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MassArt fashion design students debut thesis collections

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
MassArt fashion design students debut thesis collections
Runway models showcase the Sabrina Hollander collection. PHOTO: KELLY DAVIDSON, COURTESY MASSART

On Saturday, May 14, models strutted down the runway of the 2022 MassArt fashion show, displaying months of work by the graduating seniors of the fashion design program. Titled “404 Not Found” the show featured work by 21 students exploring themes such as race, gender, grief, the environment and inclusivity.

Sabrina Hollander, a Guatemalan American streetwear designer, dedicated her collection to her late cousin, who died in a car accident. “In Memory Of…” examines the grieving process and the way people grow as a result of, and in spite of, tragic personal losses.

“In Memory Of…” collection by Sabrina Hollander PHOTO: ERIC MAGNUSSEN

“In my collection, I focus on using the traditional color of mourning, black, while also using a printed fabric full of colorful messaging to exhibit the journey through grief and growth, and how both can coexist,” says Hollander. The print is a vibrant religious iconography pattern reminiscent of the artwork on a prayer candle, reminding her of the prayer candles her family would light to pay homage to lost loved ones. “In Hispanic culture, a lot of the time we use religion as a way to grieve,” she says.

Hollander translates such difficult themes into streetwear clothing items. With the iconographic pattern printed on denim, she created a unisex matching set of loose straight-leg pants and a coordinating jacket. In another look, a black jumpsuit is offset with pockets in the printed fabric, a subtle but cheeky nod to the collection’s theme. 

“Although you see most of my models are female presenting, I could see this collection being worn by anyone at any time, and this includes being worn to a funeral,” says Hollander. This intention itself speaks to the “growth” theme. Even as loved ones are lost, life moves forward. These streetwear items can be worn anywhere, but they carry the burden of loss, just like a grieving person goes about everyday life after a loss.

A piece from Kayla Tynes’ collection, “The Black In Red White And Blue.” PHOTO: COURTESY OF KAYLA TYNES

Kayla Tynes’ collection, “The Black In Red White And Blue,” is the result of a deep meditation on the Black experience in the United States, and more specifically, in the culture industry. Tynes drew inspiration from “Watch the Throne,” a collaborative album between Jay-Z and Kanye West. Though the album was released more than 10 years ago, Tynes found the content about inequity in the Black community still rings very true.

“I tried to structure my looks and my symbolism the way rappers structure their lyrics, referencing a lot but packaging it where if you get the reference, you get it, and if you don’t, you have some more digging to do,” says Tynes.

In one song, the artists reference crabs in a barrel bringing each other down rather than rallying together against greater community issues. Tynes channeled that idea through textural layers that embody a caged experience, like a mesh bodysuit and chain accessories. In a particularly standout look, a long-line, sleeveless denim coat bears the names of victims of police violence in bold red letters.

A runway model showcases the Kayla Tynes collection. PHOTO: KELLY DAVIDSON, COURTESY MASSART

Tynes has roots in costume design and approaches her work with a narrative and characters in mind. That’s one of the reasons she felt so inspired by “Watch the Throne,” where cultural issues are laid out in rap’s rhythmic storytelling format.

As these 21 designers leave the nest of MassArt and venture into the professional design world, they have more weighty concerns on their mind than just their own next steps. Each collection is a reflection of the complex larger world these young talents are stepping into and what challenges they may face there.

Tynes hopes the runway show prompted audience members to think about deeper issues than just the aesthetics of the garments. “This is a very personal look at how I process my identity and what I would call my piece of the Black experience,” she says. “I would hope that the audience member is left with a little bit of work to do.”

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