Functional and fantastical design abound at SCAD FASHION 2024

A celebration of sartorial style, SCAD FASHION is the culminating event of senior and graduate students in the university’s School of Fashion.

This year’s event took place May 16–17, complete with a two-day jewelry trunk show at the university’s flagship building Poetter Hall, an awards ceremony honoring illustrious SCAD alumni and industry disruptors, and a next-level fashion show featuring the compelling creations of graduating students who will likely become the next big names in fashion.

click to enlarge Functional and fantastical design abound at SCAD FASHION 2024
Courtesy of SCAD

SCAD FASHION 2024 kicked off on Thursday, May 16 with the jewelry trunk show featuring dazzling works from SCAD’s graduating jewelry and accessory design programs. Members of the public were invited to marvel at and shop the awe-inspiring adornments from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. over the course of two days.

Following on Friday, May 17, SCAD welcomed the local community to Trustees Theater at 5:30 p.m. to attend a special awards ceremony in recognition of talented trailblazers making waves in the art and design world. SCAD honored two alumni with the prestigious SCAD45 Award in celebration of the university’s 45th anniversary. Recipients were An Le and Julian Robaire.

An Le, who graduated from SCAD with a B.F.A. in photography in 2012, is the co-founder of international creative lab Now Open, a studio that specializes in global campaigns across luxury, lifestyle and media industries. Since graduating, Le has lent his photographic talents to lauded publications like Vogue, Paper Magazine and GQ, among others. He has also collaborated with renowned high-end brands including Balmain, Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel and more.

A native of Vietnam, Le said SCAD was an easy choice for his collegiate studies because he was awarded a significant scholarship.

“I think I made the right choice. Through SCAD, I got to meet a lot of great people, got a lot of chances to collaborate with different students from different departments: fashion, jewelry, architecture, theater,” said Le.

He expressed his gratitude to the university for the SCAD45 honor at the ceremony.

“I just want to say thank you again. I love being back to Savannah,” said Le. “We’d love to give back more and give the future students and generations any advice that I could.”

Robaire also received the SCAD45 Award although he was unable to attend the ceremony. Robaire graduated from SCAD in 2013 with a B.F.A. in fashion. Post-graduation, he relocated to Paris, launching his career at Christian Dior and then John Galliano. Today, Robaire serves as director of Chanel’s VIP atelier, merging conceptual and technical expertise to sculpt evocative garments lauded for their impeccable fit for the fashion house’s elite clientele.

click to enlarge Functional and fantastical design abound at SCAD FASHION 2024
Courtesy of SCAD

The final honoree of the night was Aurora James, founder of sustainable luxury accessories brand Brother Vellies, vice chair of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, and founder of nonprofit advocacy organization Fifteen Percent Pledge, which aims to increase equity and representation among historically marginalized groups in the global economy. Since 2020, Fifteen Percent Pledge has generated more than $12 billion in revenue for Black-owned businesses. James received the prestigious André Leon Talley award in recognition of her global leadership and advocacy.

“I am so honored to be here from the bottom of my heart, and this is such an incredible award and an incredible legacy,” said James.

After congratulating the graduating students in attendance on their academic achievements, she also shared a few words of wisdom:

“The thing that I want you guys to think about is that right now, you’re actually too small to fail. And what I mean when I say that is, all you have to do is get out there and try. When I launched Brother Vellies, it was at a flea market. It was a $70 investment. If I sold one pair of shoes, I would be profitable. So take that opportunity that you have right now and just give it a shot,” said James. “The industry has changed so much since I started in 2013, and that’s an opportunity for you. The people that you are going to meet just in the next year, in the past four years, and in your entire life, are going to be your allies for so long into the future. . . Think about everyone who you will meet. As long as you show up and give it 110 percent, people won’t forget that. All you have to do is try, be passionate, be authentic, be yourself, be curious, be humble. We need you in the industry and we’re so excited to welcome you into it.”

click to enlarge Functional and fantastical design abound at SCAD FASHION 2024
Courtesy of SCAD

After the award ceremony, students and invited guests attended the highly anticipated annual fashion show, putting the sartorial skills of SCAD seniors and graduate students on full display. The show began at 8:30 p.m. with a screening of SCAD’s latest fashion film “Déjà Rêvé.” In the film Lexi, played by multi-hyphenate actress and vocalist Rainey Qualley, experiences a recurring dream in a vibrant fusion of fashion and art. The playful film, which Qualley described as a rush of classic cinema-meets-French New Wave, featured stunning student designs, setting the tone for the fabulousness that followed.Student models strutted down the al fresco runway in the Alex Townsend Memorial Courtyard of the SCAD Museum of Art, showing off striking student designs that embodied the full spectrum of functionality and fantasy. The graduating students spent the better part of the last year preparing their collections for the springtime show, a testament to their dedication and diligence as their SCAD experience comes to a close. Two senior fashion students, Ana Achurra and Ellie Byrd, who presented their designs at SCAD FASHION reflected on all the effort it took to prepare for this year’s show.

“My inspiration for the entire collection was based off of my favorite childhood book, ‘The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane,” said Byrd. “It’s about a rabbit. There’s a lot of rabbit motifs and hints in this collection. I wanted to find a narrative that I loved and really connected to it. So everything because of that story and because of my connection to the process of making has been a huge inspiration to me.”

Byrd added that she finds a great source of inspiration in the artists that surround her at SCAD and more generally. She conceptualized artists as the end consumer for her collection.

“I want people to wear these gloves and feel like they want to make things, have the opportunity to reach inside a pocket that’s specific for a woodworker or wear gloves that mirror metalworking gloves,” said Byrd. “When I was making this collection, I would wear a lot of it. I would wear test everything. I would go to the woodshop and wear the apron and the denim, see how it worked, and how it would adapt to the situation at hand. . . Everything is based on the consumer narrative.”

For Achurra, she drew from her unique cultural background to inform her collection. Achurra is Panamanian and Chinese and used this opportunity to shine a light on these cultural traditions.

“I grew up in Panama and I went to Chinese schools to experience more of the culture, learning the language, their dances. It’s celebrating both cultures at the same time and blending them together,” said Achurra. “I used Panama’s unique textile called molas, and they’re done by an indigenous tribe called the Gunas. They’re handmade and hand-sewn. I also worked with another tribe. They did most of the accessories . . . and I blended these with Chinese-inspired silhouettes, like the Chinese lantern and fan, which are things that remind me a lot of the culture while I was growing up.”

Achurra added that she wants the consumers who wear her garments to feel pretty and powerful because that’s how she feels coming from these two cultures.

The students started working on their collections around June of 2023, beginning with ideation, followed by patterning and prototyping, leading up to the final five garments they presented at this year’s fashion show. Both Byrd and Achurra credit their professors and classmates for their ongoing support throughout the duration of the project.

“[The professors] cultivated the most incredible environment. It encouraged us to make clothes that could last a long time, that people want to wear and that are functional. I really wanted to make garments that people really want to put on. Another part was the student community. It’s so incredible to get closer to the people you spend hours and hours around. Getting to know people, finding things in common and creating relationships that will last,” said Byrd.

Achurra agreed adding, “I think the support that the professors and sewing techs and the faculty gives you really pushes you and keeps you motivated. And as Ellie said, you get to really consume the friendships with fellow designers, the classmates, for friendships that are going to last forever.”

With commencement in the coming days, the student designers are looking ahead to their careers post-graduation. Byrd is returning to an internship she had in her hometown of Boulder, Colorado, while Achurra plans to return home, polish up her portfolio and apply for positions. The talented emerging designers express much gratitude to the SCAD community for the support during their studies.

“SCAD is a really inclusive environment,” said Achurra. “Everybody’s welcome. All your ideas are also welcome. Nothing is too crazy. They really push you to do whatever you want to do and help you get to it.”

Byrd added, “They are emotionally supportive in every way. I have never felt more comfortable with myself and the ability to express myself in every aspect with my professors and my friends here. Keep working hard, as hard as you possibly can, push as far as you possibly can.”

To learn more about SCAD FASHION 2024, visit scad.edu/fashion-show-2024.