Prizm News / May 1, 2019 / By Staley Jophiel Munroe

Fashion Forward: CCAD students put their stamp on the fabric of society

By Staley Munroe

No need to wait, folks: the future of fashion is most definitely here. The Fashion Design degree program at Columbus College of Art & Design (CCAD) has been steadily nurturing and unleashing incredible new voices in fashion design since 1969 when it was called the “retail advertising program.” With a focus on hands-on design and construction, CCAD pushes students to tap into their inner palette to produce a style that is distinctly their own. With a student body that that is more than 35% LGBTQ, there is a distinctly rainbow hue to the fabric output, even if only in spirit. We spoke with two CCAD design students to get a sense of how they infuse their work with their identity. 

Alex Domoracki, 22, Mayfield Heights, Non-Binary/Asexual, They/Them/Theirs

Alex Domoracki
(Photo courtesy of CCAD)

The Journey Thusfar
When I started designing my collection for the 2019 CCAD Fashion Show, I knew I wanted to take a more feminine approach to gender-neutral fashion for a young queer customer. I then began looking at trends in gender-neutral, men’s, and women’s fashion. From there I began sketching and sourcing my fabrics. Eventually I decided to design my own prints since I was having a difficult time finding what I wanted. Then I began finalizing my designs, sewing and editing along the way. I also took advantage of the knitwear class I was in last fall to help create some of my garments. I had never knitted full garments before, so that class was a big learning experience for me. 

Creating a Collection
I have 4 looks in my collection: 1 pair of jeans with a blouse, 1 skirt with a crop-top, 1 pair of shorts with a sweater, and 1 jumpsuit with a cardigan. My color palette is bright and warm, perfect for spring and summer.  I designed my plaid and floral fabric and was able to print it at CCAD using our fabric printer. I also did a combination of hand and machine knitting to create my sweaters. Comfort was a big consideration when I was designing, so I used elastic in all of the waistbands of my garments.

LGBTQ Impact
When I first came to CCAD, I had just come out of the closet as ace (asexual). I became heavily involved in CCAD’s Queer Alliance, eventually becoming the president my junior year. During this time, I was exploring my gender identity more through fashion. I decided to create my collection after experiencing my own and other queer people’s frustrations with the current gender-neutral fashion market. I wanted to break the masculine minimalist norms in gender-neutral fashion and explore femininity while also considering comfort.

Design Influencers
Vaquera, Telfar, and 69 have all been big influences in my designs in gender-neutral fashion. @leopardprintelephant on Instagram has also affected my work. 

Industry Critique
While gender-neutral fashion is a focus of mine, I feel as though sizing is an issue that every part of the fashion industry needs to address. Clothing should be designed for real people with real bodies. Across the industry, there needs to be more consideration for plus size, petite, tall, and people with disabilities. This shouldn’t just be a specialty thing. Instead, it should be normalized that people have different bodies, with items being created that will properly suit different body types.

Wes Mills, 24, Gahanna/Columbus, OH, Gay, He/Him/His

Wes Mills
(Photo courtesy of CCAD)

Origin Story
Growing up, my parents would make my Halloween costumes and I became so fascinated with how they were made. It took many more years for me to decide that I wanted to make my own costumes, and not just for Halloween. I got into the cosplay world in high school and learned some techniques from a few very experienced seamstresses. I then became fascinated with fabrics and the inner workings of their sewing machines. As the passion grew, my parents decided to give me a really nice old sewing machine so that I could make things at home and not rely on friends’ sewing machines anymore. That opened the floodgates to being able to make anything I could ever want to wear.

Fashion Statement
My collection is a bit of a satirical commentary on the way we treat and pollute the oceans. The coral reef is dying and the marine life is dwindling at an alarming rate. I use different materials to represent fishing nets and oil spills alongside sea turtle elements. This really drives home my personal protest to humans’ shortsightedness and our neglect of the deep blue waters where countless beautiful, mysterious, and sometimes downright terrifying creatures live beneath the surface.

Beyond Stereotypes
When people find out that I’m a fashion designer, I get the usual response of, “Oh, that makes sense. You must be gay.” Which is correct, but very frustrating. They shrug off all of my hard work and passion, and just see another gay guy in fashion. My design aesthetic, strengths, and abilities don’t matter to them. All that matters is if I am going to be on Project Runway or RuPaul’s Drag Race one day.

Life After Graduation
I do plan to stay in Columbus for at least a few years. I currently share a studio space with one of my best friends where we can make all of your garments and accessories and in some cases collaborate on projects. After I feel that I’ve achieved the next few goals and can get to a point where I may be able to support myself, I would absolutely love to move to Japan. The streetwear scene there is unbelievably inspiring.

Some Advice
My only advice would be to just embrace your vision. Do things that make you uncomfortable. If there’s a fabric you’re not used to, or one that everyone tells you is too challenging to work with, just try it out. Do as much research as possible, create small sewing samples to get your stitches as perfect as possible, and just go for it. Not everyone is going to like or appreciate your work, but while you’re in school, you shouldn’t be afraid to take the plunge into unfamiliar or advanced material.