The Virginia Commonwealth University annual juried fashion show, “Zenith,” was canceled in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, but that hasn’t stopped the design students from completing their pieces remotely as part of their coursework. Billed as a show featuring many firsts, “Zenith” was to feature a variety of designs for an expanded range of body sizes, including models of varying ages and body types. These looks won’t grace a runway this May, but here are the creations of three students.
Junior fashion design major Jonathan Clarke’s style challenges gender stereotypes in fashion. “It’s really an exploration of identity through gender and sexuality, but it has a lot of influence from vintage aesthetics,” he says. It’s reflected in his jacket and two-piece knit set. Using the military field jacket that his grandfather wore in Korea (and he now wears) as inspiration, Clarke is remaking the jacket, blending it with the look of Jackie Kennedy’s famed pink Chanel suit. “I’m kind of appropriating this military silhouette and combining it with queer culture to reflect today,” he says.
Senior fashion design major Solleyha Mathurin’s looks trend artistic, but she wants them to be wearable off the runway, too. She describes it as “functionable, wearable art.” Her “Zenith” show piece is a coat that’s burnt orange in color and incorporates different materials, a cutout on the side and some silk painting. “My concept was based on my personal story, reflecting on how growing up as a military child, how each move shaped me into a different person and the repercussions of any past history affecting my growth,” she says.
Prints for All
Senior in fashion design major Elisha Gaskins’ style defies definition. “It’s always changing,” she says, “but I love prints.” Her show pieces include a long coat, a sports coat, dresses and knits. Gaskins was incorporating more inclusive sizing for a range of body types for the show. “Representation is important to me, because [perusing old fashion magazines] you would just flip through pages and pages, and you wonder, ‘When am I going to see someone who looks like me?’ … so I just want my garments to be something that anybody in the crowd can look at and see themselves wearing it and be comfortable wearing it.”
The May 8 VCU fashion show has been canceled, but check for updates at arts.vcu.edu.