To be a fashion designer is to wear multiple hats. A designer should be an anthropologist and study culture in order to understand what people want now, a historian to figure out why people want what they want, and an analyst to project and predict what people will want. To study fashion design is an equally complicated and contradictory pursuit: How does one explore the boundaries of their own creativity while simultaneously learning its limitations?
This dichotomy was on full display at the Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD) this weekend as the university staged its annual fashion show, this time at the Atlanta campus. While every class of students is distinct and each of their collections offers a time capsule of the world we’re living in, this particular cohort is unique. They spent most of their time in school amidst the pandemic—they were just over halfway through their freshman year when restrictions began in 2020, effectively taking them away from studios and classrooms and confining them to their bedrooms.
“Perhaps not surprisingly, the pandemic made many students look inward for inspiration,” said Dirk Standen, the dean of the SCAD School of Fashion. “These collections are often deeply autobiographical.” While fashion is preoccupied with speaking to this same Gen Z cohort through celebrity partnerships, viral TikTok micro-trends, and influencers, these newly christened fashion designers are earnestly speaking to each other through their own personal narratives. A visit to the school and conversations with this graduating class over the course of one weekend earlier this month offered insight into the themes circulating in these students’ minds: abortion rights, masculinity, the environment, the future (both their own and the planet’s), technology, love, and identity.