SUPIMA Design Competition Spotlight: 3 Finalists Share Their Capsule Collection Inspirations, Part 1

by Eddie Roche

SUPIMA Design Competition is returning live to NYFW on September 9! The 14th annual competition brings design students from around the country to compete for a grand prize of $10,000 and recognition from top industry leaders. This week we’re introducing you to to the next generation of design superstars. 

Finalist 1: Cat Pfingst, Drexel University 

Where did you study and what led you to a career in fashion?
I just graduated from Drexel University’s Westphal College of Media Arts and Design. I’ve had an inevitable need to
self-express since I was a kid, and fashion is the vehicle that allows me to do that every day. Fashion allows one to
communicate something that is both personal and universal—it functions as a sort of “heartbeat” of the world. My
love for it and its ability to help us feel more connected to ourselves and others is what drove me to take on a career in fashion design.

What’s the theme of your SUPIMA capsule collection?
My concept is based on the idea of impermanence, and the aspects of life that are out of our human control. Though
change can be uncomfortable, it allows room for evolution. My collection explores this fluctuation of comfort through
hand quilting and the dialogue between the interior and exterior of a garment.

How would you describe your design aesthetic?
I am drawn to big shapes and pieces that offer comfort in a way that surpasses the physical. The clothing we wear is
closely connected to our psyche, and I like to celebrate that through my work. It’s almost impossible for me to ignore
humor, so some subtle wit is often welcomed in my realm of creations. A neutral palette lets me push the design to
be something that, in hopes, extends beyond seasons, trends, and what is typically expected of a garment.

What were the biggest challenges in the design process?
Being my second collection, and biggest yet, the Supima competition has been a great challenge to me and an
experience through which I can feel myself growing exponentially. I think my biggest challenge is learning control
over my ideas. With one small piece of inspiration, my mind runs off with all of the possibilities of how it might be
best expressed—and that’s when I have to catch it from running too far!

Where do you draw most of your inspiration from?
I am mainly inspired by the mundane, ironic, and the overlooked parts of our day that are often the most relatable
parts of the human experience—things that can be a common string between us all. I am drawn to any material I
have a visceral reaction to, and often work with whatever is around me. For this collection in particular, I took my
silhouette inspiration from bedding, mattresses, and other items that provide literal comfort.

Who are your favorite designers?
I look mostly to Martin Margiela, because there is something in the aesthetic, perhaps the degree of familiarity within
materials, that I feel closely bound to. I also really admire Rick Owens, Issey Miyake, Rei Kawakubo, and other
designers alike for their genius in shape. Currently, one of my favorites to keep up with is Ukrainian designer Irina
Dzhus of Dzhus Conceptual Wear. Any designer that can emulate the extraordinary from an ordinary origin is a role
model to me.

Finalist 2: Esther Li, FIT 

Esther Li

 Where did you study and what led you to a career in fashion?
I studied at the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC. Fashion has always been my passion ever since I was a kid, but because I have a very traditional Asian dad, I was instilled in the Chinese mainstream industry like economics and law. When I came to the U.S. for middle school, I realized that there are so many more choices in life. I did go through some tough fights with my dad to go into fashion design.

What’s the theme of your SUPIMA capsule collection?
It’s the idea of displacement, which means the moving of something from its original place or position. My interest and experimentation in software like Photoshop and other image editing apps could easily change the appearance of anything, therefore creating alternative results that may be deceiving to the viewer. The process starts by using different filters on found imagery, that is then distorted and applied to my designs and drapes to find new silhouettes and possibilities. I further this experimentation in the form of actual textile development and unexpected fabrics and combinations.

How would you describe your design aesthetic?
It’s very playful, fun, but also sexy.

What were the biggest challenges in the design process?
I have a lot of conceptual ideas and the hardest part would be when executing them, so I had to go through lots of experimentation and trials.

Where do you draw most of your inspiration from?
I believe inspiration can come from every simple thing around us I just need to look at it from another angle.

Who are your favorite designers?
Charlotte Knowles, Chopova Lowena, Rui Zhou, Paolina Russo.

Finalist 3: Jiarui (Ruby) Cai, Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising 

Jiarui “Ruby” Cai

 Where did you study and what led you to a career in fashion?
I was studying at FIDM. I am also a hip-hop dancer; I always like to match different items for my dance outfit, which lead me to decide to study fashion design.

Very cool. What’s the theme of your SUPIMA capsule collection?
The inspiration comes from my childhood and the way I saw the world. I listened to my parents’ directions when I was a child, and as I grew older, I learned to think on my own and began to break away from their protection which meant the whole world to me. As I branch out I learn to break from the box I thought was the world. I discovered who I am today by breaking away from the barriers and limitations set forth from childhood.

How would you describe your design aesthetic?
I am focusing on streetwear style, and I hope people can have fun and laugh when they see my collection.

What were the biggest challenges in the design process?
Designing with five different fabrics, because each fabric has its own character. I need to think about the weight, the luster, and the drape for each fabric when I design.

Where do you draw most of your inspiration from?
Movies or books, and I choose the part relative to my personal experience because when I have a strong belief, it can strike a chord with audiences.

Who are you favorite designers?
Walter Van Beirendonck/ 


Watch this space to meet the rest of the talented finalists…

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