Fashion Design MFA Showcase 2023
Watch the runway show that took place at
New York Fashion Week at Spring Studios
Music: Mike Bloom and Nico Huzella
FIT’s MFA in Fashion Design program is a creative laboratory where technology, talent, and inspiration intersect in one of the world's premier fashion capitals.
The Fashion Design MFA 2023 graduating class presented their final thesis collections in a runway show during New York Fashion Week on September 12 at 7 pm.
The theme, UNI / VERSAL—"uni," derived from the Latin word "unus" meaning "one," and "versal," an archaic term for “entire” or “whole”—best represents this class’s individuality as well as its cohesiveness.
North Carolina-born Morgan Cardwell received her BFA from North Carolina State University before pursuing an MFA in Fashion Design from FIT. Her biophilic designs convey a symbiosis between human existence and the natural world, influencing patterns and textures. Her signatures include fluid contours and detailed craft created through a combination of traditional techniques and new technology. Her work centers around the vast range of human emotions, states of interconnectedness and the intensity of lived experiences.
Morgan Cardwell’s “Lamella” explores the intrinsic connection between humans and the natural world as expressed through fractal patterns, natural imagery, and topographic textiles. Taking inspiration from the forms and patterns of fungi, flora, fluidity, and land contours, this collection seeks to explore what makes us human: our emotions. Empathy, awe, and curiosity act as a lens to view our interconnection with the world around us.
Dhamija is a multidisciplinary designer and 3D artist who bridges the worlds of technology, art, and nature. With a background in computer engineering and fashion, Dhamija aims to design visual stories that are beautiful and thought-provoking and are centered around the cacophonic splendor of mathematics. Born and raised in India, she is passionate about preserving the country's rich cultural heritage and bringing its handicrafts into the modern era by fusing these traditional art forms with innovative tools like Clo3D.
“Torus” is a collection exploring the shape of energy fields and the construction of toroidal forms in real life. Taking inspiration from sacred geometry, mathematics, and wireframes, it is a study in realizing a cornerless field of perfect circles that are created and absorbed by themselves using repetition in the patternmaking process. It is a visual experiment depicting the sacred in aesthetics through an illusion of perfection, which is the closest we will ever get to anything truly sacred.
As a creative designer who is drawn to caustic and audacious subject matter, Haueisen’s work utilizes off-kilter elements, namely deconstruction of traditional patterns and garments, to distort the body in pleasing ways. She deeply enjoys reworking and upcycling existing traditional garments and accessories to create innovative shapes that compliment the body’s natural form and cause the viewer to question toxic views of femininity and masculinity that are pervasive in society.
“GREEDY DIRTIE BISEXUAL” is a narrative of my confidence as a bisexual woman who believes in the power of sexual liberation. The purpose of the collection is to show the female form in the most ambiguous and bold way through genitalia-inspired drapes and reworked garments to represent that women can be both sexually aggressive and respected. Bisexuals are framed as greedy for being attracted to more than one gender and I’m here to say, ”What about it?”
Born in Korea, Youna Jin is a ready-to-wear designer whose work focuses on the intersection between gender norms, the body, and the blurred lines of unisex fashion. Originally trained in jewelry design and metalworks, Jin uses progressive pattern cutting and traditional technical fabrics to organically highlight controversial parts of the human body in order to question the sexual and social gaze of the public.
The thesis question for my collection “Soft Discomfort” is: How can we make fashion more equitable without imposing fixed gender? The biological and social constructs of gender and the body influence the construction and silhouette of garments. The term “unisex” emerged to combat gender norms. While “unisex” was used in the women’s liberation movement to advance sexual freedom, it frequently takes on the structure of making women masculine and men feminine. This tendency perpetuates fixed gender images rather than promoting individual body image.
Kuai Li is a Chinese-born fashion designer whose work centers on sculptural aesthetics underpinned by her industrial design background. Passionate about exploring bold hues, geometric shapes, and the body's interaction with space, Li treats fashion with an industrial design approach. Her work bends physics, often using tech, performance, and traditional furniture materials to explore architectural forms on the body. In addition to designing garments, for the last several years Li has been creative director of the accessories brand she founded, Baohedu.
“Independent Reality” is a collection that uses clothing as sculpture to explore the inner and outer self. Large geometric structures are draped across the body to create an obvious definition of space between the wearer and the world. A mixture of opaque and translucent materials are wrapped around these shapes and molded into body contouring silhouettes that both canvas and define the body beneath the cloth to further emphasize the concept of hidden and revealed.
Yitong Liu is a ready-to-wear fashion designer whose style is inspired by her passions for athletics, nature, and social causes. With a professional background in free diving, she brings a deep appreciation of precision to her fashion work, whether in designs, craftsmanship, cuts, or performance-driven textiles that she applies to traditional suiting. Ultimately, Liu's goal is to create garments that not only functionally express a new take on active living but also capture the emotional implications of the times within which we live.
“The Urban Diver” is a collection that aims to design hybrid garments that blur the lines between formal and athletic wear while catering to the needs of free divers with robust social lives. Asymmetric patterns inspired by the ocean and water currents mixed with tailored suiting styles to express the beauty of diving as an experience but also serve to bridge the gap between functionality and luxury. This collection is Liu’s love letter to freediving and fashion, merging athleticism and luxury with ocean-inspired designs.
Inspired by two worlds—fantasy and history—Anthony Oyer merges past with present through silhouettes taken from historical references and fantastical stories. His is a viewpoint formed while growing up in a small Midwestern town, watching old films and exploring antique stores. Oyer’s deepest desire is to make his wearer smile. His muse is one who wears their finest to the grocery store and diamonds while taking a bath. His universe is a place where more is always welcomed.
Clothing is the costume with which we shield ourselves from the outside world as we slip into the different characters of our lives. For his thesis collection, titled “Regina,” clothing as armor is a central theme. Oyer explores the wardrobes of his favorite women throughout history and how they personified their values through their garments. Corsetry represents the armor we wear for the everyday, draping the fluidity of our personas, and embellishments the true nature of one’s inner self.
Lilach Porges is an Israeli fashion designer with an academic background in architecture. She uses parametric design methods to create textiles and garments. Lilach wishes to combine fashion with technology and to research more sustainable production methods to create the fashion of the future. Her work centers around developing innovative methods for 3D-printed garments with robotic arms, exploring architectonic shapes with the ambition to bring the worlds of science, engineering, and fashion together to empower women.
“DRESS_CODE” focuses on the merger between technology and fashion. It combines looks that were 3D printed by a robotic arm with sustainable materials through three methods: random, accurate, and large-scale. Inspired by software engineering, the collection explores the aesthetics of the abilities and limitations of this technology. The thesis research and collection compare traditional methods, such as patternmaking and fabric sewing to 3D printing by hand and by a robot, where software becomes art and is translated into wearable objects.
Catherine Ziyue Tang
Catherine Tang is a New York–based women’s wear designer whose work deals with sustainable fashion and wabi-sabi style using bold patterns. Born in China and raised by a mother from the Dong minority, much of her inspiration is rooted in the Dong cultural heritage and traditional craft. Her work aims to fuse these traditions with modern ready-to-wear by exploring how sustainable practices and forward patternmaking can combine with folk craft.
"The Song of Samsara" collection is a tribute to rebirth and the cyclicity of all life. Inspired by a personal experience witnessing a giant flower butterfly at her grandmother's funeral, the garments are a symbol of transformation and new beginnings. The legend of people turning into butterflies and appearing at their funerals is the inspiration behind the intricate patterns, cuts, and transparent fabrics—representing the endless possibilities of samsara.
Xinyue Maggie Tao
Tao’s intention is to delve into the depths of human nature, philosophy, and the realm of material existence through her artistic creations. Her collections transcend the limitations of time and culture. They unfold captivating narratives, fueled by an exaggerated and dramatic storytelling style that ignites her creative inspiration. These collections often exist in a world untethered by time, untouched by the constraints of reality. Her distinctive essence resonates within each meticulously crafted collection she presents.
The “Carnival of Apocalypse'' collection examines an individual’s philosophical decay during global turmoil. I divided these into five chapters focusing on a wild woman who faces the end of the world with a “You only live once” and “Make the most of it” philosophy. Explored through couture techniques, the eveningwear looks focus on people’s reaction to this phenomenon through metaphoric textiles and colors. Some choose to start anew, others practice impulse control, and some lean toward hedonism. In the end, these calculations become irrelevant and innate nature takes over.
Valeria Watson is a multidisciplinary artist and fashion designer based in New York City. She designs and constructs expressive, colorful, and playful garments that celebrate the bodies that carry them. Inspired by her Mexican-American heritage, her concepts are rooted in personal memories and are imbued with the traditional craft of Mexico. Collaged silhouettes, bold volumes, upcycled materials, and graphical prints are key characteristics that define her work and create collections that invite all to join in the celebration.
Mexico and the United States have a long history of population migration over a shared border leading to a rich cross-cultural blend of cultures. This collection, “Sabor a mí, Sabor a tí,” explores my own multicultural heritage as half-American and half-Mexican. Through hand weaving and digital prints plucked from childhood photographs, I used this collection to tell my family’s migration history between the two countries and to record the stories that have been passed down through generations.
Tom Zhendong Wen
Zhendong Wen is a socially conscious designer whose work is informed by the movements of contemporary society. Having lived in several metropolises, Wen possesses a unique ability to adapt to diverse cultural environments. This exposure has enabled him to identify and capture social patterns in his creative work, which often reflect his observations. His designs are a testament to his keen eye for capturing the spirit of his surroundings and the people who inhabit them.
"Metamorphosis" delves into the evolution of technology in the past 30 years and its influence on social interactions in public and private spaces. The collection aims to examine the transformations that individuals undergo and the diverse manifestations that arise as a result. Through this exploration, the collection seeks to inspire reflection on the profound changes technology has brought about and the implications on our society.
Deborah Won is an award-winning designer who creates work that is influenced by sensory play. By utilizing innovation-driven techniques and materials, she makes concept-forward clothes that promote interaction in personal and shared space. Influenced by movement, technology, and feminine paradigms, her work is a cross section of classical forms with progressive design details that blur the line between past and future. Converse, Opening Ceremony, and Sandy Liang are among the brands she has worked for in her materials and women’s wear design career.
“Arise” is a statement on how our collective lifestyles will change in the future. The premise behind the garments is that humans will visit environments outside of Earth’s atmosphere and therefore clothing must be designed to enhance movement in zero gravity. Aesthetic and constructional details are inspired by kites, the oldest manmade aerial device. Blossoming embellishments embody the floating nature of zero-G flight indicators. Variable-opacity fabrics and feminine-focused silhouettes combine to make ethereal fashion for the new frontier.
Luna Zining Ye
Chinese-born, New York–based Zining Ye is a designer who strives to create a fashion language that juxtaposes chaos with tranquility and maximalism with restraint. Form and textile manipulation are central to her work. Traditional silhouettes are fused with architectonic textiles, and neutral palettes combine with rigid volumes to create collections that are quietly striking. During her studies in FIT’s Fashion Design MFA program, Ye found a balance between traditional Asian culture and modern expression.
In Asian culture, restraint is a central theme. I began my collection from my curiosity about my grandmother's generation and the social-cultural constructs of her era. Despite external suppression of individualism during that era, internal expression and freedom persisted. My collection “Fancy Inside” seeks to represent the friction between internal and external worlds by playing with the juxtaposition of fluidity and rigidity in form and textile and mixing traditional Eastern crafts with modern materials.
Born in Beijing, Yimeng Zhao is a fashion designer whose work focuses on the purity of line and form. She believes in reducing everything to the essential while investigating geometric constructions. Patternmaking and craft in construction are central to her process; form is the basis of her love of design. Zhao also believes fashion can be used as a tool to depict and dissect mental health and social issues. Beyond her studies, Zhao has worked in both Beijing and New York and possesses a comprehensive understanding of both markets.
Nationally, one in 40 adults are affected by obsessive-compulsive disorder. My thesis focuses on my experiences with OCD in order to combat its stereotypes. OCD requires me to be a reductionist—daily rituals are key. Inspired by these habits, I systematically converted them into a system of primary shapes that informed my garments’ geometric volumes. In simplifying the relationship between form and cloth, I abstracted body lines to create the foundational silhouettes. My thesis shows that from difficulty can come beauty.
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