This year’s valedictorian, Haruka Yamamoto, hails from Osaka, Japan, and was attracted to Otis College’s Fashion Design program after seeing videos of its annual fashion show and benefit on YouTube. “I was amazed by the breathtaking beautiful garments on the runway,” she says. Just a few years later, Haruka has gone on to create similarly spectacular clothing and excel academically to earn her the valedictorian honor, which goes every year to the senior whose work represents the pinnacle of academic excellence. When her name was announced during the Student Awards ceremony last month, she was cited for “her continuously stellar academic performance throughout her Otis College career and the exceptional quality of her studio work.”
In this first of a series of spotlights on this year’s Academic Achievement Awards recipients, we’ll introduce you to the talented seniors about to change the worlds of art and design.
What types of work do you create?
My focus is women’s wear. The work I create varies with digital illustration, and I utilize different kinds of fabric and trims on the garment.
What is your proudest achievement while you were a student?
My proudest accomplishment is the mentor project. I had the opportunity to work with Trish Summerville, who is a costume designer. I partnered with my friend to produce an astonishing two garments with a lot of textured recycled materials and silk painting, with which we were able to win a mentorship award.
What was one of your happiest days at Otis?
My happiest day is after the final or big assignment is due. After that, I am able to finally rest and move forward to the next achievement.
What was one of your most challenging days at Otis?
The most challenging day is before fitting day. In fashion design there is a fitting day when the models come and try on the garments that the students make. The garment has to be completed before that fitting day. I have always stayed late before the fitting day to make sure to finish everything for the garment to be ready.
How did you get through these challenges?
I was able to get through with my fellow students. We help each other a lot by cheering on each other and spending time together. It really helped me to get through it because I felt like I was not alone.
Who are some of your mentors at Otis, and how have they impacted your goals and experience here?
My mentor is my design teacher, Sumi Lee, who taught me throughout the whole design process from sophomore to senior year. She understood my identity and background, and helped me add those characteristics to my design. With her help, I was able to find the significant essence of my creativity in designing. Incorporating my cultural identity into my design helped me to be outstanding and inspirational due to her teaching method.
Where do you find inspiration?
A lot of my artwork comes from the inspiration of my cultural background. I would like to use a lot of Japanese-inspired designs in my collection. My inspiration also comes from other forms of art as well, such as paintings, architecture, music, and social responsibility.
How has Otis College supported your artistic and design journey?
Otis helped me find my true passion in design and real identity in my artwork. Incorporating my Japanese background into my design became my characteristic and unique creativity in fashion design.
What types of assistance did you receive while at Otis and what did it mean to you?
I received enormous help from my instructors while I was at Otis. Even the basic steps of designing, constructing the garments, and illustrating, the process I acquired is because of the support I received from the courses I took. It helped me to develop my skills and thought process to be an innovative young designer.
What are your career goals and plans for the future?
I am planning to continue studying fashion by achieving a master's degree in Europe. My goal for the future is to launch my own brand that I produce, design, and manage with everything I learned in my time at Otis and work experience.
Sky’s the limit: What would be your dream project?
My dream project would be to create a stunning ready-to-wear collection showcased at the Paris fashion shows.
Main image: Haruka Yamamoto with models wearing her designs photographed by Jack Proctor/Otis College of Art and Design. Slideshow images: Photographed by Danielle Vega/Otis College of Art and Design.
Be sure to tune into the livestream of Otis College’s Commencement ceremony at noon on Sunday, May 15 to hear Haruka’s Valedictorian address. The livestream link will be posted on Otis.edu shortly before the ceremony begins. And be sure to check out all the culminating events that are part of O-Launch ’22. More information here.