2011 April 6

La Vie en Ruffian: Fashion High in the 10011

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The Ruffians and Their New Buddies from Fashion High The Ruffians and Their New Buddies from Fashion High
Shannon, Marla, Louis and Nathaniel
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(NEW YORK) In today's installment of La Vie en Ruffian, Chic Report columnists Brian Wolk and Claude Morais of Ruffian went back to school to suss out the next generation of talent. The Daily takes pride in featuring up-and-coming designers, but we've been outdone today.

"There are many hidden gems in New York City, and The High School of Fashion Industries, (known as “Fashion High” to its 1600 shining students), was recently brought to our attention by IMG Fashion's executive producer, Christina Neault. These hollowed halls (or perhaps more appropriately, runways) have trained New York’s finest designers since its inception in the 1920s. The current building, completed in 1941, is an extraordinary complex, allowing kids of diverse backgrounds, nationalities and socio-economic classes to study free of charge under a faculty of industry professionals. Cross Glee with Fame and add a dash of Project Runway, and that should give you an idea of an average day at Fashion High. It is uniquely the only high school in the country that focuses solely on fashion. Last week, we were lucky enough to take a tour of the premises and get exclusive first interviews with four of the school’s most promising graduating seniors. After checking in and receiving our hall passes (no kidding), we reported to Principle Blank’s office at 12:10 p.m. as directed to chat with the students. 

Brian: When did you know you want to be a designer?

Louis Bisono: “I figured out I wanted to design when I saw my mom designing. Seeing her bringing mannequins to my house and having fabric around all the time inspired me to be a designer, too. So when it came to choose a high school, I decided to follow my dream and be innovative. I grew in Queens, then moved to Manhattan, and that’s when I decided to be a designer.”

Shannon Chen: “I realized I wanted to design when I started drawing...and the focus was all on clothing.”

Nathaniel White: “My story is kind of weird. Since middle school, I always drew mannequins with clothes, and my teacher asked me if there was anything else I could draw. I remember seeing Ms. Jay and the exciting collection on the last episode of Project Runway, and at that point, I knew that’s what I had to do.”

Marla Castro: “I found out about this school because I came to the fashion show when I was in middle school. I am interested in both accessory and fashion design.”

Claude: Were your families supportive of your design ambitions?

Marla: “Yes, totally. My dad watches Project Runway.”

Nathaniel: “And my whole family is extremely supportive.  Any time I have a show or something, they take up the whole place!”

Shannon: “My mom was really supportive, but my dad was mildly horrified. He wanted me to be a lawyer.”

Louis: “My mom went to FIT and grew up modeling and in the arts, so when she found out, she was like Oh my lord, my prodigy! My dad was a cop and was chief of the precinct, so I think he would have preferred if I studied criminal justice, but they are both really supportive now.”

Claude: Which designers do you look towards for inspiration, past or present?

Marla: Vera Wang. Her jewelry, her collections, how show branches out—higher end and lower end. And also, Oscar de la Renta.

Nathaniel: “I really like Laquan Smith. I like where he came from. His clothing gives me inspiration, because he doesn’t care what people think and does what he wants to do. He’s outside of the box.”

Shannon: “I am really inspired by theatre costumes, so one of my favorite costume designers is Maria Björnson. She designed a lot of operas and Broadway shows.”

Louis: “I really love Alexander McQueen and Chanel. I like clean-cut things, but at the same time, things you wouldn’t see everybody wearing. It takes a risk to wear things that Alexander McQueen designed. I saw an exhibit at FIT that had his work, and it really inspired me.”

Brian: Is it competitive between the students?

Louis: “I don’t think so, because everyone has their own take on their designs and their own style.”

Shannon: “Yes, generally speaking, we are all very supportive of each other.”

Claude: “That’s a great lesson that you can teach everyone in the industry, and something you should always hold on to. Enjoy it!”

Brian: Are there certain things you find inspiring, like art or music or dance?

Nathaniel: “A lot of times, when I am designing, I put on music, and I put those feelings on paper. Also, I find inspiration in objects. For my FIT application, I took a picture of a loofa and designed a dress inspired by that.”

Brian: Wow, you’re an intuitive Dada-ist.  Very cool.

Shannon: “I am inspired a lot by the past, often the Victorian Era and childhood… like a pair of overalls or things you left behind.”

Claude: “You’re the Proustian!”

Louis: “I listen to music, often hard techno, and imagine in my head what the person would be wearing if this was a music video. I am also inspired by everyday people on the street. Also, I love stilettos, and when I look at table legs, I imagine them as heels.”

Brian: What is your fashion dream?

Marla: “I want to be a creative director for a design company where I can both do accessory and fashion design.”

Nathaniel: “I just want to walk down the streets and see people wear my clothes. I want to go to the park and see someone wearing a shirt that I designed. But first, I want to work for a big company like Target and work my way up to get experience and eventually have my own label and be a big designer.”

Shannon: “Right now all I could think about is how great it would be to see my clothes coming down the runway at New York Fashion Week.”

Louis: “I just want to experience fashion from the inside, so the first step is an internship. I want to see what it’s like to be a designer from the core, backstage, before the clothes walk down the runway. I have a lot of dreams and goals, but I want to learn first.”

Claude: So, all are you all applying to college?

Marla, Nathaniel, Shannon, and Louis: “We all just got our letter of acceptance from FIT!"

The High School of Fashion Industries will be having its yearly benefit and student fashion show saluting honored guests Isabel and Ruben Toledo on Wednesday, May 25th, 2011. For more information, contact Keith D. Garcia at kgarcia.hsfi@gmail.com.

Don't miss pics from their back to school visit in our Gallery and follow the Ruffian boys on Facebook and Twitter!

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