VCU fashion design student breaks barriers, wins design scholarship

Michael Robinson, senior fashion designer at Virginia Commonwealth University, wears the “Nazar dress” he walked during the Fine Art and Flower Show at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts on October 23. Photographed by Kaitlin Vollmore

Sriraman SaharaAnd Spectrum Editor

Michael Robinson always knew he wanted to pursue a career in fashion design. Since he was young, fashion has always been a form of expression and empowerment.

“Being able to build my own experiences to help others, but also to connect communities and build that intersection of different cultures is an exciting thing about fashion that I really enjoy,” Robinson said.

Now, he is able to wear his own designs and show his talent.

Robinson, a senior fashion designer at Virginia Commonwealth University who uses their pronouns, showed his work at the Fine Art and Flower Show at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts on October 23, where he walked the show wearing his own design in front of the judges.

Nineteen other fashion design students at Virginia Commonwealth University showcased their designs during the show. Of all the fashion students at Virginia Commonwealth University who have exhibited their work, Robinson was one of only two to win a scholarship for the best designs in the show. He took the scholarship with junior fashion design student Zoe Petit, as decided by the judges.

“This was my first achievement in the department, being honored for something that I painted by hand and worked so hard just to feel good about trying it,” Robinson said.

The specific piece Robinson wore during the fashion show was what he called his “Nazar dress,” a hand-tufted tent dress with a hand-drawn evil eye pattern, which he worked on during the pandemic.

Robinson stated in an additional email interview that the COVID-19 pandemic has allowed him to discover more of his passion as a designer, as he has now grown and is able to expand his creativity as a designer. More recently, he has been using eye shapes, as they translate into protection from evil energies.

“To symbolically incorporate this idea to protect the wearer of this dress is a concept I was fascinated to develop in my graduate thesis on transforming and creating shapes from within shapes,” Robinson stated.

Robinson said design was also a form of self-expression for him, and walking into the show was “empowering.”

“To be appreciated and celebrated for the first time in the fashion department. For something I created from start to finish that was so much fun,” Robinson stated. “Not to mention the fact that I was dressed up and represented my pieces for everything it was and more.”

In the future, Robinson wants to design for people who come from similar backgrounds. He said he wanted people who feel like strangers, especially “little black boys,” to find comfort and representation from his designs.

“Being in this position and just knowing the endless possibilities of where I can go in my career is so exciting,” Robinson said. “There is always something new I can implement in my design and aesthetics.”

Kimberly Guthrie, co-head of Fashion Design and Marketing, stated in an email that Robinson is a “unique” student and designer. His modeling career was based on Robinson’s innovative and holistic approach to fashion.

“He/they love color and aren’t afraid to be bold in their choice of colours, textures and artistic details,” Guthrie stated.

Guthrie stated that Robinson is also able to apply his own experiences in his work while celebrating individuality.

Guthrie said she was proud that Robinson was one of two students to be awarded a scholarship at the event, seeing how hard they worked last year. She stated that Robinson will add a new perspective to the fashion industry.

I hope it’s Michael [Robinson] You will bring modernity and freshness to the industry, not only as a designer but as a citizen.” “They will surely be an inspiration to the students in the department.”

Hawa Stwodah, Assistant Professor of Fashion Design at Virginia Commonwealth University Robinson has worked as a student for the past two years and describes them as very thoughtful and innovative designers.

“On a personal level, I like a lot of the things he explores, he likes to explore identities and he likes to expand a little bit into metaphysics,” Sotoudeh said. “He enjoys pushing traditional ideas.”

She said Robinson is very attached to his work and the designs he creates, which makes his works even more meaningful. She said he has a unique eye for shapes and colors when putting together the pieces that make his design skills unique.

Sotoudeh said she appreciates how Robinson’s designs are inspired by the experience.

“Again, it’s about that authenticity,” Sotoudeh said. “I appreciate how he designs with the human in mind as he uses his type of vessel, his body, to be the one to show you,” that’s what it looks like. “

She said that she believes that his participation in wearing his fashion pieces at the VMFA Fine Art and Flower Show is just the first step in his fashion design career.

“There’s nothing really holding him back, I think he’d just jump with all his might,” Sotoudeh said.

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