Often, the greatest innovations come from the minds of emerging talent — young people pushing their way into an industry and bringing with them the evolving perspectives of a new generation. Influenced by the culture in which they were raised and their own creativity, unbridled by time in the biz, these nascent designers are out to prove why they deserve a spot in the cut-throat world of fashion.
This annual Fashion Week El Paseo showcase features exciting collections from recent Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising grads. Founded in 1969, the private college has many notable alumni, including red carpet darling Monique Lhuillier, rapper/producer/designer will.i.am, and Trish Summerville, best known for her costume work in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.
For tickets to the March 24 show, visit fashionweekelpaseo.com.
Op Art Collection
“I have always been inspired by op art and 1960s mod fashion,” says Maryam Varschochi, whose debut collection references themes that became prominent during that era — geometric shapes, black-and-white patterns, positive and negative space. The emerging designer dreams of building her own brand someday, where young people can team up for creative collaborations.
Materials: “I used a lot of neoprene fabric. I found it really interesting and modern. I also used a wire technique to create organic shapes based on the reaction of the wire inside the cloth.”
Palette: “Black and white, with pops of yellow to achieve a more graphic effect.”
Bella Madden wants to ignite eccentric joy into everyday life through fashion. For this Texan, who currently works in video games as a character designer, clothing is all about personal expression.
Her whimsical collection finds influence in street wear, the avant-garde, and manga, and by leaning into shades of baby pinks and neon greens, she brings a vibrant dose of cheer to the runway.
Materials: “The collection is made up of various cotton shirting fabrics, a UV-protective nylon tricot with aloe vera microcapsules, and tulle.”
Design Philosophy: “To add whimsy into life every day through art and fashion.”
Career Goal: “My ultimate dream is to be successful in creating art. I want to be known as a fine artist/high fashion designer.”
Out of the Box
Acknowledging the similarities and differences between people of different culture groups, Sakura Mizutani uses shades of gray throughout her collection to represent commonality. Differing shapes, however, hint at our individuality.
The Collection: “Even though we are all human beings, we have our own ways of thinking and our own identities. Through this collection, I hope to inspire people to know that it is okay to be different from others.”
Why Fashion: “I want to make clothes that can make an impact on people with low self-esteem, and help them learn to love and appreciate themselves.”
Fashion Influences: “Rei Kawakubo is one of my favorite Japanese designers. I love how her avant-garde designs and delicate Japanese techniques are expressed in each collection. As a Japanese person, I want to become a designer like her.”
El Paso, Texas
For Fabian Renteria, who has been sewing for most of his life, fashion serves as an escape from reality. His collection centers around finding inner strength through death and resurrection, toying with a sense of cyberpunk fantasy.
Palette: “Black, winter white, gray, [and] silver contrast with red and a shattered glass print.”
Materials: “There were many areas where faux leather and Ponte de Roma fabric were combined to create color-blocking and more plays with texture.”
Design Philosophy: “We need to look forward and not be focused on what has already happened in fashion. Nothing is original because it has all been done before. If I had my way, everyone would dress as they do in futuristic, cyberpunk science-fiction movies.”
“I am half Japanese and half Mexican, and I love embracing diversity and culture in my designs,” Sofia Masuda says. “My biggest inspiration for my collection is my abuela [grandma], Celia, the person who sparked my creative journey.” Fusing elements of her heritage with a modern city vibe, Masuda’s bright and colorful collection includes original woven prints and hundreds of handmade flowers.
Materials: “The handmade organza and crochet flowers were made by me and all the strong Latina women in my family.”
Fashion Influences: “I love to reference major luxury brands like Chanel and Comme des Garçons, but I also get influence from my community and walking the streets of Los Angeles, getting inspired by the people around me.”
Spare Time: “I love volunteering my time at schools doing different creative tasks like painting murals, speaking on panels, and even face-painting. I am grateful that I am able to help and give back.”
Dustin Argumendo serves up a sartorial story crafted from tropical wool, nylon, and cotton fleece that simultaneously celebrates his Hispanic heritage and speaks out against toxic masculinity. “My collection [is] meant to redefine manliness,” he says. “The way you act and what you wear have nothing to do with how manly you are.”
Design Philosophy: “I am looking to design with my ethics at the forefront. I focus on sourcing sustainable materials to help the Earth live longer.”
Pandemic Pursuit: “I played with a lot of natural dyeing techniques, since I had so much free time during the lockdown.”
Fashion Influences: “Cristóbal Balenciaga, for the visionary he was, as well as Demna Gvasalia, Virgil Abloh, and Kim Jones for all helping menswear advance.”
Jiarui "Ruby" Cai
Jiarui “Ruby” Cai
The Moon and Sixpense
Jiaxing, Zhejiang, China
In the W. Somerset Maugham novel The Moon and Sixpence (1919), a stockbroker leaves the finance sphere to become a painter. Similarly, Ruby ditched her accounting major to pursue fashion, and she’s centered her debut collection around the idea of chasing dreams.
Why Fashion: “I am a hip-hop dancer, and when I learned to dance, I found out dancers always like to wear colorful and swag garments. That was the time when I started to be interested in fashion.”
Design Muses: “I am my own muse, because I like to design things I like. If I do not like my designs, I am not confident in letting customers wear them.”
Day Job: “I design garments, make patterns, and currently work as a sample maker.”
San Diego, California
Inspired by the misty nights of his native Charleston, South Carolina, and the imaginary woman he envisioned might be waiting just beyond the fog, Zak Weinreich designed an elegant debut collection using a base of wool twill, wool, and fleeced-back plaid. “My focus is always on bringing the best out in people,” the freelance designer says, “emboldening them to stand firm in their greatness and celebrate themselves.”
Materials: “Juxtaposed against the tailored wools are crisp cotton shirting, lightweight chiffon, satin, and a beautiful satin-faced silk organza that was a dream to work with.”
Design Muses: “I find myself most inspired by women that cross my path with so much confidence that you stop in your tracks — the kind of woman that has journeyed deep within herself and respects herself so much that the world can’t touch her. I’m in awe of this woman.”
Soundtrack: “Throughout the construction process, I listened to a lot of Fleetwood Mac, and I mean a lot of it. They really captured the bold, light-on-her-toes feeling that I wanted to encapsulate in my collection.”
“My collection is a narrative about myself,” says Jesua Rodriguez, whose 10 looks are meant depict a blossoming flower that represents her personal growth. Divided into two micro-groups, the collection transitions from darker, more voluminous silhouettes reminiscent of a flower bud to brighter ensembles with plenty of ruffle, resembling the fully extended petals of a delicate bloom. She used silk organza to orchestrate the volume and drama, incorporating four-ply crepe and gabardine for structure and a pop of pleather to provide an empowering textural contrast.
Design Philosophy: “To take simple silhouettes and enhance them with beautiful details. I want the woman wearing them to instantly feel fierce and empowered.”
Spare Time: “I enjoy weight training. I consider that my ‘me time’ because I am doing something good for myself.”
Define Fashion: “Fashion to me is more than just clothes. It is an unspoken language that serves as an expression to its maker and wearer.”