Academy of Art University is excited to showcase once again its unique, talented designers at New York Fashion Week! Each year, hundreds of guests attend this exclusive fashion show event, including members of the national and international press, members of the fashion industry, and fashion influencers.
New York Fashion Week Graduate Show
Meet the Designers
Read the stories behind these unique and talented designers. Click on their images to uncover the inspirations behind each and everyone of their collections, including their design boards and the toiles (design prototypes) they created.
- Christopher Cabalona
Christopher Cabalona, BFA Fashion Design
A Refined Fool
“Life is beautiful, don’t waste it” is Christopher Cabalona’s mantra, and a glimpse of happiness during tough times is the guiding light for his collection. Cabalona, B.F.A. menswear design, found inspiration in the clowns of the early 1900s. His collection takes the element of joy and channels it into sophisticated and structured looks. Cabalona’s creation process involved hours and hours of precision tailoring and included excitement as well as periods of melancholy marked by a sense of burden.
For his collection, Cabalona incorporated metal hardware such as turn locks, purse closures, and clasps. He developed cropped jackets, bell bottom pants, tail-coat vests, and jumpers. Beige in color, with elongated sleeves and exaggerated silhouettes, the collection boldly takes a risk in redefining what is commonly perceived as classic male attire. Despite the inspiration of clowns, the designs are not intended to be ‘playful,’ rather, they emphasize the contradiction of being exuberant while showing elegance and refinement ‘in character.’ Cabalona aims to honor clowns’ cheerful yet dramatic essence, for example, a key menswear element - the vest, is reinvented as a piece that showcases both physical humor as well as an awareness of the concept of the ‘businessman.’
Advancing his inspiration further, the 2018 CFDA Scholarship Award finalist adapted the clown’s traditional baggy and vibrant costumes and transformed them into fitted and tailored garments that convey optimism, yet remain sensitive to the notion of depression and its extensions. Cabalona chose clowns as the inspiration for his collection because to him they represent joy and cheer. A beacon of happiness, the clowns serve as a call for people to enjoy life despite the hurdles and feelings of sadness they may face.
Excerpt by Camila Encomendero
- Mariana Gorey
Mariana Gorey, MFA Fashion Design
Drawing in The Dark
No sight of a model, nor a particular image in mind... No edge of the page, no colors, just a flow of thoughts and physiological reactions to it, leaving blind traces and markings on the paper. Lights up, to a surprise to discover bright, colorful artwork, a result of deep introspection and self-exploration! Enter ‘Miana’ - a nine-look womenswear collection by Mariana Gorey, inspired by the memories of her schooling in France while struggling with dyslexia, and the creative approach of the American painter, sculptor, and photographer Cy Twombly.
Having an experience rather than making a collection describes Gorey’s approach to creating her thesis project. Reflecting on education, the learning process and knowing the rules, Gorey consciously steps aside to break the barriers. Draping and manipulating the fabric on a dress form as if creating a sculpture, drawing in the dark, painting before sketching, accepting failure and nonsense, these are some of the creative strategies of this multicultural artist.
The skills in Gorey’s toolbox include a degree in History of Art, methodological research, and a deep knowledge of the self. All of these allow Gorey to embrace her imperfections and transform them into virtues and strengths.
Memories from her time growing up in the strict and vigorous French school system include a heavy school bag, filled with subject books, and a pencil box with a different color for specific texts, dates and headlines. Learning to use order and organization obsessively has helped Gorey embrace her erratic and impatient mind, empowering her to successfully cope with dyslexia and morph into a productive design professional.
The chaos of the designer’s creative process alternates with rigorous and structured documentation of her work; archiving art findings, and developing the collection on a schedule. By thinking of her graduate collection globally as an entire picture rather than working on each look in a sequence, Gorey created a broad range of bespoke garments in deep and vibrant hues of crimson, lemon yellow, flamingo pink, and indigo. Poetic silk satin-faced organza and cotton canvas pieces twist, bounce, and reflect light at every angle, as Gorey’s triumphant ode to art expression walks down the runway.
- Chelsea Grays
Chelsea Grays, MFA Fashion Design, Menswear
A Showcase of a False Negative
This collection, by MFA Fashion Design student Chelsea Grays, is a social and stylistic documentation of the unique homeless culture found on the streets of the Tenderloin in San Francisco. Her undergraduate studies in psychology provided Grays with the ability to transform conceptual inspiration into mixed media garments. She was intrigued by the distinctive way homeless people combined fabrics and garments together, in very contrasting formations. In Grays' perception, despite the fact the homeless struggle with limitations and the unknown, their way of life had also given birth to a new breed of exchanging silhouettes and shapes.
The homelessness population in the Tenderloin has a high percentage of men, and their life and surroundings made Grays think about artist Jean-Miche Basquiat's work. “His work reflects a street kid's fashion sensibility as an indirect result of his lack of steady resources. Basquiat's’ way of expression went beyond his paintings, it involved his clothing as well,” she says. When you’re homeless, creativity pushes boundaries, not on a whim, but out of a real necessity, and Grays wanted to incorporate the urgency in her collection.
True need is something Grays remembers from home; growing up, she recalls her mother wearing men’s clothing because she had to share clothes with her brother. Now, Grays has the ambition to change the world through her design skills and social awareness. The sum of its inspirations, the collection is mainly unisex, with oversized jackets, casual pants, skirt pants and a shirt dress in the mix. Mix and match prints and patterns are showcased, along with handcrafted elements in screenprint and hand-done wool felting. For half of the garments, Grays used upcycled fabric, constructing pieces made from scrap fabric.
Grays honored her inspiration and wants to create a ruff vibe by by adding texture and layers to her collection. Adding drapes pants to resemble baggy jeans and oversized elements connected to the sharing of clothes that Grays and Basquiat experienced in both of their families. The collection captures unique elements, high waist mens pants, floor length garments, gathering at the waistline and some feminine necklines. Although strong as a collective these garments are impressive enough to stand alone.
Her selection for the CFDA Geoffrey Beene 2018 Award Finalist position, and her involvement in the CFDA Future Fashion Designers Showcase 2019, confirm that she’s one to watch.
- Qing Guo
Qing Guo, MFA Fashion Design
Above the lion and dragon dance parades and fireworks, stood out the houses festooned with colorful lanterns. The Mid-Autumn Festival as well as The Lantern Festival, have always been the holidays Qing was anxiously looking forward to. Holding on to her dad with one hand, and onto her handmade paper lantern with the other, she took in the sight of lighting lanterns, hung on towers and floating in the sky. Her collection symbolizes being part of these festivities for almost 18 years. With it, the designer is honoring her culture, strengthening her family bond and making menswear design exciting while being functional.
MFA Fashion Design student Qing Guo grew up making paper lanterns with her dad. The key factor within the activity is the idea of connection and cohesiveness, something that holds a deep meaning within her family. Coming to live in San Francisco signified missing those events for the last 5 years, but her feelings towards the exuberant festival hadn’t changed with time. Looking back, the creation process has always fascinated Quing Guo, who now channels the creativity towards menswear.
The collection balances functionality and showmanship; pockets all over the garments are useful, but the pink leather jacket, with collapsible lantern sleeves, doesn’t hold back on flair. The framework of the lantern, reminiscent of the way Guo used to bend bamboo to make them, is a recurring motif. A big lantern shape decorates the back of a bright yellow vegan jacket combined with a pleated skirt. An outline of the lantern shape decorates smocked pleated tailored leather pants. Other items, like the pleated long wide-leg pants in magenta, as well as vegan leather garments in blue and pink, stand out in form and color.
In Guo’s collection, a tradition linked to gathering, thanksgiving and praying has been reborn in garments that intertwine the past with the future. Utilitarian yet bold, the garments show that there’s no need to sacrifice functionality for extravaganza - lanterns, after all, are both functional and visually stunning.
- Ying Jin
Ying Jin, MFA Fashion Design
The Fearless Rider
Bravery and confidence, this is what Ying Jin witnessed on a walk in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco.
Passing by the stables, she admired the little kids who were fearlessly riding horses, huge in comparison to their tiny jockeys. The seeming comfort and ease of their postures inspired Jin in her research, aiming to project the feeling of confidence through her garments. The Western saddle, the point of connection between the rider and the horse, with its texture and structure, became the guiding light of her design process. The confident little girl and her courage on top of the horse remained Jin’s muse for the graduate collection.
After her BA in Management of Information Systems at the Yanbian University of Science and Technology, she turned towards fashion design, to fulfill her mission of helping people show the world who they truly are, and empower them on their life journeys by the virtues of garment manipulation.
Jin’s passion geometry shines through her creative approach. Seeing the connection between shape and functionality of an object has always intrigued her. In continuation to that, fascination with the functional beauty of horse-riding gear led Jin to create a women's collection representing calm femininity through volume and cut.
Sophisticated details such as belts, buttons, and metallic closures connect the parts of comfortable high neck dresses, capes, jumpsuits, pocket pants, saddle shape sleeve shirts, and vests.
Earthy tones of olive, taupe, anthracite, and dusty beige embody the color palette of the horse and the rider. The subtle brilliance and density of coated microfiber fabric symbolize the used leather of the saddle, polished by thousands of touches. As a modern armor, Jin’s creations offer protection, while allowing freedom and unrestrained movement.
- Hanbit Ku
Hanbit Ku, MFA Fashion Desgin
The Weight of it All
Women have a long history of fighting to obtain the respect they deserve. One of the most prominent ways to win this uphill battle is by dressing oneself. For women, putting on clothes can mean so much more than just pulling on a shirt and pants in the morning. Rather, it’s a language to present yourself to society. Ku believes it is her duty to create vocabulary that help women express who they truly are.
When Hanbit Ku was constructing her graduate collection, she wanted to make sure that women can feel confident, dignified, and comfortable in her clothes. This was a key element; Ku has a mentor who told her she should dress in a way that demands others to treat her with respect and dignity. Fifteen years later, she’s still holds this advice close to her heart. With that in mind, she wants women to feel like royalty when wearing her clothes; powerful and aware of their power.
Ku’s experiences throughout her life have helped to shape this collection. She was raised in an artistic family and studied music and fine arts before entering the world of fashion. To understand the human condition even further, she also studied anatomy to gain a deeper level of insight of how our bodies move and function. In this exploration, she landed on the concept of weight in garments and the ability to adjust the weight of a garment for various vocabulary.
In order to compliment the empowered, comfortable woman, Ku’s clothing is functional and wearable. She uses jersey, wool, and silk charmeuse to create cascading drapes and silhouettes. She incorporates zippers that serve as linear design elements that also have functionality. The zippers allow the wearer to change the weight of the garment, in a way that compliments her body best, giving her various pressure points to stimulate various personality traits. Ku’s has a sharp eye for detail, which is more than evident in the graduation collection. This powerful tool of weight dispersement is sure to serve her for seasons to come.
- Yi Pan
Yi Pan, MFA Fashion Design
Protect the Anomalous
Society has long judged us for being different than others. From the way we look, who we love, to the way we dress, and even the way our bodies function, someone is always judging us and trying to force us to conform. The playful but heartbreaking collection from Yi Pan was originally inspired by this idea, shown in the short film “Being Pretty,” a dark cyberpunk animation film about how anyone who is different and not considered attractive by society becomes ostracized. Despite the dark theme, the collection will take your breath away.
Pan’s garments are made to be worn by those who have disabilities or bodies that society considers different. She aims to have these individuals feel comfortable and beautiful in their bodies when they put on her garments. Embracing who you are can be tough, but the first step, according to the designer, is being able to wear an outfit comfortably.
Growing up in China, Pan could relate to the society shown in “Being Pretty.” For her, China has a strict surrounding and it has great challenges when it comes to being more open to the consideration of change. After finishing school at Beijing Union University, Pan came to the Academy of Art University to study fashion and was amazed at the freedom that America has. This collection is her homage to culmination of her people, her country and the feelings she experienced with her time in the States.
The colors and silhouettes used in the collection are thoughtfully chosen to help embrace the idea of personal beauty. By choosing the pastel, delicate fabrics and long, flowing silhouettes, Pan creates a collection that is soft, graceful, and functional. Pan uses silk taffeta to create inflated shapes, which are overproportioned so that the wearer is shielded from society in a coat of armor. The large cut-out holes featured in several garments are there to express that everyone has differences hiding beneath their masks. It’s an imperative reminder to embrace the differences that make you who you are.
- Abby Yang
Abby Yang, MFA Fashion Design
Love is Not Kind
Expression comes in many forms, whether it’s a annoyed eye roll or a sad pout. But what about one’s hands? MFA Fashion Design graduate Abby Yang realized one day that they are the most expressive part of the human body. Often, when she wants to better understand how someone talks and expresses themselves, she looks at the movements and shapes their hands make.
Our hands represent so much more than what we have come to believe. A symbolic way of communication often more powerful than words, they help us show emotions and express our love to others. Yang’s collection is based off of her research of this idea. Yang used the shapes of hands caught in acts of love to form the silhouettes of her collection; there are voluptuous sleeves and curves of fabric, bunches of fabric that represent fists, hands embracing, hands pushing and pulling, and hands reaching towards one another.
The bunches are, of course, symbolic - they show that with any kind of love, there is still a weight and extreme pressure on your shoulders, that love comes with pain, challenges and sacrifices. Made by stuffing the fabric with cotton to create unique hand-like shapes, they simulate movement and add depth to the garments.
Love comes with opposite emotions that reflect joy or happiness. She explored the idea of feeling the weight of emotions that love carries within like frustration, anger and decided to translate that burden into her collection through the use of exaggerated hand inspired silhouettes in pants and sleeves as well.
Yang’s usage of florals throughout the fabric is to show that love can bring vitality and growth into your life. But could copious amount of flowers merely cover up the painful experience of love? Can bleached denim symbolize real, uncontrollable emotions, the truth we hardly see but that’s still there? With this imaginative collection, anything’s possible.
- Mingyang Zhang and Yue Shen
Mingyang Zhang, BFA Knitwear Design and Yue Shen, MFA Fashion Design
Coming Out of Your Shell
A collection that explores the transformation of women, as they define their strengths and embrace their weaknesses, is brought to life by the collaboration between MFA Fashion Design student Yue Shen and BFA Knitwear Design student Mingyang Zhang. It’s courageous to be fragile and it’s powerful to show vulnerability. The ultimate goal of pain, struggle and endurance is to create braveness, toughness and flexibility. The process in which these opposing forces collide and give birth to a new soul in the shape of a woman is exquisite and inspirational for both; Yue was attracted to the juxtaposition between beauty and struggle, while Mingyang was intrigued by the softness hidden inside the strong armor projected to the outside world.
Yue’s inspiration holds influence from the abstract expressionist style of John Chamberlain’s sculptures and organic shapes of Alexander Archipenko’s paintings. The refined version of these shapes, merged with irregular fabric manipulations to produce 3D structures, meant to emphasize the process of transition through exaggerated, oversized and feminine silhouettes. Hardness is transmitted through elements of deconstructions from tailored menswear, combined with the stiffness of thick wool fabrics. Moreover, the sense of repression is molded into softness and elegance through the use of ribbing knit.
The illusion of a heavy armor is challenged by the delicate handmade texture of fine merino wool. The idea of women understanding what it means to feel unprotected while being fragile underneath is challenged as a self-imposed ‘façade. ’ Both designers visualize a woman who can overthrow the darkness, stand up and find strength within themselves, while embracing imperfection and vulnerability. This is alluded through a ribbing knit structure that references her spirit. Rigidity vs. delicacy is shown through the use of heavy, yet fine knit of 7-gauge ribbing paired with heavy woven wool fabric. Placing one of the garments under the coat and only exposing the hem and neckline hides and reveals, telling the story of a human living beneath a fortress. The end result is a collaboration that conquers it’s own demons and pressures to thrive beyond expectations. The struggle is there; just because it’s not visible it doesn’t mean doesn’t exist.
- Yaryna Zhuk
Yaryna Zhuk, MFA Fashion Design
Blooming in the Shadows
Sustainability is a growing trend in the fashion industry, and M.F.A. fashion design graduate Yaryna Zhuk is no stranger to it. Her collection is an exploration of how to create designs that are as eco-friendly as possible. With a specific focus at the core of the collection, Zhuk’s stylistic inspiration came, nevertheless, from a shadowy walk through the streets of San Francisco.
Back in Ukraine, Zhuk’s home country, it is said that if you find a fern flower, which only blooms once a year at night, you will gain eternal happiness. However, fern flowers are non-existent, so this myth has yet to be proven. Zhuk believes that the mythical flower is black, making it tougher to find in the dark of night. The flower came to Zhuk’s mind on a rare sunny day in San Francisco, as she was walking through the Italian neighborhood of North Beach. She noticed the sharp contrast of the shadows on the sidewalk, particularly the different shadows a flag was making as it was blowing in the wind. The movement and shapes created by the shadows of the flag reminded her of flowers, and the coloring of the shadows made her think of the myth of the fern.
The inspiration of the fern flower is evident in her collection in the swirling ruffles that hang from the garments along with the different curls and drapes of the fabrics. Zhuk created her own textiles for this collection, combining scraps of fabric and hand sewing the appliques. A shadow of a windy flag was developed into the textile applique of overlapping transparent organza netting and opaque brocade. With a background in both embroidery and sustainability, Zhuk was able to construct detailed textiles with minimal waste.