Each year around this time, students from design schools all over the country would have just presented their final collections as part of their BFA or MFA programs. But for the Class of 2020, these senior showcases — the culmination of months of hard work and long days in the studio — are facing unprecedented challenges as COVID-19 has led to widespread lockdowns, forcing schools to close and leaving out any chance for a proper send-off fashion show.

The exposure students would normally get from presenting their work is an important milestone for any graduate, which is why we teamed up with the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) to highlight the work of five final-year students from different fashion programs as well as give each student the chance to speak with one of five CFDA designers over Zoom — Christopher John Rogers, AREA, Stacey Bendet, Jonathan Cohen and Brandon Maxwell — to gain some invaluable advice as they set out to begin their careers.

Kyra Buenviaje '20, RISD


For her senior thesis collection, Kyra Buenviaje looked to her Filipino heritage, designing pieces with a woman named Juana — an "imagined haciendera during the Spanish colonization of the 16th-19th century," as she describes in her thesis statement — in mind. Buenviaje created her collection entirely out of recycled, repurposed or deadstock denim, skillfully manipulating the fabric into voluminous, couture-style gowns, tailored jackets and pants. These statement pieces incorporate nods not only to "Juana" but to symbols of Buenviaje's upbringing in Manila, including packages from sari-sari convenience stores, coins and the prevalence of Filipinos in the nursing and health aid professions. Buenviaje has been recognized for her talent with numerous student accolades, including being named a finalist at the MET Costume Institute College Fashion Design Competition and a scholarship winner for the YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund Case Study Competition. She will also be representing RISD for the Supima Design Competition this fall.

Max Condon '20, SCAD

Entitled "Shelter / Exposure, Beneath I Found Orlando," Max Condon's thesis collection explores the subtle layers of masculinity and identity, presenting a character that finds strength in sensitivity and a comfort with change. Inspired by Virginia Woolf's Orlando, Condon's collection shows the wearer emerging "from a layered, sheltered state to one of exposure and vulnerability," as he explains in his thesis statement. Drawn to all kinds of color patterns and textiles, Condon combines an acute sense of detail with intuition (his outdoor/athletic roots serve as a foundation) and an appetite for experimentation. With geometric draping merged with soft textures and delicate prints, the clothes straddle a fine line between conceptual and everyday wearability.

Kenneth Brody McCasland '20, Academy of Art San Francisco

Kenneth Brody McCasland creates clothes that come from a place not many people can tap into: lucid dreams, nightmares and the subconscious. His senior thesis collection, "The Void," features otherworldly, avant garde pieces that incorporate striking, three-dimensional structures that are intended to evoke the "constrictions of sleep paralysis" in the wearer, as he explains in his thesis video. Inspired by the "exact moment between sleep and wakefulness," McCasland casts practicality aside in favor of being thoughtful about the ideas that are kept in the far reaches of the mind.

Justin Chi '20, FIT

In his thesis collection "Dress Up – Dress Down," Taiwanese student Justin Chi challenges the wearer to confront their relationship with the details that often go unnoticed: fasteners like buttons, snaps and zippers. Exploring and interrogating how these fasteners relate to our everyday routine of putting on and taking off clothes, Chi plays with scale and proportion on functional elements and gives them a new, unexpected meaning. Previously, Chi has also experimented with medical apparel, using his pattern-making expertise to design and improve existing hospital gowns at a hospital in Taiwan. In addition, during his time at FIT, he has developed an accessories collection for people with disabilities at the US Cerebral Palsy Foundation.

Samantha D'iorio '20, Parsons

Fed up with the idea of "reinvention" that the fashion industry perpetuates each season, MFA Parsons student Samantha D'iorio is driven by the most basic principles of how we dress, with an emphasis on form, function and sustainability. Exploring the ways our bodies change over time, D'iorio has designed garments that promote longevity and customization, creating a new garment system that aims to be completely self-sufficient. Her clothes and accessories, which can morph back-and-forth between leotards, dresses, bags, underwear and hair ties, are crafted from deadstock materials and vintage fabrics and include techniques like melting knitwear and constructing tubular inserts to preserve certain draping and shapes.

Video editing: Anna Quinlan

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