Jackson Wiederhöeft, Parsons School of Design
Jackson Wiederhöeft is having a very good year. In the spring, the 22-year-old Parsons School of Design grad received the college’s coveted Womenswear Designer of the Year award (shared with classmate Angela Luna) and landed a job working for designer Thom Browne. “I’ve been watching Thom’s shows since I was in high school, and I always thought he was incredible, which is why I’m so thrilled to be working for him now,” Wiederhöeft says of his internship-turned-full-time-position.
Although Wiederhöeft always loved the idea of handcraftsmanship, the Houston native’s interest in fashion design didn’t take hold until his teen years, when he began making costumes for his high school’s plays. His sense of elaborate costumery and familiarity with fashions from the past still shows up in Wiederhöeft’s work today: A look from his graduate collection included a modern take on a Victorian apron-front skirt, complete with a bustle. It’s an altogether unsubtle style that the young designer characterizes as “spooky couture.”
“I think of spooky in this whimsical, quirky, not too serious way,” he explains. “Plus I’ve always been obsessed with Halloween, magic, and that idea of fantasy. But then I love high fashion, I love technique, and the details that go into the garment.” It’s an ethos that lends itself to Wiederhöeft’s ideal model, and even his ideal customer. “Attitude is more important than looks,” he says. “Anyone whose eyes light up when they see the clothes — that’s the person who I want to wear them.”
Angela Luna, Parsons School of Design
Angela Luna views things with double vision. Having grown up outside of Boston in a design-centric household — both her parents are architects — the 22-year-old Parsons grad says her garments often focus on the symbiosis between form and function, and how that intersection can be manipulated in fashion. “My mind was always thinking about the dual functionality of things,” she explains. “Like, OK, how do we make this skirt detachable or give it some customizable features?” But it wasn’t until her final senior collection, which featured a cape that converted into a tent, that her designs took on problem-solving directly.
Inspired by the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis, that recent collection clinched Luna the Womenswear Designer of the Year Award (shared with Jackson Wiederhöeft) and gave her a new sense of direction. The burnt-sienna cape is expected to go into production in the next few months (with proceeds going toward refugees), but Luna’s mission doesn’t stop there. “I don’t know these people, but we’re all rooted in humanity. The refugee crisis should be something that relates to all of us, and it’s something I want to continue to create solutions for,” she says.
Concerning form and function, the waterproof garment-turned-shelter seems just as ideal for a weekend trek through the woods as for a rainy-day stroll through downtown Manhattan. “I didn’t want it to be totally functional as a tent and not as a jacket, or totally functional as a jacket, not a tent. I’ve definitely worn it home a few times,” Luna says, smiling.
Stephanie Ali, Fashion Institute of Technology
Had it not been for the Fashion Institute of Technology, Stephanie Ali would likely have pursued a different career altogether. “FIT was the only fashion school I applied to, and then I applied to other business schools because I wanted to be a business management major,” she says. “When I got into FIT, I decided to just go for it.” The decision proved to be fortuitous for the 22-year-old Long Island native. Upon graduating in spring, Ali received the school’s esteemed Critic Award in the Intimate Apparel category.
Though she had a strong sense of personal style growing up (“When I was three years old, I would pick out my own clothes,” she laughs), the notion of fashion as a career came late to Ali. The same goes with her awareness of notable names in the industry. “When I got to FIT, I didn’t know fashion designers in the way that I know them now,” she admits, though she cites Alexander McQueen as a current inspiration. Perhaps it was that early lack of influences that gave the young intimates designer the fearlessness to push the boundaries of her designs: “Early on in my FIT career, I really let myself loose to explore what I was thinking,” she says.
One garment Ali showed this past year displays this unrestricted approach: A quilted metal bodysuit adorned with belts and chains, it would hardly fall into the everyday lingerie category, yet it speaks volumes in its representation of Ali’s ideal woman. “I have a tendency to portray really strong women. They have to own what they’re wearing,” she says. Rooting that sentiment at the very foundation of a woman’s outfit seems like the right start.