It’s been an uphill battle for the Class of 2022, whose studies were disrupted by the pandemic. But the conditions had improved enough for Pratt Institute’s 22 fashion design students to present their graduate collections at the Brooklyn Navy Yard last week.
There were, of course, vestiges of lockdown and the pandemic in the students’ work. Two collections were inspired by the idea of home; another, by Jeeyea Choi, was titled “Bring Back Intimacy.” Even when refuge and safety weren’t stated themes, there was a lot of padding, and with it, the promise of a soft(er) landing, or at least the concept of taking up space. Pretty shirred florals over batting dominated Chaoyue Wang’s “Surviving in the Office” collection, the starting point of which was the Chinese concept of Involution, a work competition that goes nowhere and becomes self-consuming.
On the whole, the students’ main inspiration—as has been the trend for the past few years—is the exploration of their own identities. Inspired by her Filipino heritage Lyric Caramto used traditional fabrics (like banana cloth which she made into a romantic dress) and techniques to create a colorful and textural collection that felt very personal. Gabrielle Borrajo’s starting point was her father’s stories of leaving Cuba. For his collection, Synonym, which was strong on knitwear, Trung-Tin Pham, cast models who looked like himself, and used fake IDs as labels to satirically address the issue of Asian stereotyping. Also focused on knits was Lis Yuyao Wang, who built upon her experience with illness to exaggerate body parts; the pattern on one top depicted acupressure points. Katie Liu’s Gothic-leaning collection seemed to closely mirror her personal aesthetic, as well.
Sustainability was predictably another theme. Izabela Raczkowski made a cross-country trip to collect the textiles she used, some of which she over-printed with charming rustic motifs of her own design. Elena Hengheng Zhou used “edible fabrics” made of fruit and vegetable waste; just for fun was a “croissant” bra.
The recipient of the Christopher Hunt “On Point” Award was Dan Li. Working with school uniforms as her theme, she showed meticulously crafted garments that showcased a variety of labor-intensive techniques like shibori, crochet, molded leather. Best in show was a plaid vest made of hundreds of safety pins. In contrast, Jiaqi Shen, used only black tulle and boning to create seven truly memorable looks. Such restraint is unusual, and Shen used it to great effect. Her clothes haloed the body and revealed it, and as such spoke to strength and vulnerability. She called her collection “Distanced Intimacy,” which is the most poetic description of the world’s current state of affairs I’ve yet encountered.