Fashion School Newspapers: FIT Graduate Pushes the Limits of Identity with Children’s Clothing
Students in fashion schools around the world are preparing to enter a rapidly changing industry. There are courses to succeed, design prompts to ace, parades to prepare, and professional connections to make. And over the past year, they’ve had to navigate all of this under the restrictions of Covid-19. In our “Fashion School Diaries” series, these students give us a first-hand look at their everyday life. Here we meetHawwaa ibrahim, a 2021 fashion design graduate from the Institute of Fashion Technology, ahead of their student runway show.
Hawwaa Ibrahim knew they wanted to work in fashion from their pre-teens. But it wasn’t the glossy fashion magazines that inspired them, but rather the wealth of DIY content on YouTube (the New magazines, maybe), and all the free time offered by being homeschooled in Minnesota. They got their first sewing machine at the age of 13 and knew from then on they wanted to be a designer – and study at FIT in New York.
Ibrahim released his debut cut on Friday on Instagram, graduated from the FIT class of 2021 with a diploma in children’s clothing. And a few days before that, instead of a parade, their work debuted online via a “Future of Fashion” virtual showcase. They were also selected as one of 12 Critics ‘Prize winners for their thesis project on children’s clothing, a genderless collection inspired by the Islamic world and’ the idea that children should have a more understanding wide of the genre at a younger age, âas Ibrahim puts it.
Putting together this latest collection wasn’t easy thanks to Covid-19 restrictions, and they struggled to relocate to Minnesota in more ways than one.
Below, Ibrahim reflects on his learning to sew, his time at FIT, how his religious and gender identity informs his design process, the challenges posed by the pandemic, and his plans for what will be. certainly a bright future. Read on.
âI have been interested in fashion since I was 12 years old. At the time, I was homeschooled so I had a lot of free time. This led me to discover the world of YouTube and DIY, which quickly led me to sewing. After I got my first sewing machine around the age of 13, I was determined to be a designer.
When I first started sewing I didn’t understand how the pins were supposed to be placed in the fabric when sewing, so there you go, I had them misplaced, which caused me to sew through my finger. My sister and mom ended up pulling out the needle with pliers and I figured I was never going to sew again. Then the next day I went to school and my English teacher told the class that we had the option to sew an Elizabethan inspired outfit for our Shakespeare unit and I was like, ‘ Okay, there we are. âI really believe that was a sign.
I wanted to study fashion design to develop my craft and learn the ins and outs of construction and illustration. When I was about 13 and realized I wanted to be a fashion designer growing up, FIT was the first school I met. He had great reviews so he stuck with me throughout my college and high school experience. I wasn’t going to stop until I walked in!
I think the thing that I will remember the most [from my time at FIT] is the transition from focusing only on sportswear to children’s clothing. I physically felt a weight lift off my shoulders and my world lit up as I realized that children’s clothing was the perfect fit for me. My helpful teachers, and the opportunities that came with the experience, were something I think I wouldn’t have found if I had stayed with sportswear. I felt like I didn’t belong. I also think my design style is more kid-friendly with all the color and flair I have to offer.
It was difficult for me to adapt to the onset of the pandemic. Having to stop everything suddenly and return to my hometown without warning took a toll on my mental health. I felt like a failure and like my time in New York had been wasted because I hadn’t achieved everything I wanted. However, a few months after the start of the pandemic, I was awakened by the realization that having to put my life on hold was not a burden, but a privilege. I had time to find myself and to clarify what I really wanted to offer to this world and its inhabitants. I believe I have finally found some peace and exactly what I was looking for.
I am a black American Muslim. There are often times when people within these communities try to downplay my existence by telling me that I can’t be that and that I can’t be just by how I look or how I choose to be. live my life. This had a major effect on me for many years, but in recent years I have made a decision not to let others tell me who I am, especially when it comes to religion, which has a major influence. on how I live my life. I chose to use my creations to speak more freely and comfortably about my religion. In the work I create I always try to be careful about how it might represent Islam.
To start the process of creating my thesis clothes, I started by creating a portfolio of illustrations in my seventh semester class. My teacher, Mary Capozzi, was extremely helpful in reducing ideas, colors, quirky patterns and silhouettes. We often discussed what I wanted to achieve by creating this collection, which prompted me to create something that would have an impact and contribute to the evolution of the fashion industry. By combining aspects of my gender identity with my religion, I chose to make genderless children’s clothing inspired by art in the Islamic world.
Moving on to developing specific looks for my thesis clothing, my children’s clothing teachers Lauren Zodel and Barbara Seggio have been excellent mentors. They helped me combine my previous designs from my BFA artwork portfolio to create eye-catching, more runway-ready looks. This is how I was able to offer my final designs for my thesis clothes.
Determining what type of materials and workmanship I would use was done with the help of my teachers, alongside my children’s clothing critic, Erin Rechner, WGSN Children’s Clothing Manager. It was a long process as we wanted to make sure that all of the fabrics, fabric handling, and textures would work together for both looks. Erin was also great in reassuring me that I was going in the right direction for what I wanted to accomplish. It was amazing to be criticized by someone who is so familiar with the trends that are and will happen in children’s clothing. For printing my original designs on fabric, we also researched the best available and reliable option during a global pandemic.
Sewing and creating my thesis looks was done in my small room on my home sewing machine in Minnesota. Even though a sewing machine is a sewing machine, then if it gets the job done, it’s perfect for me! I’ve always been used to designing and sewing in small spaces so this aspect was easy for me. What has become a challenge are the fittings. I didn’t have a lot of experience adjusting a child before, so it’s an experience I’ve learned a lot from. There wasn’t a lot of interaction due to the pandemic, but it ended up working. I just had to pay a lot more attention to the details.
I kinda underestimated how little kids are in the beginning, so while I was modeling parts, in my head I was like, “ that can’t be right, ” so I would make it a little bigger. little, which ended up spoiling the cut. , but a few weeks later, I finally understood and the clothes fit me almost perfectly!
I think the hardest part for me was the fittings. Throughout the creation process I had a bit of trouble finding the right models because there aren’t many models in my city and people don’t take different ideas too well there either. . However, once I found the model I chose it all fell into place, but a lot of tweaking and tuning had to be done constantly. Due to the pandemic we were only able to meet occasionally so I was very worried about fitness the whole time but it all worked out in the end and I think it went perfectly fine ! He was a great role model.
I am very excited about the Future of Fashion show and even more excited and incredibly honored to have been chosen as the winner of the Critic Award for children’s clothing. It’s the first time I’ve won an award for fashion, so it was kind of crazy. However, I wish it all could have been in person, just because it would have been nice to have the traditional experience. I’m always happy it’s online because all the other students who have worked so hard on their designs are featured too! Now everything can live on the Internet forever.
I have just returned to NYC so after graduation I plan to work for a few years to gain as much knowledge and experience as I can about children’s wear and the fashion industry. Then I would like to move on to my own business and continue to design and create.
My ultimate career goal is to grow my fashion brand and incorporate genderless children’s clothing into the mix. I currently have a small brand called Because and I hope that after two to three years of experience in the field of children’s clothing, I will be ready to undertake the growth of my brand full time. “