There is only one way to verify that the future is in the right hands: test it out in the hands of the present.
When coming to fashion, I was thrilled that New York Fashion Week (NYFW) was giving a platform to upcoming designers, and in abundance at that. After a series of talented runway edits by the Art Institutes, I had the pleasure of sitting in the front row to witness 13 designers from the School of Fashion at Academy of Art University in San Francisco. A city I’d known for my love affair with its food, but seldom crossed paths with for fashion. With a well tailored and crafted backgrounds, they brought forward a conscientious connection to the textiles they used, the three-dimensional and modern design and out-of-the- box construction of clothing. While the runway was literally at race speed, I was able to get a grasp on a few of the key collections and standouts from each.
Nina Nguyen Hui
From Vietnam, and with a background of BCBG Max Azria, she took inspiration from sea corals and interlaced it with tambour beading, embroidery and laser cutting from ethereal dresses, all in coral and sea gray tones for oceanic vibes.
Of Singapore, her menswear collection was inspired by Japanese Bosozoku community, with utilitarian elements of the traditional fishermen. With waxed outerwear, oversized clothing and pockets (for functional proposes), she focused on whiter tones and contrasting lines, with square and boxy cuts.
Natalya Sheveleva Robinson
A knitwear designer from Izhevsk, Russia, she was inspired by Arnold Schoenberg’s musical theory ‘Emancipation of Dissonance’ and art deco. This explained her use of contrasts and juxtaposition in knits, with textile prints, teals, browns all interlaced with silks and wool.
Yi Ru Chen and Jing Qian
The duo from Taipei, Taiwan and of Suzhou, China, came together for an abstract collection.A combination of jewelry design, fluid silhouettes, an inspiration from drapes and water, alongside large brush strokes, hand painted florets and abstract art using eco-friendly pigments, gave birth to a unique collection. There were several abstract and asymmetric garments, like a bomber jacket with a tiered skirt, drop shoulder top with pants, an entire dress and even a split skirt with a blouse.
From Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, her collection took roots in her family heritage and Native American routes. She thus inventively repurposed grain sacks and burnout brocade to create a vintage, timeless look. Some favorites were a grain sack long split coat with a gorgeous key necklace, a long shirt dress with vintage embroidery, a burnout brocade jacket and an extremely long and loosely fitting grain sack coat in white. The collection felt solid, strong and inspiring.
From Anchorage, Alaska, his goal was to bring sustainable practices into his work, courtesy of seeing a deteriorating natural environment around him. Inspired by French artist Andre Derain, he repurposed denim and jersey fabrics to evoke motifs of animals who were severely endangered. Wolves, eagles, leopards and serpents all appeared in larger-than-life prints on denim vests, oversized denim shirts, applique shorts, sleeveless dungarees and tunics. Truly a collection speaking to my obsession with animals!
Anita Szu-Yi Chen
From Kaohsiung, Taiwan, she chose to manipulate knitwear into layers, structured folds and reversible fabrics for optical illusions and sashays of flowing comfort. Contrasts and unexpected stripes were thus a mainstay.
Dora Li and Carly Dean
The unique combination of a designer from Ningbo, Zheijang Province, China and Indianapolis, Indiana brought forward a distinct perspective on layered and textured clothing. Almost like adult clothing for kids, the details included high waist, heavy pleated dresses and burn out fabrics.
Of Seoul, Korea, with a background of having worked with Diane von Furstenberg, Vera Wang and Wes Gordon, she combined her Asian heritage with sportswear and atheleisure. A futuristic looking collection, this one included boxing shorts and soccer jackets made of polyethylene and polypropylene. Asymmetric jackets, padded pants, funneled tops, double layered coats with shorts and an almost clinical all white look in all the outfits made this a step into the bright future.
From a state I’ve hiked in aplenty, Utah, this was another futuristic combination drawing inspiration from the 90s hip hip scene and the 70s Chinese anti-gravity pilot suits! What brought an earthy feel to them was the choice of dying the fabrics with rusty hues. So we had pale pink coats with lace tied sleeves, a pale pink jersey, a rusty jumpsuit with lace sleeves, a series of long kurta-style tunics, a pink bomber jacket and generally oversized, flowing clothing with frays and frills. Thankfully a debut of pink and frills in mens fashion, which otherwise always showed up in the womenswear department!
With a refreshed imagination, gapers and onlookers were definitely inspired, as well as content with the fortified trust in the future of fashion.