Family Within Fashion

A Visual Tour of the Camaraderie within the Fall 2014 New York Fashion Week Design Process

Photography by Isabella Bejarano

Gonbee Tanaka, Keverne DeSantis and Zoe Cobb working with the designers at the NYC studio.

When thinking about what goes into a fashion show for New York Fashion Week, one might believe it all centers around one designer — his or her specific ideas and story that culminates in the collection. However, the reality behind the fashion industry lies in the collaborative spirit built among a team of designers working in a collective process.

For the Fall 2014 graduate designers at Academy of Art University, working together was the key to successfully launching their collections. For ten years the School of Fashion has been participating in New York Fashion Week under the guidance of Simon Ungless, who was recently named Executive Director of the School of Fashion. According to Ungless, this crop of designers’ united approach to their collections made them especially well suited to show in the monumental tenth anniversary show. 

“I call them designers, not students, because by the time they get to New York their work is very much industry-level— they would have the same responsibilities if they were working for Michael Kors or McQueen,” said Ungless. “The fashion industry is not about an individual designer, but rather it’s about artists with unique viewpoints and a shared passion for innovation and partnering to push the envelope. What I love about this group of designers is how they worked together creatively, bringing their individual perspectives into a shared focus that shifted away from trend and onto craft, handwork, fabric manipulation and hand-finishing.”

Months before the designers show their work on the New York runway they begin the design process in San Francisco, where collection concepts and muslin mock-ups are born. From that point on, between the sewing, knitting, printing, fittings and castings, the designers invest themselves fully in collections that they truly believe in. Being committed to their vision motivates the designers to push through tight deadlines, handle the stress of running around New York City days before the show, and finally carries them through the moment of taking a bow after their collections walk off the runway.  

“The students caravan all the way out to New York City to set up shop,” said Ungless. “Their camaraderie and willingness to help one another throughout the whole process is remarkable. It’s inspiring to watch the designers push new boundaries.”

Passion isn’t only apparent in Ungless and in the designers; it also lives with the studio team in New York, the show stylist, the hair and make up team, the casting crew and the professors at the School of Fashion. “Everyone becomes a real family, a family who actually cares where these students go on in life,” said Ungless. “This is a new wave of designers with exceptional talent and we are all rooting for them to succeed.”

Captivated by the chemistry of the Fall 2014 designers, Ungless turned to fashion photographer Isabella Bejarano to document the collection creation process. “Isabella’s point of view, use of lighting, love for the fashion industry and understanding of beauty are all reasons why her photographs so beautifully tell the story of these designers,” said Ungless. “She captures the vibe of the collections and character of the designers, models and clothes, and creates a stunning visual narrative of the creative process.”


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