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A look inside CFDA Fashion Graduate Digital Showcase 2020

By Jackie Mallon

Aug 18, 2020


The CFDA Fashion Future Graduate Showcase 2020, like almost every other event on the graduate calendar this summer, has gone completely digital. Typically its focus is a 2-day Manhattan event featuring a selection of the nation’s strongest graduate collections on display with its creators mingling among a swarm of industry guests.

But FFGS20 Digital Showcase gathers together more than 100 designers from the Class of 2020 from fashion schools across the country on the CFDA website, granting them exposure and recognizing their talent and resilience at a time when the job landscape looks particularly bleak.

Selected based on a combination of their thesis portfolios and educator recommendations, these future leaders from undergrad and post-grad programs will be driving the conversation around climate action, social justice, diversity and equitable fashion systems for years to come.

The 12 schools represented are: Academy of Art University, California College of the Arts , College for Creative Studies, Fashion Institute of Technology, Kent State University, Marist College, Otis College of Art and Design, Parsons School of Design, Pratt Institute, Rhode Island School of Design, Savannah College of Art Design, School of the Art Institute Chicago.

The graduates also gain the opportunity to forge relationships with Paris-based recruiter par excellence Floriane de Saint Pierre. Past FFGS graduates have gone on to receive placements at leading brands including Reebok, Proenza Schouler, Thom Browne, Ralph Lauren, and have been featured editorially in Vogue, Vogue Italia, and WWD.

Spotlight on five grads from the Class of 2020 CFDA showcase

“Agency” is the word Jacob Olmedo, who gained notice for his 2017 thesis collection of hydroponic textiles which resembled fresh grass sprouting from calico, chooses to define his work. Continuing to work with new biomaterials and natural fibers to create textiles that take form on and off the body, the recent Parsons MFA grad says, “I hope that my generation can work together to transform today into a tomorrow that is inclusive and collaborative of all perspectives. A tomorrow that steps back from grand production and looks towards the singular and hand-crafted objects that stay with people forever.”

The experimental pattern cutting and technical creativity behind Academy of Art University’s Kenneth Brody McCasland’s avant-garde, macabre fantasies are inspired by subconscious images which bridge the elusive moment between sleep and wakefulness. Corsetry boning creates the dramatic skeleton of the garments, fusible horsehair adds support, and meticulous pleating evokes delicacy.

Bingjin Zhu, inspired by her father, a wood craftsman who sculpted traditional Chinese fictional characters which he used to tell her stories when she was a child, wants to be a storyteller of her own using fabric. A graduate of FIT’s MFA program she describes herself with the same quality as the fabric she drapes and gathers and twists into such unexpected connotations: malleable.

SCAD MFA graduate Ming Yang calls herself an experimenter and believes, “Fashion needs to be redefined as a strategy to solve problems.” Inspired by the beauty but also the pressure which the fashion industry causes, she dismantles and deconstructs old patterns to build new practical garment offerings.

Edna St Louis of Art Institute of Chicago rejects the old adage that clothes should not wear the individual, instead reveling in their power to transform the wearer into any persona. She hopes that sustainability can be achieved by treating garments as precious works of art instead of disposable items.

Fashion editor Jackie Mallon is also an educator and author of Silk for the Feed Dogs, a novel set in the international fashion industry.

Images in corresponding order student work by Ming Yang, Jacob Olmedo, Kenneth Brody McCasland, Bingjin Zhu, Edna St Louis.