Attending the first show of the week, there wasn't an empty seat in the house. Each collection that showed that evening impressed me, the amount of work and thought that had gone into each one was incredible and to know that the students had just graduated was even more mind blowing.
Getting into the FIDM Debut show itself is not easy, and for some it wasn’t the first time they had applied. However I can see why, the talent and level of design that showed was far more than I could of ever expected. There were however three designers that evening that really blew me away, Rychie Zheng, Yongjian (Tomy) Huang and Danny Godoy.
As soon as the show was over, I tracked the designers down and met with the each individually to discuss their experience at FIDM, the inspiration for their collection and what they have planned next.
Born and raised in China until the age of seveteneen, Rychie Zheng’s collection is a mix of both both US and Chinese culture, with one of her biggest inspirations being that of paper craft. Rychie set out to create pieces that were original and with her incredible use of draping, and layering I can safely say she has accomplished this.
Although Rychie is a newly graduated member of FIDM and clearly a natural designer, it wasn’t the first path she took, “I was interested in fashion (as early) as elementary school. When I immigrated to the US when I was 17 years old, I went to Arcadia but when it was time to pick my major in college, my dad didn’t think it was a good to choose fashion, so I studied business and marketing management and international business." However after spending four years in retail her love of fashion didn’t disappear, so Rychie decided to take the plunge and go back and study her first love, “I started this program in 2014, so I had zero background and learnt how to sew and everything in 2014. I picked it up really quickly, but I worked really hard. When I first learnt to sew I was really hard on myself, if it wasn’t straight I would rip it up.” This perfection clearly paid off as Rychie’s collection not only made it’s way to show at the Debut collection, but was impeccable in both cut, style and finish.
Having a good eye for fashion runs in Rychie’s blood, her mom works in menswear and her dad helps get the goods, “ My mom really likes fashion." Rychie says.
Speaking about her experience at FIDM, Rychie tells me, “I think the whole programme is set up well, so you can see eveything that you will see and go through in the industry. I had the chance to be in the Debut, so I had my own collection after one year. I am really glad I only took one year to complete the course and I had a 12 piece collection. I was slow in making the garments, so for me that was the challenge. I learnt how to speed myself up during the Debut program. The Debut collection has been my biggest accomplishment and is a new chapter into the industry.”
With her Debut collection, Rychie wanted to create something new and original, looking to designers like Rei Kawakubo for inspiration, “She is so inspiring, she thinks the creation is the origin of her design. It is new, maybe we don’t understand it, but she can pass on her message to her audience, she thinks fashion has now turned too much to fast fashion; it’s missing the soul of the fashion. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, girls want to change their fashion and style often but there's pros and cons.”
Rychie's other influence is her Chinese heritage, “I wanted to get some Chinese elements in it. It’s not too obvious but I am Chinese and I am conservative so I don’t want to show too much skin. As a Chinese designer, I wanted to have something clean, I have a lot of things going on in my silhouettes but they are still very clean. I think that is very different to other designers, they want a lot of things going on in their design which isn’t for me. I didn’t really intend to do that in the very beginning but I just went with what was in my head.”
I ask Rychie, how she would describe the woman she is dressing, “A woman very independent of course, she likes to try something new, she travels a lot and counts on herself, she is strong but feminine at the same time.” In the future Rychie tells me, she wants to create a line that is “Something more high end, I like a very fine clean finish that looks very expensive, I want to set myself as high end but RTW.
I adored Rychie's collection and just loved how original it was. Each piece looked so luxe and was the perfect combination of being stand out but also wearable. I can't believe this was her first ever collection and cannot wait to see what she does next.
See Rychie's full collection below.
Yongjian (Tomy) Huang
Although Tomy just graduated from FIDM he is by no means new to fashion. He actually had seven years experience in China as a designer and pattern maker and has even taught sewing and pattern making in China prior to beginning FIDM and this experience certainly showed in his collection.
Tomy heard about FIDM through his mom’s friend. He was spending his days playing on computer games, but when he found fashion, this all changed and it became his only focus.
Tomy’s collection was inspired by Japanese origami, and using the chinese lucky color of red, and the cream color of champagne he created a collection combining both men and womenswear. Inspired by designers John Galliano and Alexander Mcqueen but from an asian perspective it was one of the most impeccably tailored and cohesive collections I've seen.
Despite already having an impressive background in fashion in China, after hearing about FIDM's Debut collection, that only 10-12 designers would be able to show in, Tomy decided to join the program as he really wanted to see his collection up on the runway because, “FIDM is a great stage."
Inspired by origami, Tomy says, "The color combination of my collection was cream and a touch of red." His collection was particularly stand out with his use of the red leather, however it certainly wasn't easy to work with, “It was really hard to sew the leather, it’s cow leather and it’s really thick. It took me more than one week per dress!" Tomy continues, "The programme is about nine months, and we have that time to get the collection together." Tomy’s process isn’t a conventional one, preferring to drape before he even sketches, "I like to do more structure and pattern making. I don’t sketch first. I drape first. My process is I find the inspiration, choose the element, then the fabric, use this sample on the dress, then sketch.” Conventional or not, this process is certainly working for him.
"Being Chinese has influenced me through the inspiration of the origami in my collection, and the technique.” Tomy was one of the only designers that chose to tackle both a men and women’s wear collection, but if Tomy had to chose between designing for men or women? “ I would choose women’s wear. I like the silhouette, the curve, more hour glass. It’s more elegant. However in the future I would like to do both. I would love to do my business here but also have a Chinese customer.”
See Tomy's full collection below
Danny Godoy had a clear dream, and it was getting into the FIDM Debut. After not getting in the first year, he kind of ‘gave up’ on his dream. However after the support and encouragement of his friends and family, he applied again and it was a, “What if I don’t get in?" moment. But he did get accepted and that was where he says his journey really began. The inspiration behind his collection was inspired by the 40’s and 50’s and his muse, Dita Von Teese.
It turns out enrolling in FIDM was the best decision he’s made thus far, “It was more than I thought it would be, it’s not for everyone, I’m only 21, but so far it’s been the best experience of my life. It’s a hard school, it’s not for everyone.”
Not only did Danny get in the second time he applied he even managed to offset his tuition and fees. He was an RA and for the last 9 months of his time at FIDM and also worked at Halston, as he “Wanted to keep retail fresh on my resume.” Danny had previously worked at Ted Baker for three years, a year and a half of that as a manager.
Although Danny loved his time at FIDM and achieved his goal of showing in the Debut show he tells me it was definitely the most challenging thing he’s done, however he adds, “These last 9 months, were the most gratifying. I definitely stepped in with an open mind. I didn’t have a preconceived idea. I had a previous collection I had done before this one. It wasn’t me though. It was more RTW, more sportswear. My next collection was more daring. My woman is still young and very bold in a very classic way.” Bold is certainly the right word to describe his collection, particularly his finale 'cage' dress, “The cage dress was paneled out, made with horse hair, the fabric and underlay, it took me about 240 hours to make.”
The entire collection took Danny six months, he tells me “Solidifying the idea took the longest, being a newbie designer.” In fact Danny had so many ideas it took time to really pick just one and to just go with it, “Some had a quick approach, but only about four designers kept with their original ideas.”
Taking the time out after not getting into FIDM certainly paid off as Danny admits, “The first time I applied I wasn’t as strong as I didn’t have a strong enough personality, I didn’t know what I was capable of, or I didn’t come through as I was capable enough." Fortunately the time out made all the difference, and Danny more than proved what he was able to achieve this time around.
As well as being a huge support, Danny’s family also have a very strong influence on his designs. After checking that this was definitely what he wanted to do, and seeing his potential, his mom bought him his first sewing machine. That one broke so his dad then bought him one, that one also broke and then his neighbor who just happened to be Becky G’s grandma gave him her old sewing machine, "That one didn’t break! But I was also afraid to use it." Danny say's with a laugh.
Danny has certainly learnt a lot during his time at FIDM but some of the lessons he learnt weren’t just in the workroom, but life lessons, “One of the biggest lessons I learnt was to not give up, to always go with your gut feeling, there's always going to be people tell you to do something different, don’t second guess yourself and go with your gut. It’s something I learnt most recently. The last two weeks were life changing. I learnt that lesson. You can’t be so nit picky, you can’t plan everything out exactly as you want it, you can only set out those goals.” Danny continues "FIDM did help a lot with figuring out who I am as a designer but more as a person, you know your basis but you don’t know what you’re doing next. FIDM definitely showed me who I am and what I am capable of doing, a sense of security and confidence. I can see who I am now. The teachers are so supportive; I can ask them anything, industry advice or help. It’s not just the instructors either, the owner, the chair, you see the love, you see the passion. They work for the success of their students.”
Danny has certainly come a long way since he first began at FIDM and the security that the school has given him has certainly stayed with him since graduating allowing him to take far more risks in his life than he would have before. Later down the line Danny's dream would be to work overseas, “I would love to work for Chanel or Dior, Jack spade, RL, I feel very comfortable designing for women but not for men, attention to detail, fabric choice, there is a difference. I haven’t done any designing for men but worked for Ted Baker so I know what they want, designing is research. What’s going on, what is trickling down to what people are wearing, avoiding my comfort zone.”
Danny’s attitude and career choices are cemented in looking at the long term. Many newly graduated students set their sights immediately on having their own line but Danny has more of a practical plan, he calls it, “OPM – Other peoples money.” Danny laughs. I want to learn from them, I want to learn from the business side. I was a manager at a retail store, I know design, now I want to learn about how to build a brand. I want to set up my own brand maybe 15-20 years down the line.”
However in the mean time, Danny tells me, “My short term plan would get me to the position as a creative designer at a house like LV, Gucci or Dior, Even just getting in to the company or being a designer, but my ultimate goal is to have my own brand. I want everything, not just RTW, but furniture. I want my stuff to not just be worn by people but also to have my designs within the comfort of their own home, I want to be a part of peoples lives in general.”
With his vision, dramatic designs and strong work ethic, I’ve no doubt that Danny will achieve his goals.
See Danny Godoy's full collection below
FIDM Debut Runway collection photos: provided by FIDM by Photographer: Alex J. Berliner/ ABImages
Rychie Zheng's editorial photos provided by Rychie Zheng
Yongjian Tomy Huang's editorial photos provided by Tomy Huang.
Click for more information on FIDM
Rychie Zheng Instagram
(Yongjian) Tomy Huang
Danny Godoy Instagram
Special thanks to FIDM for their assistance.