Academy of Art University Fall 2022 Ready-to-Wear Collection
“In my beginning is my end,” wrote TS Eliot in four quartets. This is a line that came to me when I saw the final look of the Academy of Art University graduation show. It was a wired metal construction from Keer Ivy Chen’s couture-inspired range reminiscent of Paul Poiret’s shaded dresses, and the circularity was both literal and symbolic; Poiret presented these shocking silhouettes in the 1910s, so close to the start of a new century, as we are today.
Student shows are usually heralds of the future, but the work of this class of 2022 (the show included the work of nine graduates who couldn’t perform in 20 or 21) was clearly influenced by the upheaval of the two last years. Rashida Birdsong’s knitwear, incorporating protest signs, referenced the social justice movement that began during the pandemic; Nigerian-American Patricia Falowo’s collection, titled Afrofuturism, appeals to tradition, incorporating weaving, braiding and knotting techniques.
It seemed that the workarounds and adjustments needed to navigate the unknowns of lockdowns and warrants might have influenced students’ use of details such as drawstrings and suspenders, which allow wearers to customize their garments. . Knitwear met the same need; note in particular those of Mingyang Zhang, who are inspired by dance; and Tianya Candice Li’s soft, genre-flowing pieces, which referenced earthquakes. The sinking of the Titanic, another devastating event, was the starting point for Jaclyn Shahan’s deconstructed and reconstructed looks. Even sewing-focused students, notably Daniel Kim, took a deconstructed approach.
That’s not to say that a “she came to undo” theme was universal. Domingo Cholula’s lineup draws inspiration from Dutch and Flemish painting, but in light of abortion rights debates, his long-collared Cossacks had a sort of Handmaid’s Tale vibe. Gabriella Weinkauf’s prints are inspired by Catholic imagery. A few designers created clothes using woven strips of a type of fabric (see the designs of Andrea Aunni Young and Nazanin Ramezani), folding them back on themselves, which seemed to speak of autonomy.
There were lots of baggy tabards or tunic shapes everywhere. One of the most notable was a dress by Milijana Delic that resembled a walking Mondrian. She created her collection with her brother, Milos, who studies at the university’s school of industrial design. Yachen Xie and Voonbin Shine Leow, respectively fashion and textile designers, worked together on a series of colorful dresses with harmonious silhouettes with their incredible prints. Wangyujing Zhang added a touch of whimsy to the show with her ultra-feminine, lushly draped pieces that borrow elements from Rococo paintings from France and Tang costumes from China. The iridescent arc wings on the back of a look added an angelic touch to the ensemble.