10 Bay Area Designers Blazing a Trail With Style With their annual fashion show around the corner, California College of the Arts' seniors turn up the heat with their final collections

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Photography By Lauren Iverson

Nerves and anxiety permeated the classroom of California College of the Arts Program of Fashion Design. Today was the programs Annual Jury Review, and the tension was evident. For months, the seniors of CCA’s Fashion Design Program have been working tirelessly on their final projects. Led by new Chair John Bauernfeind, the program has taken on an emphasis in social responsibility, challenging students to create authentic work that confronts wider global issues. Tasked with the assignment of creating  four looks representative of themselves, the days schedule consisted of twenty minute “Jury Reviews.” Standing before the class and a panel of judges, each student was asked to present their four looks.

“We want them to be comfortable, we want them to care, and we want their work to be authentic,” remarked Li Lai, teaching assistant for the fashion design class. “It’s about more than inspiration, it’s about how you take on the inspiration. That’s where the personal story comes in.”

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For many of the young designers, the Jury Review was more than an assessment, but more so an opportunity. High marking designs would find their way into CCA’s Annual Fashion Experience. A culmination of the year’s work, CCA’s Fashion Experience marked a seminal moment in the school’s evolution. Celebrating the culmination of CCA’s year in fashion, the mission of the event, to tap into the West Coast zeitgeist. Celebrating the extraordinary and unconventional, the experience centered within the heart of San Francisco’s design district, will celebrate fashion’s role in the ever evolving culture of the West Coast.

Highlighting the work of CCA’s senior fashion design students, the Jury Review plays a pivotal role in the fashion experience, dictating which collections find a place in the overall show.

We spoke with the talented seniors of CCA about their collections, their inspirations and upbringings, and how both continue to fuel their creativity.

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Steralda Osias  

Age: 22 

Hometown: Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

How did you come to choose clothing as the medium to express yourself?

I’ve always been into clothing. Really just based off of my parents. I have this one cousin who really influenced me in terms of fashion. Since elementary school I was already drawing designs, but it was mostly on women. And although I like drawing, I prefer doing things with my hands. And clothing seems to be the best thing that works for me.

What were some of the ideas you were looking to convey in your collection?

For this collection I was heavily influenced by western design. I was also influenced by mercury space suits that astronauts wear. To get into a mercury space suit you have to unzip the garment all the way around you. It’s pretty cool.

How did you come to choose space and astronauts as one of your influences for this collection?

That one was because my dad is very gritty. So that’s where the western part came from. And he’s very country. He’s from Haiti so that kind of influences his style. But then he reads about Mars and space and things and just knows so much about it. So when I first came up with the concept, I was thinking about him and the cowboy aspect. I guess the whole space idea came into my mind and that’s how I put elements of him into it.

Aigne French

Age: 21

Hometown: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 

Tell me a little about your inspiration for your collection and what ideas you were looking to communicate?

My inspiration came from where I’m from which is Philadelphia. It involves the younger me everyday waking up and going to school. I had to catch the train so being on the train and going to school in my neighborhood there was a lot of graffiti and murals. My environment was tough but the murals give a uplifiting expression. That’s why I incorporated the embroidery and colors in my collection because I wanted to put forth the energy I had when I was going to school despite all the violence happening around me. 

How did your environment make you who you are today?

It made me resilient. It made me become more aware of what goes on around me and how I deal with things. It just prepared me.

How do those lessons play out in your work?

With the silhouettes that I created they have these big, protruding shoulders and that to me represents protection and resilience because I feel like I had to protect myself in my environment.

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Hanyue Zang

Age: 22 

Hometown: Nan Tong, China

How do you describe your individual style?

Relaxed, freedom, independent.

How does your personal style play out in your body of work?

I think just who I am and my personality, and what I like. I transfer that into my collection. So they can tell from far away that it’s my work.

How did you come to create your silhouettes?

My collection silhouettes are inspired by men’s shirts. I always grab from my boyfriend’s closet, or found inspiration in my father’s closet. I really like menswear, I used to be a childrenswear designer and that’s how I mix them together and they become the silhouette.

What are you aspirations after you get out of CCA?

I may try to get an internship here and if I can get one I may just stay here.

How does fashion here differ from fashion in China

I think it’s more advanced here. In China we’re not allowed to use Google so when we want to see the runway we have to wait till the Chinese websites update the information. Here you can just Youtube it anytime you want.

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Camille Malland

Age: 26

Hometown: Oakland, California

How did you first fall in love with fashion?

I started as a graphic designer and that’s what I thought I wanted to do but I realized that what I really enjoyed was to have something tangible in the end. I really like the gratification of holding something you make.

Tell us a bit more about your senior collection?

It’s like my view of the way America is right now. I’m half French and half American. So half of my family is rednecks and the other half is super Parisian and fancy so I feel like I have this interesting view point of how Europeans see Americans and what certain things mean to America and that juxtaposition.

How does that juxtaposition play out in your clothing?

I use a lot of real tree camo print. I can also describe my muse a bit, which is a redneck terrorist trashy but classy kinda individual. I’m kinda enthralled with the gaze so I have some goggles in some looks and a look that just shows the eyes.

What role do you think fashion plays in today’s American culture?

I feel like fashion is identity so I think whether it’s today or 100 years ago fashion is always gonna play a role in society and culture. It always kind of reflects what’s going on and the stories we tell with the clothes we wear has always interested me.

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Jiexen Li

Age: 21 

Hometown: Beijing, China 

Whats the importance of a muse to creating a body of work?

My muse was definitely a really important part of creating my collection. Because that’s something that’s always in my mind. Would he or she wear this kind of stuff on the street? That’s something that can tie all the styles together.

What are some characteristics of your muse?

They’re skinny tall and bony. This person would be really independent, have their own thoughts, and work towards one goal while not caring about what other people think.

How is the fashion landscape of the West Coast different from the rest of the world?

I feel like here it’s a lot more art related than consumerism focused because I feel like the East Coast is more focused on the business and here it’s more about putting your thought into the design.

What do you want people to take away from your body of work?

Pretty much just to be themselves. It’s the most important thing I want people to get from my collections. Don’t care, be who you are.

Vipavee Kang

Age: 21

Hometown: Thailand

What were some of your earliest memories of fashion?

I remember myself always seeing my grandmother in Singapore with her sewing machine and I always wanted to try it. I grew up around her sewing so I think I absorbed it from her. I’m the only one in my family going abroad to study in art. I realized as I grew older my friends would ask me to choose their clothes for them. So I’m like okay, I guess design and art is my thing! I wanted to look into fashion because my motivation was to make something that I can wear. That’s my motivation that I’d be able to wear what I make.

So would you say you design for yourself first?

Not entirely but every time I design something and I’d wear it myself and feel good. Maybe it’s accidentally maybe it’s not but I never start to design for me I always have inspirations and people I look up to when I start something.

What are some of the things that you are looking to communicate through this collection?

I like making things that can be twisted into many different things and have many different functions and uses. Like this skirt can actually  become a jacket too. I don’t want things to be one thing it just bores the hell out of me. I like to surprise people like oh this thing is reversible and can be used for a completely different function or look. I like to give the person who wears it a chance to style themselves however they want. So you can use it for a long time and it becomes sustainable so you don’t have to throw it away.

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Yui Fukunaga

Age: 24 

Hometown: Torrance, California 

How has everyday life played a role in your collection?

Much of the inspiration for my collection came from walking home from BART and seeing all of the homeless encampments. I noticed their resourcefulness in building out of plywood. So a lot of my collection was about piecing things together in a makeshift way. I also played around with some leather work and denim techniques.

What were some of the materials or fabrics that you used to construct your pieces?

A lot of wool, a lot of twill and denim. A lot of heavier work wear fabrics, but making more tight fitting dainty garments.

How do you draw the line between creating designs that are personally fulfilling versus being marketable?

That was something that was really challenging for me, because before we had John (Fashion School Chair) we had a lot of merchandising education, and no conceptual design education. So he came along and it became more about you, working through your concept, and then really thinking how you can merchandise it. I have a lot of trouble drawing that line sometimes because for my designs I sometime think about things intuitively.

Who are some designers that have influenced you?

Number one, Margiela. I love Margiela. Just his whole design ethic, how he treats his workers. And how he’s kind of a mystery, and his whole deconstruction element to his work, which is super cool and super punk.

Saba Bagherzadeh Matanagh

Age: 31

Hometown: Iran

Tell us a bit about your thesis

So for my thesis I designed an original art collection, but it’s not a typical category for visual art. I would say i’ts more like vacation resort but for a working woman who travels a lot for business but wants to take advantage of that opportunity to have some fun while working as well.

So a little work, a little play, while she travels.

Yes exactly!

Would you say that’s kind of your muse?

Yes, so my muse is kind of middle aged women working in the creative field, and she has to travel a lot because of her work and she usually chooses her wardrobe very carefully.

So all of the pieces kind of work together so she should not worry about what to wear. I try to play with that and design pieces that can work interchangeably together.

How did you choose the color palette for your collection?

I chose my colors because I started with a shade of turquoise, and I get that from my background. I’m from Iran, and I am Persian. And I am also inspired by architecture. Especially Persian architecture. And there is a lot of turquoise and different shades of blues in our architecture so I wanted to have a touch of that added to my collection. But I decided to add some pop colors that are more feminine in case not everyone is into the blues.

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Vicki Wang

Age: 21 

Hometown: China 

Your collection is the only one that uses all white

Yeah my inspiration was hospitals. My grandfather who was in one last summer. I was really interested in the doctors uniform. It really inspired me. Especially in China, the doctors and nurse are wearing all white. This material is like paper but it’s a really strong fabric. It reminds of the one time use bed sheet material in the hospital.

Which is called tavic?

Yes, I chose it because it reminds me of the one time use bed sheet fabric materials in hospitals. It’s not exactly the same but it reminds me of it.

All my design silhouettes are over sized and really loose because in hospitals patients are always wearing really loose fitting clothes. So in my point of view that’s fashion for me so I transferred it to my design.

Yeah it seems like clothing in the hospital is very loose fitting but doesn’t have much shape to it but yours has so much intricacy even though it’s lose and over sized.

Yeah! I didn’t want it to look like I actually designed it for patients, ha ha, just inspired by the look.

Eliza Oakley

Age: 23

Hometown: Alameda, California

How has the Bay Area influenced your perspective on fashion?

This year in particular I’ve been pretty influenced by my guy friends who aren’t interested in fashion style themselves. One time I was out with my boyfriend, and he told one of his friends that I was a fashion major. And he was like, “Who would’ve thought would be with a fashion major?!”

But I was like, “What, you wrap your sweater around your chest and style yourself everyday!” So it’s like my boyfriend and his friends aren’t into fashion, but they wear similar things in this really specific skate style. So that was interesting to me.

Then I thought about myself and how I dress, and how I often will wear my boyfriend’s clothes in his size, so everything is oversize. So I don’t know, that kind of started my thesis.

Do you think everyone has style?

Yes, it’s just that not everyone knows it.

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CCA’s Annual Fashion Experience is happening May 11th 2017 at the California College of the Arts Campus at 1111 8th Street, San Francisco CA. Many of the designs highlighted in this feature will be featured on the runway and throughout the fashion experience. Special thanks to Chris Oldaker, Neysa Young, Li Lai, and John Bauernfeind for their contributions to this piece. Tickets are available now online

Max Gibson

Max Gibson aka Dispo Max is a journalist, web curator and entrepreneur. He is the founder of Wine & Bowties, an Oakland-based art and culture publication with the focus of celebrating creativity. Today Max resides in Oakland after living in LA. Max loves hoop, dispos and good jokes.