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Oakland high school student Zachary Fernandez made it to the finals on the first season of Project Runway Junior, then headed straight back to Oakland School of the Arts to continue his education as a designer. His newest collection, Kathmandu, was inspired by recovery efforts in Nepal after the devastating 2015 earthquake. Art School followed Fernandez's process as he sketched, sourced fabric, and designed his new project, revealed at a culminating fashion show in spring 2016.
Hi, my name is Zachary Fernandez and I'm currently a fashion student. So I am starting my Kathmandu 2016 collection. My collection's gonna be debuting at my school fashion show, and so I have little under seven weeks to get this all put together. So our school assignment was to pick a city that we wanted to be inspired by for this collection. I ended with Kathmandu, Nepal, all of the trouble that they went through last year was really inspiring and I was able to take those ideas of imbalance and the destruction of culture and apply that to this new collection. These are the pieces that I ended up designing. They're ever-changing and they kind of just are always in flux. My sketching process involves a lot of images, a lot of mixed medias, I like to do collages, watercolors, acrylic paste, it's a real reflection of what my mind looks like. Here you have the final sketches that I've done. The sketching process for me is really a major step between just ideas and kind of this fantasy world that I've created in my mind to really functional wearable pieces. Fabric sourcing is one of my favorite things to do. It's really like a group activity, like meet a couple of friends, we'll just go, we'll explore the city, we'll get inspiration. So I'm looking for like a very pale blue that's almost like very silverish, and then I'm gonna be looking for a very deep, rust orange color. Okay, so I need to find this, but more grayish blue. The fabric store is one of those places that you go in with one idea and one concept and one thought, and you come out with like 500 more. This is it.
– This is it!
– This is it.
– [Girl] Dude!
– Hey! Yes! So I spend the majority of my time draping and it's definitely a part that will make or break a piece. I take a piece of muslin, which is just a really basic blend fabric, and I started sculpting it to the dress form. And then those mock-ups that I make of the dress form are then fitted to the model, and sometimes I try them on a model, I'm like, this is hideous, I don't know why, it just overpowers her or something happens and that leads to even better ideas and even more just, creativeness. When you design while you create, I just think it takes so much longer and you like pressure yourself so much more. So, my design mind is turned off. And it's just about sewing, and sewing, and sewing, and sewing, and sewing. So after I finish draping, I take a part of that mockup and I totally seam rip it and I re-pattern it, and then I cut out of my real fabric. It's always really nerve-wracking 'cause a lot of times the fabric's all that you have, either the budget doesn't allow for you to get more fabric, or there's simply not anymore left. It has this like box-like structure in it. The box is actually lined with horse-hair so that it can kind of take the shape and that's why I'm kind of trying to like manipulate it right now 'cause it just takes on whatever shape you really need it to. The show, oh the show. Six days, and I'm still cutting up fabric like, I don't think that's normal. There's always going to be that last minute hurry up and finish like state of being. I have a picture in my mind about how this is supposed to go, but who knows if it actually go that way. I think that there can be a lot of different ways to read the look. Obviously you look for like the main things like color, silhouette, is this an evening piece, is this a day piece and you just kind of put the garment and choose certain categories and that really helps people read fashion out, by the time the piece is on the runway I'm already thinking about a whole new collection and I'm really thinking something totally different, but it doesn't really hit me that these people, for them it's the first time that they've seen this. I've spent months and months planning and sketching and putting it together. If I see all these different things in these pieces, but no one else does, then it's kind of sad, but then it's also part of what makes fashion art, is because people see it in so many different ways. We are in my home, studio, bedroom combination in Berkeley, California. I have this look from Project Runway Junior, which was the first episode, and this look for my most recent collection. They really mean a lot to me 'cause they show how much progress I've made within the last four, five months.