasse hopes to secure a design position in New York City or Hong Kong.
Ting HeCritic Award Winner: KnitwearHometown: Vancouver, Canada
Texture played a big role for Ting He, who wanted her first knitwear collection to feature a captivating texture that “you could see far away and want to walk over and feel it,” she told The Daily Beast, noting that her inspiration came from “the irregular shape of landscapes and the undulating planes of the countryside.”
He’s winning look features a long, white pleated skirt with a top heavily adorned with various fabrics. Gray, black, and light-blue knits explode in high texture piles at the top of the creation while they blend and fade at the waistline.
For now, she does “not have a concrete plan” for after school but is considering furthering her education with a master’s degree after getting work experience and building her portfolio.
Chanan ReifenCritic Award Winner: KnitwearHometown: Tel Aviv, Israel
“People in Israel are rarely concerned with keeping up with trends,” Chana Reifen told The Daily Beast, adding that, in his opinion, the country’s fashion is more founded in functionality, resourcefulness, and comfort.
But as far as forecasting big looks in the fashion industry, Reifen sees them moving beyond “trend.” “People have a more eclectic sense of style,” he says of today’s fashion. “Everything is allowed.”
His collection is “based on carrying our cultural and personal identity through knitted textiles,” he said. “To me, knitted textiles are a platform for carrying memories—memories that attach us to our homes and cultures.”
The designs include oversized silhouettes and references to backpackers that feature a custom-developed and de-contextualized tribal graphic.
Reifen plans on joining a ready-to-wear team as a knitwear designer.
Anjani YarlagaddaCritic Award Winner: ChildrenswearHometown: Shelton, Connecticut
For Anjani Yarlagadda, the process consisted of a lot of trail and error. “You always start of with a design in mind and as you’re working on the pieces, you find that it doesn’t come out exactly how you imagined it to,” Yarlagadda told The Daily Beast. “I drew inspiration from different forms of yarn art,” including string art, weaving, and more specifically, yarn graffiti.
“I stumbled upon HoTTea’s yarn graffiti around New York,” she added, of the moniker of artist Eric Rieger. “I love how it was woven through the chain-link fence and it created a 3-D effect. I incorporated that through my looks, where I braided yarn through oval shaped laser cut to create almost a sweater cable feel.”
Her collection of kids wear mixes sportswear, street wear and menswear elements to “bring a livelier edge to children’s wear.”
While Yarlagadda sees the fashion industry melding more and more with technology in the future, he own plans consist of finding a job and traveling for inspiration. “I think it’s important to never be tied down to one location,” she said. “Meet new people, see their point of view in life and ever their style.”
Luis PeraltaCritic Award Winner: SportswearHometown: Queens, New York
Native New Yorker Luis Peralta used the city’s architects as inspiration for his collection, which is filled with silhouettes that are familiar to the eye,” he told The Daily Beast.
“My collection focused on how modern architects are using patterns in nature to create eco-friendly buildings. The contrast between plant cells and architectural blueprints played a big role in this collection.”
The outfit from judging day consisted of a black top filled with geometric shapes paired with black pants and a shiny black jacket.
As he continues to grow and evolve within his discipline, Peralta is eager to expand his learning by working for some of his favorite fashion houses to help them “develop collections and find new creative techniques to keep the designs up to the beat of the modern drum,” he said.
Veronica Romero-SchonCritic Award Winner: SportswearHometown: Mexico City, Mexico
Through the past couple of years I’ve seen much growth and evolution in Mexico City’s fashion industry,” Veronica Romero-Schon told The Daily Beast, “though Mexican designers are still somewhat in the process of defining their own identity as a group.”
Still, Romero-Schon is on her way in creating her own identity. She’s melding art and fashion even further as she incorporates the inspiration she garnered from a wearable art project with artist Juna Skenderi.
“It was quite a ride,” she said of crafting her designs. “I had a very clear vision of what I was trying to accomplish, but as in any creative process, I found a number of complications along the way. There were certain compromises that I had to make, and a good amount of second guessing as well.”
Her collection consists of “minimal silhouettes that play around with geometry,” she described, adding that the triangle plays a particularly important role in the collection. In her winning look, they colorfully appear in a geometric cutout pattern on the front of the skirt.
“Fashion is a field under constant evolution…there is such a high demand for newness and trends fall out of style much faster than they used to,” she said. “I was aware that I was taking somewhat of a risk when designing this collection, but in the end I was very pleased with the outcome. I believe taking risk is a key factor when it comes to fashion…it’s what the Future of Fashion is all about.”
Romero-Schon is continuing her collaboration with Skenderi on a wearable art line named Nous, which is still in its early stages.