The Student Body

Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising’s finest debut their premier collections.

Ashley Breeding Current Digital, Fashion & Style, Fashion Week El Paseo

FIDM graduate Rodrigo Bunton Navarrete says his inspiration is architecture.

Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM) graduates from here and abroad will parade their debut collections down the El Paseo runway in an evening benefiting Palm Valley School.

The annual showcase, launched in 2008, not only supports the participating designers’ futures in fashion but also engages local students to stoke their interests in the expansive industry of fashion, from design to event production. With the support of the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation and the Palm Springs Unified School District, 200 students will attend the FIDM Debut Collections show (some as volunteers to obtain a deeper understanding of the behind-the-scenes workings of Fashion Week El Paseo).

Be among the first to admire diverse styles from eight Advanced Fashion Design graduates, who have worked diligently for the past year to assemble their first collection of couture ensembles. From sportswear to wedding gowns, and everything in between, this exciting and always innovative show has it all.

Thursday, March 21
FIDM Debut Collections

Presented by the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation and benefiting Palm Valley School.

6:30 p.m.:  Cocktail reception
8 p.m.: Fashion show

$75 Reserved, $60 General, and $35 Student.

For tickets, visit


Ali Jiwad



West Hollywood, California

“I have played dress-up my entire life,” Jawad says. “Fashion was the only thing that ever made sense to me.” When he visited FIDM for enrollment, Jawad saw a Debut Fashion Show playing on screen. “I turned to my admissions advisor and said, ‘I’m going to do that.’ And I did!” He hopes to one day create a global brand — or at least become the creative director of a top fashion house.

Day Job: Full-time stylist at the online consignment shop The RealReal.

Creative Philosophy: I design for the chic, modern, classic man. I find what others consider “ugly” and reveal the inner beauty.

Career Highlights: The Debut Fashion Show, as well as working backstage at New York Fashion Week with design houses such as Marc Jacobs, Escada, Coach, and Anna Sui.

Style Icons: Tom Ford, Karl Lagerfeld, and Olivier Rousteing. Each has a classic brand and significant style.

Debut Collection: It was inspired by the Middle East, specifically Lebanon, because I’m Lebanese. The color palette mimics the sand and sunsets, and raw silk material complements those elements.

Rodrigo Bunton Navarrete
Los Angeles, California

Navarrete’s first fashion icon was his mother. “She would design her own clothes and take her ideas to a dressmaker to develop. She created a fashion sense in me, and I loved touching her fabrics and creating silhouettes,” he says. When he began altering his own clothes and adding beads to his mother’s dresses, Navarrete knew he’d found his lifelong passion. “I want to dress women of all sizes,” he says, “who feel very special in my collection.”

Your brand: CUCO. I also create custom designs.

Design Aesthetic: Architectonic, luminescent, and modernly dramatic.

Creative Philosophy: Fashion design is the process that allows me to express abstract thinking and create beautiful silhouettes.

Inspiration: Architecture, especially in big cities like New York.

Style Icon: Olivier Rousteing. He does not restrict himself.

Debut Collection: Bright colors, beading, and much love in every piece.

Desert Fashion Is: Sand tones and warm colors for glamorous evenings.

“Fashion design is the process that allows me to express abstract thinking.”
Rodrigo Bunton Navarrete

Mia Conroy



Mia Conroy
Holbeach, Lincolnshire, United Kingdom

“From a very young age, I always had an interest in fashion, piqued by my mother’s fashion sense,” Conroy says, adding that her mother always dressed her in the latest styles. She realized around age 16 that she wanted to pursue fashion design as a career, and that influenced her college plans. One day she hopes to design for her own company or for a design house that has a similar aesthetic to her own.

Day Job: Freelance designer.

Design Aesthetic: Bold, modern, eye-catching designs in wearable silhouettes for the modern woman.

Inspiration: Exciting fabrics. For instance, the fabrics I chose for my FIDM Debut collection remind me of city lights and traffic on gridlike streets.

Style Icons: I have admired Isabel Marant and Giambattista Valli for years and have recently become inspired by the collections of Ralph Lauren and Saint Laurent.

Debut Collection: It’s designed for a young, female city sophisticate who leads a busy business and social life and also enjoys being the center of attention. The color scheme is mostly dark, with pops of red and white that break up the black and gray.


Charity Dahl



Charity Dahl
Fort Worth, Texas

As a teenager, Dahl discovered that she could express herself through clothing. “When shopping in stores was no longer a creative outlet for bringing my outfit ideas to life, I realized I would need to start designing them myself,” she says. She looks forward to collaborating with other artists and designers and, one day, bringing her own brand to life.

Day Job: High-end retail, as well as freelance fashion design.

Design Aesthetic: Sporty.

Creative Philosophy: To feel comfortable but still be on trend.

Inspiration: Everyday life, social media influencers, and underground artists.

If You Could Dress Anyone: The singer-songwriter SZA. She aesthetically fits what I want my brand to represent.

Debut Collection: It’s sporty and energetic.

Desert Fashion Is: Lightweight fabrics, swimwear, and neutral colors.


“I think about what each special person in my life would want to wear and design
for them.”
Genevieve Lake
Genevieve Lake
Montville, New Jersey

Lake first watched Project Runway when she was 6 and immediately fell in love with design. “I also gained a love for bridal design,” she says. Her mom knew how to sew, so Lake would design clothes, and then her mom would make them for her.
“I loved the reaction I would get. I knew I wanted to keep designing my whole life.”

Day Job: Vera Wang design intern.

Career highlight: Showing at New York Fashion Week in Fall 2018 in the Supima Design Competition, where I represented FIDM.

If You Could Dress Anyone: Rihanna. I know her wedding will be the event of the century.

Debut Collection: “Joie de Vieve” is a contemporary bridal line. But it also includes pantsuits, catsuits, minis, and separates. The textures and fabrics are bold, including beaded sequin, satins, and tulle.

Desert Fashion Is: Effortless.

Biggest Studio Mishap: I left an awl standing upright on the table. I reached over for scissors and punctured my skin — the awl was sticking out of my ribs. Based on the looks on everyone’s faces, I thought I was about to die. But I pulled it out, slapped a Band-Aid on it, and went on with patterning!

“Desert fashion is lightweight fabrics and eye-catching colors.”
Kiki Potteton


Karolina “Kiki” Potterton
Los Angeles, California

“I developed an interest in fashion at age 13,” says Potterton. She began making and selling dresses, and people expressed how beautiful they felt in them. “Discovering that I could express my personality through my clothing attracted me to this industry.” Now she wants to help others do the same.

Day job: Teaching private fashion lessons and creating original clothing for boutiques.

Design Aesthetic: Forward-thinking, with an air of tradition. I use fabrics and colors that stand out.

Style Icons: Alexander McQueen, because he pushed himself to design without fear. Valentino, who understood tradition and the fundamentals of fashion. Ulyana Sergeenko, because she creates stunning designs that express my Eastern European heritage.

Muse: My daughter. I want to teach her the importance of quality clothing and style.

Debut Collection: It’s for the traveler who loves luxury — at the beach, aboard a yacht, and at exotic parties.

Biggest Studio Mishap: I stabbed my coworker in the palm with a seam ripper. Accidentally. I found a pin for her with a seam ripper on it that read, “No Regrets.”


Tanee Prasert



Tanee Prasert
Los Angeles, California

“I became interested in fashion when I was in high school, when I discovered Gianni Versace and his fabulous design talent and collections,” says Prasert, who realized his dream of becoming a fashion designer when he worked as a menswear merchandiser in Thailand. “My dream brought me to the United States to study at FIDM.” One day he hopes to own an eponymous boutique.

Day Job: Design intern at Jonathan Simkhai.

Design Aesthetic: More is more.

Creative Philosophy: Trends will not lead to creativity. My designs are style-driven; my perspectives are my guides.

Style Icon: Versace is my top influence. He knew how to use dramatic colors and patterns and established a unique style for women and men who appreciate looking rich and fashionable.

Debut Collection: It’s called “Hello Sailor” and was inspired by the sea. I use the traditional cut of the sailor’s uniform, with cheekiness, rhinestones, and crystals.

Desert fashion Is: Glamorous people.


Ting Wang



Ting Wang
Los Angeles, California

For as long as Wang can remember, her mother dressed well and stoked an interest in fashion. “She is a very stylish inspiration,” he says. It helped her develop her own personal style, which led to creating her first design. “Once I made that, I felt proud of myself and knew fashion design was something I wanted to do as a career.”

Day Job: I am back at FIDM, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in professional studies.

Design Aesthetic: Clean, detailed, and creative.

Inspiration: Comes from wherever people gather — walking down the street, at parties, in business offices. I am inspired by any object or person I see that has a creative spark.

Debut Collection: It’s for men and women and is made of bright, playful colors.

Desert Fashion Is: Warm desert hues and women with breezy dresses.