Personal Threads: The FIDM DEBUT Show
Fashion has always been personal. Whether it is a vintage item handed down to you from a family member, a special purchase for yourself or a gift from a friend, what you choose to wear can be unique to you, or you can make it distinctive depending on how you wear it.
Fashion is also very personal to the designers themselves and has become more so in these past few years. When reading collection statements from designers across the globe, one finds less and less generic inspirations such as architecture and nature and instead more individualized expressions such as a cherished photo of their mom or the park they used to play in when they were children.
A common important fashion trend for the post-COVID era is: Make your designs more personal.
Designers and creatives have certainly always been inspired by their own upbringing and cultures, but from my perspective, as the Co-Chair of the Fashion Design Program at FIDM/ Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, I have noticed a shift with our students in making their designs a more personal journey. Admittedly, along with my fellow Co-Chair, David Paul, we have implemented a more introspective thought process in our fashion-design curriculum, especially when it involves the more creative-based classes, and it seems this move is taking effect. These young creatives are embracing the importance of self-reflection, individual experiences, surviving the tumultuous world around us, as well as inclusivity and cultural diversity.
This was clearly in evidence with this year’s graduates from our Advanced Study in Fashion Design Program and their DEBUT Runway Show.
The DEBUT Show is the culmination of the Advanced Study in Fashion Design Program, where a group of graduates from the A.A. Program are handpicked to spend nine months creating their first capsule fashion collection. It is an intense program that involves theoretical exploration, mood boarding, sketching, patternmaking and, eventually, constructing a 10-12-look collection.
Most of this year’s eight DEBUT graduates began their studies at FIDM in the middle of the COVID lockdown. Just imagine learning draping, sewing and patternmaking via ZOOM! Slowly they were able to transition their studies into hybrid and then eventually on-campus learning. It is a testament to their perseverance, determination and will that they successfully accomplished what they set out to do in creating these collections with all of these unprecedented hurdles.
This group of designers comes from a wide variety of locations including the Philippines, Korea, Cameroon and even an ex-pat raised in France. But among them, there was a common thread—to highlight their culture, and different upbringing, and be more inclusive.
The designer’s inspirations were as varied as their backgrounds: Graduate Joel Elliot was inspired by shipwrecks as well as bondage, shown through Shibari ropes, while another, Sasha Swedlund, was inspired by Black women’s hair. Yubin Min created beautiful handmade Jong-i jeobgi, Korean origami, and 3D flowers that honored the beauty of her grandmother. Esther Gaor created garments that were composed of over 100 pattern pieces that reflected her dream of removing all of the limitations and boundaries that the world has established and letting the inner dreamer experience life to the fullest. Cameroon-born Thierry Kepgang Nana designed a mini-collection inspired by his culture, while Cole Moscaret designed a collection based on World War II and old black-and-white photos of his grandfather.
Categories ranged from Streetwear and Menswear to High-end Eveningwear and Avant-garde. All of this was on fabulous display at the show, which we filmed on the 11th floor of the Cooper Design Space in downtown Los Angeles.
As fashion shows around the world have been finally allowing audiences to return, we were excited to welcome guests, including friends, family and industry influencers, to the front row. We were also thrilled to make our models as diverse as our designers by including student models as well as our first nonbinary and transgender models.
To capture the best natural light in the incredible loft-like location, we decided to film in the late afternoon to early evening. The light coming into the space gave the entire show a transcendental feel, and each designer’s collection transported the viewer to a unique and personal place. In addition to the live show, the event was also streamed on YouTube, and for another first we held an outdoor screening of the show on the lawn of Grand Hope Park adjacent to the college. Guests who enjoyed the show on the big screen included alumni, local fashion designers, industry insiders, influencers and our surrounding DTLA community.
This year’s DEBUT show seemed more personal because it reflected the individuality in design, unique creative dynamism and cultural uniqueness that is representative of our student body and community as a whole. Each of the designer’s personal stories and desire for a change was in every collection.
You might not have known this outright from seeing the looks come down the runway, but all those personal touches were woven into the threads, and, I predict, will continue to be so for many years to come.
Nick Verreos is co-designer of the Los Angeles brand NIKOLAKI, which has been worn by Katy Perry, Carrie Underwood and Beyoncé. He is also co-chair of the FIDM Fashion, Theatre Costume, and Film and Television Costume Design programs. In addition, he is the consulting producer for Bravo’s “Project Runway”; an author of fashion, patternmaking and sketching books; and the face of the popular YouTube channel “Fashion School With Nick Verreos.”