One of the few fashion schools to annually earn a runway spot in New York Fashion Week, and located on the opposite coast from the US industry hub, is the Academy of Art University, San Francisco. Nevertheless, it attracts an audience of fashion’s elite, lauded journalists from the old guard and colorful influencers from the new, while its classrooms welcome established and emerging designers, all eager to experience the students’ creativity under the tutelage of director, Simon Ungless.
The textile innovation and experimental tailoring on display must emanate from the central presence of Ungless who worked with and created prints for Alexander McQueen early in his career, but the diverse aesthetics and techniques evident within each of the 9 students’ work demonstrates a healthy variety of specializations and influences. And most importantly when viewing student collections, the execution was superb.
The show announced itself with dynamic menswear by Qing Guo whose vegan leather pleated jumpsuits and bombers with billowing pants in head-to-toe teal or magenta or yellow, worn with tone-on-tone laced boots exuded commitment to the celebratory power of color. Traditional Chinese lantern motifs were incorporated within the construction of sleeves and pant legs to honor festivals the designer attended with her family while growing up.
Mariana Gorey meshed chaos and structure as memories of her strict schooling in France, her struggle with dyslexia and the art of Cy Twombly came together in a poetic collection of monastic tailoring with rigorous draping and rich gathering confined by elongated cuffs, all in regal hues.
Chelsea Grays was struck by the homeless population in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district and in particular how necessity becomes the mother of invention when your immediate survival depends on layering and appropriating what’s readily available. She folded in aspects from Jean-Michel Basquiat’s art and street life to create a unisex collection of patchwork houndstooths, tweeds, and screen printing relying where possible on upcycled fabrics.
It’s all in the gesture, believes Abby Yang, who is attuned to how we show emotion through hand movements which she then interpreted in voluminous sleeves of bunched, gathered and cushiony micro-florals and bleached denim.
The saddle as a symbol of the synergy between horse and rider was the starting point for Ying Jin’s womenswear in anthracite-coated microfiber and waxed nylon accentuated with equestrian-inspired hardware. Saddle straps informed the pattern making behind capes, sleeve cuffs, and collared shirts for a utilitarian sophistication.
Fashion editor Jackie Mallon is also an educator and author of Silk for the Feed Dogs, a novel set in the international fashion industry.
Photos Getty for Academy of Art University