Jun. 26, 2021

by Jonathan Vatner

On April 6, selected members of the Fashion Design MFA classes of ’20 and ’21 presented their thesis collections in a live, interactive virtual fashion show. The seven artistic segments, filmed and edited by the designers, brought viewers into a sun-dappled field to see Bing Zhu’s long layered and pleated dresses, into the dark to watch models put on and take off Justin Chi’s playful overalls with big plastic handles, and into an empty hotel ballroom for Anabella Bergero’s trippy, punk-rock “queerceañera.”

Left: Cristina and Margarita Ng Ng, who design under the name Ng2 Studios, based their thesis on their identity as twins, highlighting their similarities and differences in a streetwear collection with voluminous silhouettes. They also developed a complex pattern grading system that considers the effect of aging and the environment on bodies. Right: For her bright and bold collection, Brit Shaked created a physical representation of sound waves using color and drape, and investigated how changes in the tone of a voice affected the shape of the garment.

After each segment, Valerie Steele, director and chief curator of The Museum at FIT, interviewed the designers about their inspirations and aspirations. Throughout, viewers were able to comment on the show and buy some of the featured garments and accessories. This event represented FIT’s first foray into real-time shopping during a fashion show.

Left: Bing Zhu’s designs celebrate “soft power”— feminine strength she learned from her mother. “My mom would always smile and calm me down whenever I am upset or impatient. But behind the softness, there has always been power.” Right: Concrete Utopia, Youngjun Lim’s collection, brings in his background as an industrial designer to construct a modular clothing system that embraces diverse body shapes.

The innovative, immersive show was one response to the canceling of in-person events due to the pandemic. It was organized by FIT’s DTech lab, which brings together students, faculty, and industry partners to solve real-world problems. This was the first in a series of interactive events, branded DTech Live and powered by Bambuser, a shopping technology platform.

Left: Qiuyi Luo’s collection plays with the ways people perceive artwork. Inspired by Marcel Duchamp’s readymade sculptures like Fountain (1917), he created clothing shapes based on a fountain (a urinal), bicycle wheel, and chair, then changed the proportions to shake up viewers’ perceptions. Right: Justin Chi exaggerated the fasteners on his designs to emphasize the act of dressing and undressing. Each garment comes with instructions and tools to adjust the attached plastic handles and make the process more interactive.

“Through this experience, the designers overcame the challenges of the pandemic to focus on craftsmanship while remaining true to their artistic vision,” said Cathleen Sheehan, professor and acting chair of the Fashion Design MFA program. “The breadth of themes and approaches represented is very exciting, and we can’t wait to watch these designers shape the future of fashion.” Watch a recording of the show at dtech.fitnyc.edu/live.

Featured Photo (top): For Queerceañeras, Anabella Bergero was inspired by the quinceañera, the Latin American coming-ofage celebration for girls turning 15. “With the queering up of this rite, my main desire is to offer different possible comings and becomings of age,” Bergero says.