I began my journey to fashion design through art. It was a way to express myself and my inner emotions that I couldn’t express in words. My father told me when I was 10 that I should start experimenting with clothing as a medium for my art. It wasn’t until I was 16 that I realized the wisdom of his words. As I continued to explore fashion design, I began to discover my voice and my perspective. I desire to create clothes for real people who value quality. I want to design clothes that blend seamlessly into the customer’s wardrobe.
Seoul, South Korea
In choosing to study fashion I was very influenced by my father, who used to do accessory design. My passion toward fashion came about from hearing my father say he wanted to study abroad in Italy, where fashion and craftsmanship were exemplary and relevant. Just as he wanted to further his knowledge by studying abroad, I also wanted to come to the United States. In particular, I wanted to study in New York City, the fashion mecca of the world, and ultimately to further my knowledge studying in Milan for my senior year. Through studying at the Fashion Institute of Technology, located in the heart of New York, and in Milan, specializing in knitwear, I have learned much. I learned skills that will increase my ability as a designer, such as how to develop designs from a sketch, differentiate construction of garments, and recognize details that make better garments.
Rachel S. Kim
Fashion is a way to be present and live in the moment. It empowers self-expression and self-acceptance, leading me to appreciate my life. When I keep an eye toward fashion, everything becomes inspirational and interesting to me, allowing me to find beauty in all things. Fashion motivates me to be experimental with my designs and to love communicating my creativity to the world. The fact that my designs will one day contribute to shaping the world excites me the most. My mother has been a huge influence in my fashion career. Her closet carries her identity and style, which leads me to see fashion as an intimate exploration of people, whose style expresses their soul.
I started to study fine arts at a very young age. The transition from fine arts to fashion design was natural for me. The reason I chose to study fashion professionally was because it’s a large and influential industry that needs change. Many people believe that fashion design is a matter of reinventing what was created in the past. However, our lives and opportunities have changed drastically from the past. As a young fashion designer, I believe the fashion industry needs to move forward. It should embrace technological and textile innovations, adopt sustainable practices, and support human rights. For me, being a fashion designer is not just about creating wearable clothing. It’s an opportunity to conceptualize innovative designs, adapt to the ever-changing needs of our society, and incorporate up-to-date science and technology.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
I have been fortunate to live in different cities around the world. Each new place I moved to helped shape who I am today and allowed me to see the world from a different point of view. All these experiences brought with them new challenges, which I have embraced. I have developed beliefs and ideas that I can only express through my art. Initially, I was interested in the craft of garment design; the possibility to express my thoughts and ideas through clothing gave me the drive to pursue a career in fashion design. What inspires me most is finding endless expressions of individuality that convey one’s personality. I truly believe that inspiration comes from a thirst for knowledge of any kind, which inspires one to become greater. I design because it comes naturally; it is the best way of expressing who I am as an individual.
Montclair, New Jersey
I grew up with a love of cartoons and illustration. I soon discovered that fashion was something people could directly relate to. The relationship between the wearer and designer is unique to fashion; this relationship is what inspires my work. Unlike other art forms, where there is a creator and viewer, fashion is a collaborative process from design to final garment, ending with the garment’s styling by the wearer. Through this process the creation continues to change, and becomes part of multiple people’s expression of themselves. I aim to find a balance between practical and extreme, playful and serious. I made the decision to specialize in knitwear because of its added ability to create a new textile within a garment.
Maxim Gorky described an artist as “a man who digests his own subjective impressions and knows how to find a general objective meaning in them to express them in a convincing form.” He meant that an artist’s work is for the benefit of others—not for personal gain. I feel the same way about designing. Before starting a collection, I think about how it will relate to the people I surround myself with physically and virtually, and if it will provoke a reaction among them. It’s important for me to be able to visually communicate with other like-minded people and build a community through the clothes that I make.
Teaneck, New Jersey
Creativity and imagination cannot be learned, but can be released through a trigger of inspiration. The arts were a part of my childhood because of my mother. As the head of costume and set design at various theaters, she immersed me in the arts through visual art and literature. She nurtured my creative interests, talents, and skills, which led to my development in designing. Inspirations are like diamonds. They can’t be made; you have to find them. Each one is unique. My design aesthetic is rooted in seeing beauty in all things. For me it comes mostly through art, stories, and experiences. I convey the beauty I see through my designs, making them opulent, sophisticated, and elegant. As a designer and an individual, I can see the eloquent beauty in the world, which is more difficult than accepting its chaos.
New York, New York
I attribute my initial interest in and appreciation for art and design to growing up in New York City. The city has a unique understanding of art; here, the creativity and innovation of others is impossible to ignore. It has exposed me to a number of different art forms and artists and has encouraged my personal experimentation with design. I began to consider design as a potential career choice after learning about a specific designer, whose unique body of work resonated with me and illustrated the depth of what design could mean. I was inspired to explore what I could bring to design, both artistically and practically. I began by taking classes in the field and ultimately applied to design school. Over the years, I have worked to develop my understanding of what initially inspired me about design and now aim to create harmony between beauty, art, creativity, history, politics, and functionality. I aim to express me as a person, my personal aesthetic and message and, most importantly, to empower and express the personality and style of the wearer.
Manalapan, New Jersey
Throughout my life, I was encouraged to pursue a creative and artistic mindset. This type of environment allowed me to develop an open mind and a deep appreciation for art and design. Going into fashion seemed like a natural step for me, as I have always believed that clothing is one of the easiest ways to express yourself and to show the world who you are as person. The process of having an idea in your head, then developing it into a physical piece of work has always both fascinated and challenged me, pushing me to new levels. I pull inspiration from history, nature, and science, as well as other aspects of design, such as fine arts and architecture. I truly believe that we are all interconnected and pull inspiration from one another.
Bucks County, Pennsylvania
I wanted to become a fashion designer because of the tremendous role fashion has played in my life. It was my first bond with art; since my mother sews and worked in the industry, fashion is forever a part of me. I am intrigued by its ability to communicate without dialogue. An early exposure to designers’ storefronts while shopping, along with an exceptional number of fashion magazines, resulted in my endless desire to learn about the industry and its history. Once I got my hands on art supplies, fabric, and my mother’s sewing machine, I turned my interest into my career. I immensely enjoy doing extensive and in-depth research for my collections. My inspirations often begin with movies, music scenes, and the art world. An off-kilter girlishness and a dark humor are at the core of my design aesthetic. I concentrate on designing uncomplicated, wearable pieces with an unconventional modernity.
Tenille L. Warren
I was born in Washington, D.C., where I shared a very close relationship with my grandmother (a seamstress) and grandfather (an artist and carpenter). With their creative inspiration, and my mom being my number-one fan, my life as an artist was set in motion at age 4. I graduated from Duke Ellington School of the Arts in 1994, with ambitions to relocate to New York to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology. Persistently pursuing my childhood dream to become a fashion designer, I began a journey of numerous artistic endeavors. For nearly two decades, I maintained a very prosperous career in business management and design, and served the community through various organizations and initiatives. My ultimate goal is to use fashion as a platform to support outreach initiatives, providing services to create a better quality of life for those who battle a relentless cycle of poverty.
Melissa DaiXin Zhang
I would describe myself as someone who likes the ostentatious. Although, as a fashion designer, I prefer constructing simple and classic styles, creative design elements—the ones that immediately blow you away—are what awakened and nurtured my love for fashion. I suppose that is the true reason why I want to be part of the fashion world: ever since I can remember, all I wanted was to work in the industry that was famous for expressing its artistry in loud statements of color and sculptural forms. It influences the way people dress, the way people feel. That is why designing is unique to me. By transforming details and fabrics, I, too, want to be able to create wearable works of art that induce the same breathtaking reactions I get when seeing the ostentatious on the runway.