Jan 29, 2024

FIT's "Future of Fashion" Has Arrived, and It’s Bigger and Bolder Than Ever

Feast your eyes on the award-winning looks in this edition of FIT's Future of Fashion.

Feast your eyes on the award-winning looks in this edition of FIT's Future of Fashion.

Last night in Chelsea, the fashion community gathered to glimpse the Future of Fashion at FIT's annual showcase of its BFA graduating class. Not so much with words but more so through the threads of their designs, the class of 2023 foreshadowed much promise for what's to come next in fashion's orbit. Whether lace-clad lingerie embellished to the nines or a hand-knit marvel transporting onlookers to the wide-open fields of the Andes, one common element emanated from the runway: the courage to stand out.

While that may totally sound cliché, consider fashion's latest obsession with the proverbial "less is more" approach. You’ve got fashion houses scaling down color palettes, embellishments, embroidery—the list goes on. That's not to say individuality and statement are eradicated but to point out the diminishing audacity in the industry at this moment.

So, the new fashion vanguard stepped up to the plate, put their design chops to the test, and delivered something outside the greige confines of the "quiet luxury" craze. Each distinct in their vision yet united in their brazen ambition, these are the bold recipients of this year's Critic Awards. Feast your eyes on the award-winning looks in this edition of FIT's Future of Fashion.

Cecilia Wolf (Sportswear)

Cecilia Wolf showed us that the most effortlessly cool looks are perhaps the most meticulously curated. Diaphanous tulle gets slashed up to the verve of Wolf's provocateur framework. In her deconstructed ensemble, you’ve got a dash of punk and a pinch of grunge à la Vivienne Westwood. Seams scream for your attention as they come undone in a gracious dégradé cascading from the hip down to the knee. Sweeping diagonal lines swathe the waist on a tailored Heather Gray asymmetrical corset. It is layered over a white collared shirt. If Wolf taught us one thing, it's punk's not dead.

Vanessa Gray (Sportswear)

Vanessa Gray is cranking up the volume on the Y2K denim mania revival. Hitting it full blast, Gray sent a deconstructed denim bolero jacket, patchwork lace bodysuit, and denim skirt with lace our way. Stomping down the runway, its wearer isn't afraid to make some waves. In fact, she's roaring with vestiary ferocity.

Katelyn De Levante Raphael (Sportswear)

Levante Raphael's take on motherly love occupies a new form as "Mother and I" finds itself quilted on the back of an expansive parka. Drenched in Hibiscus Cotton, smocked sleeves and pockets galore on matching cargo pants amount to one critically acclaimed look that offers just as much functionality as it does statement.

Lancy Zhang (Sportswear)

Balancing convention and abstraction, Zhang skews the norm and delivers an ensemble that provokes a second glance. Everything is not what it seems. Note the skirt; it's covered in sleeves. Whereas the uber-structured shoulders and repurposed sleeves add an Avant Garde flair to Zhang's look, dusty blue-hued opera gloves add a classic sense of glamour to its experimental framework.

Rachel Gewirtz (Intimate Apparel)

Butterflies flutter around Gothic architecture in Gewirtz's extravaganza of intimate apparel. Radiant and sensuous to the last stitch, this ensemble amounts to an aura of delectable darkness. Dusty hues of teal and glints of indigo accents ooze midnight seduction, while its expansive train adds a flair of drama in lace-trimmed, wing-like forms. Queen of Gotham, Enchantress of the Empire State, Butterfly of the Night—call it what you like; Gewirtz's look left jaws hanging in the front row.

Sammi Chen (Special Occasion)

A buttery scarlet gown ebbed and flowed with the fluidity of the East River in Sammi Chen's knockout eveningwear. Chen's gown was a solar system in and of itself, with constellations of gilded embroidered stars dispersing from an enormous sun detail at the hip.

Veronica Creed (Knitwear)

Who says knitwear can't be sexy? Veronica Creed argues otherwise. As her ensemble glided down the runway, we had to check twice. Swapping the inextricable high heel from the runway, Creed's model stepped out in striped socks. Yes, you heard right. Striped socks. Perhaps Creed was trying to tell us she's not afraid to break some rules, or maybe her model was fed up with stilettos and decided to make herself home?

But never mind the shoes or lack thereof; the real plot twist was on the ensemble itself. The illusion of unraveling yarn revealed what appeared…a sultry pin cushion at the hip and bust? Toying with proportion in the female form, Creed's ensemble is one demonstrating a keen understanding of volume and structure.

Yuri Ikegaya (Special Occasion)

If searching for drama, shift your sights to Yuri Ikegaya's showstopping look. Where a dark upcycled sheared mink coat gets layered over a silk gazar dress, a marvelous overlap of old-school glamour and new-school environmental consciousness meet with irrefutable style. It's simple, chic, and oh-so-sleek.

Chaeeun Lee (Knitwear)

A warm and fuzzy wave of nostalgia flows from Chaeeun Lee's saccharine-sweet knitwear creation. Beginning with the base, Lee selected the most nostalgic of design elements: a balloon sleeve pullover. Hues of Olive Green and Eggplant Purple cross paths in satisfying grids of a crocheted apron top. The real cherry on top, however, was the sumptuous plaid felt jacquard dress charmingly sagging and swaying with its plush ridges—all very evocative of your grandmother's quilt.

Amanda Zanetti (Special Occasion)

If fashion were literature, Amanda Zanetti's special occasion design would be a sonnet. Romantic in every sense of the word and opulent in its feathery hand-dyed/pleated tulle ruffles, Zanetti's dress is a byword for attention to detail. Evolving from its capacious upper structure, the dress extends into a Chantilly lace column dress with beaded appliqués.

Jacob Caraccilo (Sportswear)

Sporting Caraccilo's Critically acclaimed look, a model emerges on the runway with a leaf-printed wildlife vest and the collar and sleeves of a vibrant plaid shirt peeking out from underneath. A stripe short gets layered over a short adorned with burnt edges. Think Animalia meets geek-chic.

Resplendent in its use of color, Caraccilo's look is just one of his clever sartorial syntheses. Along with an effervescent dialogue between color, pattern, and texture, Caraccilo's designs stem from a rich narrative that tells the tale of an airplane crash in which conservationists find themselves on a remote island on which they reconnect with nature. Hence, the burnt edges on his designs.

A self-identified "military brat" turned fashion designer, Caraccilo discusses his work at the reception following the show, "The life of the fabric decides its own shape. Previously I studied sculpture, which kind of gave me this 3-D eye. [I’m] just trying to manipulate it—like the shorts today. They were made from seat belt webbing, and it looks really nice when it stands up, so I figured shorts would probably be the best thing for that. Really, the fabric talks."

Does the fire in his narrative symbolize rebirth, and if so, can we be renewed through fashion?

"You could look at it that way. I was reviewing safety information cards from flights and realized that this is material that can be renewed. I’ve seen it a couple times because I do travel quite a bit and wanted to use it. It started as a story where conservationists would fly to Africa in a plane crash and have to use these materials to clothe themselves."

Has sustainability always been at the core of Caraccilo's work?

"I kind of accidentally fell into it later because when I would shop for fabrics, I would never really find what I liked in fabric stores around New York, so when I go home to North Carolina, I’ll go to thrift stores. I’ll shop around antique mills and find curtains and tablecloths—like these are all curtains," says Caraccilo while signaling to a white shirt he is sporting. "Vintage fabrics are the future."

How does he feel after it's all said and done?

"I want to do it all over again," he says with a glint of interminable energy in his eyes.

If fashion is heading in the same direction as FIT's graduating BFA class, sign us up; we’ll have what they’re serving.

Cecilia Wolf Sportswear Vanessa Gray Sportswear Katelyn De Levante Raphael Sportswear Lancy Zhang Sportswear Rachel Gewirtz Intimate Apparel Sammi Chen Special Occasion) Veronica Creed Knitwear Yuri Ikegaya Special Occasion Chaeeun Lee Amanda Zanetti Jacob Caraccilo