By Renata Menegaz
One breathtaking catwalk, two days of fashion showcases, 22 talented fashion design students, and one grand challenge. This couldn’t be anything but an enthusiastic, fashion-frenzied event.
Named ‘Appliqué’, the 18th edition of the Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar (VCUQatar) Annual Fashion Show, called on students to turn their creative concepts into ready-to-wear pieces for the runway. “The essence of Appliqué is to take a past idea, and make it new”, explains Sandra Wilkins, VCUQatar’s Chair of Fashion Design, who presented the show. She also instructed students during their creative process and prepared them to be judged by a panel of fashion experts who support the university’s Fashion Design program, and select the best designs for the show.
Local fashion professionals and renowned retailers were also invited to review the collections and concepts, giving pointers to the student who were challenged to create pieces of clothing within their given them that looked beautiful, are wearable and, above all, are marketable. The result? The Sophomore Collection, Rainwear Spirit, Junior Sportswear, and Senior Collection presentations.
Students presenting their collections in the runway show, also shared the spotlight with guest designer House of Nomad. The wanderer who travels from place-to-place in perpetual motion, is the inspiration behind the House of Nomad brand – co-founded in 2014 by Ahmed El Sayed, a fashion editor with a BFA in Fashion Design from VCUQatar, who presented his most recent collection. But the moment that students were waiting for most was the revealing of the awards across different categories presented by sponsors and the university.
(Photo credit: Siddartha Man Shakya)
We talked to Radheya Visperas, who received the Salam Fashion Award, which includes mentoring in the development and design of two bespoke collections that will be sold exclusively within a dedicated space in Salam Stores across Qatar. She talked to ILQ about her dedication, confidence, and aspirations.
ILQ: Tell us a bit about yourself and your participation at the VCUQatar’s Annual Fashion Show 2017.
RV: I’m from the Philippines and have been living in Doha for nine years now. I’m a senior year (4th year) student at VCUQatar, majoring in a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Fashion Design. I’m also an Honours student. I’ll be graduating on May 1 as the Salutatorian for the Class of 2017. I’m a Fashion Contributor and Fashion Stylist at Glam Magazine.
My participation in VCUQatar’s Annual Fashion Show 2017 was to present a minimum of an eight-piece collection [that] showcases my inspiration and identity as an emerging young designer. I created a nine-piece women’s-wear collection for Spring/ Summer 2017. I was also in charge of the marketing committee for our fashion production workshop where I had to collaborate with VCUQatar’s communications and marketing department to produce the program for the show, as well as promoting our fashion show through social media. I’m also in charge of the accessories committee.
ILQ: Can you tell us a bit more about your collection for this show?
RV: The title of my collection is ‘Wear Your Heart Out’, which reflects the mood and spirit of my collection. As a designer and artist I always loved painting and manipulating my fabrics – it’s my way of exploring new ways in fashion and of being innovative. Each of my garments has been hand-painted. I also love designing accessories because I think it really completes a look. So for this collection I customized my shoes for each garment by painting them, and adding texture like fur and denim fabric.
Clothes are an extension of who we are and what we feel. As a designer, I believe that I’m successful when people feel good and are able to express themselves when wearing my clothes. Having a background in painting, I’ve been fascinated by exploring various ways in bridging art with fashion. Fabric manipulation and creating my own prints gives me room for innovation. My collection, depicted in various shades of colour, is a reminder of how we, as individuals, are different shades of the spectrum. Although we’re all different, we all come from one place. For me, this is a source of inspiration to appreciate our own identities, as well as others’.
I created a women’s-wear collection, which I informally call my ‘Rad Squad’, to inspire young women to be themselves and to embrace their flaws and imperfections. This is reflected on how I painted my fabrics. They were created not to be perfect, but more on trusting my instincts and embracing how the paints behave in an unexpected way. I want to encourage young girls to empower each other and express themselves through what they wear. I approached my collection with a DIY aesthetic and artistic touch to encourage others to embrace their personal styles and dare to stand out of the crowd. Nothing is more liberating than being our true self – even if we’re all imperfect…because we can find freedom in imperfections.
ILQ: What do you think is the best quality for a fashion designer?
RV: I think that being fearless and knowing who you are as a designer is the most important thing. When you’re fearless, you give yourself a lot of room to be creative – and to be creative you need to be a little mad/crazy and unafraid to be different.
To be a successful fashion designer, of course you need to have the skills, but you also need to be very organized too. Most of all, thinking about the people who’ll wear your clothes is important. You need to know what they want, what they like, and what they need – because you’re sharing your identity with the clothes you make, but also, you’re prioritizing their needs. Always stay up to date because fashion is constantly changing.
(Photo credit: Siddartha Man Shakya)
ILQ: What do you think the VCUQatar’s Fashion Show represents on Qatar’s fashion scene?
RV: I’ve been receiving messages from various people from around the world who either came to the show, or watched the live-stream – and they were very positive. They said it was very professionally done, and they were shocked that [we] showcased students’ works. I think that our show has a huge potential to expose young designers in the fashion industry…not only in Qatar, but also around the world. I think that Qatar’s fashion scene is growing and I’m excited to see more in the future.
ILQ: What does winning the award represent for you and your career as a designer?
RV: It’s definitely a huge opportunity, winning the Salam Award for this year. It will surely kick start my career as a young designer. I don’t think that there are many opportunities like this anywhere, so I’m lucky and grateful to be given this award. I’ll be creating a collection which will be sold in Salam Stores next year; to be selling my garments alongside many successful brands and designers is truly an honour.
ILQ: What are your plans for the future?
RV: I’d like to pursue my Masters degree in the future – hopefully in Parsons New York, as it’s been my dream to live and work there. It’s also an amazing school for fashion design. Most of the designers that I admire graduated there, so I’m thrilled to have that experience some day. Career-wise, I definitely want to work with the brands/designers that I look up to – such as Monse and Delpozo. Hopefully that works out as planned. It would be really crazy to say, but I really want to work with Alessandro Michele some day!
I’ll be travelling to Richmond, Virginia in May where my collection will be showcased in the VCU main campus fashion show. Let’s see what happens after my collection for Salam is released!
Here’s the full list of 2017 VCUQatar Spring Fashion Show award-winners across different categorie:
W Doha Award - Sarah Al-Abdulghani
GLAM Award - Sarah Al-Abdulghani and Samyah Abou Rahma
VCUQatar’s Golden Needle Award for Best Senior Collection - Samyah Abou Rahma.
Most Outstanding Junior Collection Award -
Most Outstanding Sophomore Collection Award -
Outsanding Senior with Highest GPA Award -
Outstanding Junior with Highest GPA Award -
Alia Al-Sowaidi & Sreehitha Saini
Outstanding Sophomore with Highest GPA Award -
Guest Designer Award -
Ahmed El Sayed from House of Nomad
Awards were also given to Deborah Sedlacek, Joshua Bigelow, Skyler Crawford, and Lydia Critchfield from Virginia Commonwealth University's home campus in Richmond, Virginia for their Senior Collections which were shown at the event. Five VCUQatar students will have their collections shown at the home campus annual fashion show which will take place on May 10, 2017.
Did you take in this year's VCUQatar fashion extravaganza? Tell us about your experience and who your favourite designers are in the comments below, and don't forget to give us a like and a share -- it keeps us going!
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