On a sunny day this week, a jury-selected group of 72 members of the class of 2023 showed 87 looks at the the Future of Fashion show, sponsored by Macy’s (which will offer limited runs of selected designs.) These students came from the school’s sportswear, knitwear, intimate apparel, and special occasion departments, and all of them were directly impacted by the pandemic, as in-person learning was not possible for a long stretch of time. A reading through of their collection statements suggests that they are an optimistic, if realistic bunch. Edgar Allen Poe and Aubrey Beardsley, who preferred shadow to light, inspired two collections, while Sumin An, a 2023 winner of the Loro Piana prize, constructed a voluminous shroud for her macabre, yet playful, Rest in Pink collection.

Also leaning into fun and fantasy was Chaeeun Lee’s wonderfully made “grandmother style” pieces that made use of felted jacquard and hand crochet techniques, among others. Recalling the clotheslines of her childhood, Lee Suyeon combined club and cool with charm. Knitwear student Sarah Walls looked to the Magical Girl genre for some pretty pink dresses for active heroines; in contrast Lyndsay Shuster dreamed up a babydoll dress that spoke of cozy handcraft. Adding some surreality into the mix was Nima Maxine Learner’s Sardines by the Handful lineup.

Balancing the extravagance of many of the show pieces were a number of looks that projected strength in a quieter manner. Jennifer Guo constructed an ethereal kelp blazer with an ombre-dyed slip dress, and Julia McCarthy found poetry in motion. Offering a more minimal take on eveningwear were Yuri Ikegaya, who showed a bias-cut jumpsuit with a recycled fur coat, and Risa Fugetsu, who considered the concept of Hima, or flow, to create a plissé lavender balloon dress as light as a petal. Mother Nature, and our impact on the environment, inspired collections of many different aesthetics, from slightly “crunchy” (Emily Won) to country (Julia Powers) to glam (see Ping Edmunds’s body-con dress).

Topical subjects like heritage, faith, and identity were taken up in the collections of, among others, Hemani Kumar, who combined the ancient sari with 3D technology; Amal Masoud a Palestinian Brooklynite who created a modest look; and Simone Robinson, who wanted to pay tribute “Black women of the church.” Many students didn’t have to look far for inspiration because they found it right at home. Katelyn de Levante Raphael’s collection was influenced by her mother’s ’90s and ’00s style, and Bronwyn Chiaki Goldschneider’s stained glass finale look honored her resourceful grandmother.

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