Within the fashion world, larger brands/houses are expected to always make noise because of their combined legacy and resources. But this does not encompass the industry’s full extent as emerging designers are making waves of their own around the clock. So when it comes to looking at emerging talent, graduation collections at some of the world’s leading fashion institutions have become not just mainstays for large houses, but fashion fans alike who are eager to see what’s coming down the pipeline.
Aside from the eye-catching collections themselves, it’s both rewarding and interesting to see how these students continue to cultivate their careers in fashion years down the line. Therefore, Hypebeast is looking at six fashion school standouts and what they’re up to now.
New York-based Chinese designer, Rui Zhao, revealed her “Close Up” collection during Parsons’ MFA Fashion Design & Society show in 2018. Her genderless designs added to knitwear’s evolutionary capabilities – revealing fine-gauge and wire-spiraled knits that complimented the body’s shape. The designs were sexy, eye-catching and forward-facing.
Zhao quickly founded her eponymous label, Rui, the next year, which has since grown into a sought-after name. Rui has been seen on stars like Solange, Dua Lipa, Cardi B, Billie Eilish, Halle Bailey and more. With just three years under its belt, the brand was a finalist for the 2021 LVMH Prize. Although Rui did not take home the grand prize, it was one of the three recipients for that year’s runner-up award: the Karl Lagerfeld Prize.[/caption]
In 2017, Shanel Campbell offered up a fusion of workwear and suiting as a challenge to societal standards for Parsons MFA Fashion Design & Society. Inspired by her father’s experience working construction to put himself through law school, Campbell’s creative work is fueled by the intersections of life’s experiences. With it, she made armor for women, which is still present in her design efforts today.
In 2018, Campbell made her New York Fashion Week debut under the brand name SHANEL – offering ready-to-wear separates and sculptural dresses in bold crimson red and black hues. Since then, Campbell’s line has been rebranded as “Bed On Water” – taking her creative efforts to new heights on both a design and conceptual level. Bed On Water took to the runway in June of 2022 for the MADE x PayPal fashion show– which focused on emerging New York designers. Between SHANEL and Bed On Water, her clothes have donned figures including Solange, Issa Rae, Kelela, Sexyy Red, Precious Lee, Chloë Bailey and Halle Bailey.
In 2020, the Fashion Institute of Technology celebrated its inaugural MFA Fashion Design class with its Fine Art of Fashion and Technology runway show during New York Fashion Week. The lot of over 90 looks showcased the work of several talented designers. But one in particular that stood out was Yuchen Han.
Entitled “A Second Before Awakening,” the collection was inspired by Han’s childhood dreams and experiences during the MFA program. Driven by the words “dreamland,” “glitch” and “surreal emotions,” Han’s graduation collection was a look at textile developments. From it, one of the key components was his development of glitched fringe lace – seen throughout RTW dresses, skirts and more.
Han officially established his brand, ALIENANT, in 2019, which has since only continued to grow. The menswear and womenswear label is fueled by Han’s “glitch” and “wearable defense mechanism” ethos – lending itself to RTW that fuses technical, contemporary and classic styles. “ALIENANT believes whatever the hardships of life we went through, we all have the power to turn trauma into triumph and rebuild a stronger ego,” reads the brand’s vision. To date, ALIENANT has collaborated with brands including UGG, Li-Ning and Dero Assortment. Aside from collaborations, figures like NLE Choppa, Austin Millz, Brett Gray and Jada Kingdom have worn its garments.
Busan, South Korea-born designer Dohan Jung designer received a BA in Fashion/Apparel Design and an MA in Fashion Design from the renowned Central Saint Martins. His MA graduation collection was one of his key portfolio builders at the beginning of his fashion career.
With it, Jung’s menswear collection presented an inquisition into the parameters of menswear. What came down the runway were tailoring-oriented looks that were reinterpreted through various textiles, textures and sculptured forms. Interestingly enough, the work represented Jung’s first foray into menswear collection.
Since his time at Central Saint Martins, Jung opted to continue refining his design skillset at larger brands instead of immediately building out his own label. For four years, Jung refined his chops at JW Anderson – moving through the roles of junior designer, ready-to-wear designer and senior ready-to-wear designer. Now, Jung holds the position of senior womenswear designer at LOEWE.
Colorado-raised designer Neil Grotzinger’s take on menswear looks at the intersection of genders – fusing codes of masculinity and femininity. A BFA graduate from Pratt Institute, Grotzinger furthered his design expertise with womenswear brands including Diane Von Furstenberg and Prabal Gurung before pursuing his MFA at Parsons. What came from his graduation collection in 2017 was a proactively hybridized take on menswear –seeing subverted button-down shirts, reworked pants, silk shorts and more, elevated by details like intricate beading.
Grotzinger established his label, NIHL, which stands for “Nighttime Inside Higher Light” that same year. As an alternative queer label, NIHL focuses on producing clothing designs that exalt gender identities and exploration. Key aspects of NIHL include Grotzinger’s developments of unique embroidery, hand beading, screen printing and textile manipulation techniques. Celebrities seen in his clothes include Dennis Rodman, Evan Mock, Hunter Schafer, Alton Mason and Landon Barker.
Joan Ros Garrofé
Another 2018 Central Saint Martins MA Fashion program graduate, Joan Ros Garrofé has managed to maneuver different sectors of the larger fashion landscape. For his graduation collection, Garrofé looked to inspiration from Cristóbal Balenciaga, specifically, how the Spanish designer was one of the first to merge working-class looks and couture. As such, Garrofé’s collection was a way of empowering the working class.
What came down the runway was a selection of tailored looks across suits, outerwear, polo tops, hybridized coordinating sets and more. With it, the designer had a conversation between the work-oriented and classically elevated styles. Garrofé described the collection as “bold, severe and essentialist.”
But post Central Saint Martins, Garrofé took an interesting route in his fashion career. Instead of explicit ready-to-wear design, the designer has shifted to the costume design sector. Currently, Garrofé has designed costumes for a range of productions with the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra and National Orchestra of Catalonia, Clara Aguilar’s performance at Sonar Festival, the Theater of Catalonia and a range of other productions.