If you had a front row seat at the New York Fashion Week, first you would probably be excited to see the grand names in the likes of Ralph Lauren, Marchesa and Vera Wang. Then your expectation, curiosity and enthusiasm with a hint of welcomed uneasiness, would probably turn to the new generation of fashion. Because maybe, out of all people, one day you too can tell stories about first witnessing a glimpse of an emerging fashion icon. In the spirit of academics and innovation anyone could be that [new fashion icon].
Fashion shows, especially at the Academy of Art University, bring together not just 13 students but a well-formed team of future designers. Their fashion platform is made out of textile, fashion, jewelry, knitwear and menswear majors. These graduate students share a passion of crafts(wo)man in the making. Their goal isn’t only to pass a runway exam, but place in perspective their niche as part of a greater picture. And what better place to do that than at the New York Fashion Week!
While one can write an entire story about each one of these talents, one designer – at least to the common eye – stood out in the student show and throughout the fashion week. Ben Ellis, Bachelor of Fine Arts Menswear Design, capturing images of beautiful but struggling creatures of his native Anchorage, Alaska brought to our attention unique design, perspective and an alarming growing rate of environmental deterioration. His inspiration are French artists Andre Derain, Henri Matisse and Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky. And his tools repurposed denim and jersey. It is the combination between design and sustainable responsibility what raises the bar in this collection and its seamless, pleasant, presentation of it.
A large snake wraps around the collar of a sleeveless baggy shirt. The tail of a reptile matches the glaciers of our generation. A wolf, lynx and bear’s piercing eyes stare straight into ours – their species embedded large onto Ellis’ mens dress and vest. Dancing dolphins play comfortably on a large sleeve shirt and skirt but amidst hues of pollution in the corners of its seams. The beautiful and exciting element of turbulent dark blue waves repeats. Ellis creativity places a love of nature in a real life setting, where it’s supposed to be anyways, almost as a call to action.
Ironically his designs portray deterioration and pollution. However, some of the patterns in the fabrics could be easily mistaken with a sky full of constellations. Perhaps that very sky mirrors our nature and [emotional] attachment to it.
Amidst all the talk of pollution in his designs, Ellis was a breath of fresh air. The audience, among them 2016 Miss USA Deshauna Barber and 2015 Miss Universe Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach in one place, enjoyed a designer that combined a unique heritage, experience and creative process. The abstract layers were just a platform for his creatures to sit on. It seems that in the 21st century we are craving for our apparel to come out alive. Ellis’ vision matches his generation’s mission.
Eleven years ago in 2005, the Academy of Art University debuted its first show. Today the university represents a large international student body, mostly from Asia, but also local such as Alaska, Utah and Indiana. “This season each designer holds a unique and thoughtful vision,” said Simon Ungless, Executive Director of the School of Fashion. “The collections honor the essence of our industry and carry a conscientious connection to textiles, three-dimensional design, tailoring, and construction techniques. It has been a pleasure for us to guide them into preserving their individuality and integrity.”
After the show Ellis shared his emotions and that of his peers. “[I feel] High, alive, tired, grateful, humbled – and ready.’’
Photography Credits by ACADEMY OF ART UNIVERSITY Photographer MFA PHOTOGRAPHY ALUMNUS NICK GUTIERREZ – Starring ART DIRECTION, SIMON UNGLESS, STYLIST DANIELLE WALLIS, HAIR AND MAKEUP JOSHUA CONOVER at WORKGROUP, MODELS CLAIRE AND AUGUST AT STARS MODEL MANAGEMENT, PHOTO ASSISTANT DANIELLE RUEDA