Los Angeles Fashion Week (LAFW) returned this month—a blend of fashion, beauty, technology, and sustainability organized by N2XT Experiences and endorsed by the Council of Fashion Designers of American (CFDA). During the course of the event, designers, influencers, and artists were joined by a contingent of students, staff, and faculty from Otis College of Art and Design’s Fashion Design program.
As part of the opening night kick-off, Fashion Design Chair Jill Zeleznik gave remarks at an event with the Susan G. Komen Foundation and the LAFW Society, speaking of her experience as a breast cancer survivor and how working with her students sustained her.
“My life took an unexpected turn when I was diagnosed with stage-three breast cancer in April 2022. The journey through cancer treatment has been a rollercoaster of emotions, but I am immensely grateful to my Otis family for their unwavering support, and to my health team, who allowed me to Zoom with students and faculty during eight-hour chemotherapy treatments for nine months,” Zeleznik shared. She also thanked the Susan G. Komen Foundation “for their dedication to breast cancer research. Without organizations like this, we wouldn’t have the hope and opportunity for survival that we do today.”
Zeleznik stood against a backdrop of 20 mannequins that displayed an installation of Otis College Fashion Design student garments, showcasing their work with the program’s notable mentors, such as designers Jason Wu, Marcus Clayton, Jonathan Simkhai, and B. Akerlund. Zeleznik also introduced alumnus Antonio Finamore-Phillips (’23 BFA Fashion Design), who spoke about his work, which was included in the installation. “When our students and their esteemed mentors collaborate their synergy can be magic,” Zeleznik concluded.
The next night, the documentary film Fashion Reimagined had its Los Angeles premiere following a panel discussion about sustainability in the fashion industry. As a panelist, Zeleznik spoke to the work the Fashion Design program does to raise awareness around sustainable practices in the fashion industry, such as working with recycled materials, upcycling old garments into new creations, and minimizing waste and pollution in the supply chain. Also on the panel were Amy Powney, the creative director of the cult fashion label Mother of Pearl, who is the subject of Fashion Reimagined; Becky Hutner, who directed the documentary; Nikki Reed, actress, activist, and founder of the sustainable jewelry brand Bayou With Love; and moderator Ibrahim Alhusseini, the founder and managing partner of the climate change investment firm FullCycle.
“Empowering the next generation of designers through hands-on collaborative experiences is the key to passing on the torch to sustainability,” Zeleznik told the standing-room-only crowd. “Our students are here tonight to hear your story and see this sustainable fashion imagination at work. We can never fully participate in a movement like this until we see something like Fashion Reimagined and feel its impact.”
Board of Trustees member Leonard Lawson, founder of BOND Creative MGMT, also was in attendance, and said he had conversations with several Fashion Design students afterward about the profound influence the film had on them. Several students in the Fashion Design program minor in minor in Sustainability so that they can be change agents in an industry that often is criticized for its negative environmental impact.
Before the night was over Zeleznik led Powney, Hunter, Reed, and Alhusseini on a tour of the student installation, giving them a hands-on experience of the skill-level and vision Otis Fashion Design students have developed during mentor projects that emphasize creativity, utility, and, yes, sustainability.
You can view the panel discussion from the Fashion Reimagined event on the LAFW website. For more information about Otis College’s Fashion Design program, visit www.otis.edu/bachelor-fine-arts-fashion-design.