Fashion Week may be on its way out for the season, but the hype is definitely not over here in New York. Every year, Parsons The New School for Design and The Fashion Institute of Technology- two of the most elite fashion schools in the country- go head to head in a fashion design face-off.
The Fusion Fashion Show- sponsored by Mood Designer Fabrics, M&J Trimmings and Maybelline New York- is what some would call a make or break opportunity for students who want to be recognized in the fashion industry. Fifteen participants from each school are handpicked from hundreds of talented students based on their portfolio designs. They have just a few short months to make their stories come to life everywhere from conceptualization and construction to choosing the right models. It is an immense responsibility to be a full-time fashion design student while also creating a full runway show.
Notable Fusion alums include Prabal Gurung, who received the Best Designer Award in 2000; Chris Benz; and Alexander Wang. These talented and successful designers used Fusion as one of their first platforms in their careers.
This past weekend I sat front row at the 10th annual Fusion Fashion Show and had the pleasure of catching up with a few of my designer friends, Matthew Harwoodstone & Ahra Gho after their collections premiered. Ahra and Matt are both Fashion Design students at the Fashion Institute of Technology class of 2015.
-Who is your favorite Designer(s) past or current?
Matt: Haider Ackermann, his clothes are strong, and immediately provoke thought, yet at the same time his drapery skills are impeccable. Recently, I’ve also really gotten into the designer Rad Hourani. Other favorites include: Alexander Wang, Ricardo Tisci, Dion Lee and many more.
Ahra: Alexander Wang, Damir Doma, Riccardo Tisci of Givenchy, Jack and Lazaro of Proenza Schouler and Barbara Bui.
-What inspired your collection?
Matt: As a designer, I am really drawn to layers, angles and shapes. As I was beginning to look for inspiration for this collection, I was on the internet and saw these beautiful photos of Glaciers. The layers and the lines of the snow and ice really inspired me to start designing. As I started researching, I found all of these beautiful colors that I never really had associated with a glacier (greys, blacks and purples) which began to give me a direction in terms of color. I wanted this collection to combine both the extreme jagged edges of a glacier with the fluid and clean lines you can find in the snow.
Ahra: My first collection was inspired by the exotic beetle Goliathus Giganteus. It's a rare African beauty that has striking patterns on its shell. It's a very clear representation of what i want my customers to feel when they wear my clothes; strong, intriguing, rare and beautiful.
-Where did your design aesthetic come from? Or how did it develop?
Matt: As a student, I feel like my aesthetic is always developing. There are things I designed in first and second semester that I now hate. I’m sure within the next two years, I will feel the same way in regards to the things I am designing now. I think it is really important to always be open to new things; I look at pictures of nature, or architecture, I read books and look at magazines. I love layers and structure. I love industrial feelings. I love greys, whites and black.
Ahra: My aesthetic definitely derives from my past experiences and what kind of person those experiences have made me. Isn't that the case for every designer?
-What matters to you most as a designer?
Matt: Creating something I’m really proud of. If I’m proud of what I’m doing, other people’s opinions don’t seem to matter as much to me.
Ahra: As a designer I guess what matters most is staying true to my aesthetic and humbling myself.
-How were you able to focus on designing for Fusion while keeping up with your schoolwork?
Matt: The competition has really helped me with time management. I didn’t go out, or see friends for the first half of the semester; literally every free moment was spent working on fusion. I was up until at least 3:30 am every night. I knew I had to get it done, so I just worked to make sure it would happen.
Ahra: The key to keeping up with fusion along with school work was, no sleep and no social life. Every waking moment of the last two months was consumed by school work and fusion work. It was extremely difficult and tiring but it was so worth it in the end.
-If you could describe your collection in 3 words what would they be?
Matt: Structured, Daring, Sexy.
Ahra: Bold, Sexy, Disarming.
-What’s your take on music in the fashion industry and fashion in the music industry? Are they related to each other?
Matt: The fashion industry and the music industry are both forms of art. They both are incredibly competitive. I think there is a lot of music in fashion, and vice versa. Especially as our world becomes more technologic, It is important to create an overall image as an artist and designer, and I think music and fashion can work together to do that.
Ahra: Oh, most definitely. I'm not the most familiar with the music industry but I do know that without music, fashion would be so much less than it is today. I would go even as far as to say that it would be really hard for both industries to exist without each other.
-What was the last song you listened to?
Matt: It’s a bit embarrassing, but I was just listening to Britney Spears’ Blackout Album during model drawing class.
Ahra: The last song I listened to was Stay by Rihanna. She's my favorite artist!
-What are your plans for the future and where can we find out more about you and your work?
Matt: I will be shooting a lookbook for this collection. Next fall I am applying to study abroad, and hopefully this summer, I’m going to start working on my spring capsule collection. Other than that? I plan to continue to enjoy designing and furthering my experiences in the Fashion Industry. You can follow me at matthewharwoodstone.tumblr.com for all future updates, and to see more photos from this collection and at fluidinspiration.tumblr.com to see photos/things/people that inspire me.
Ahra: Probably working under a house then hopefully put out my own line. I don't have a website yet but it is in the works!Meanwhile you can email me for details at email@example.com
The Fusion judges panel consisted of: MaryKate Steinmiller of Teen Vogue; Todd Thomas of Victoria’s Secret; Peter Davis, Editor in Chief of SCENE; and Anne Slowey, Fashion News Director of Elle Magazine. The judges announced at the final show-down of Fusion 2013 that the Fashion Institute of Technology was named this years best overall school for design.
(Featured Image courtesy of Ryan Duffin)
(Photos above courtesy of Ariel Bielsky)