VCU fashion design student breaks barriers and wins design scholarship


Michael Robinson, VCU’s Fashion Design Director, wears the “Nazar Dress” he walked in during the Fine Arts and Flowers show at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts on October 23. Photo by Kaitlyn Fulmore

Sahara sriraman, Spectrum editor

Michael Robinson always knew he wanted to pursue a career in fashion design. Since he was young, fashion has always been a form of expression and empowerment.

“Being able to build on my own experiences to help others but also to bring communities together and build this intersectionality between different cultures is an exciting thing in fashion that I really appreciate,” said Robinson.

Now he is able to wear his own designs and show off his talent.

Robinson, a fashion design senior at VCU who uses both he / they pronouns, presented his work at the Fine Art and Flower Show at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts on October 23, where he walked the show wearing its own design in front of judges.

Nineteen other fashion design students from VCU presented their designs during the show; Of all the VCU mode students who presented their work, Robinson was one of only two to win a scholarship for the best designs at the show. He received the scholarship along with junior fashion design student Zoe Pettit, as decided by the judges.

“Considering this was my first scholarship in the department, being recognized for something that I hand painted and worked so hard on was really nice to live on,” said said Robinson.

The specific piece Robinson wore on the fashion show was what he calls his ‘Nazar Dress,’ a hand-draped tent dress with a hand-painted evil eye pattern, which he worked on during the pandemic. .

Robinson said in an additional email interview that the COVID-19 pandemic has allowed him to further discover his passion as a designer, as he has now grown and is able to expand his creativity as a designer. Recently he has used eye patterns as they translate to protection from evil energies.

“Incorporating this motif to symbolically protect the wearer of this dress is a concept that fascinated me to develop in my main thesis of transforming and creating shapes from shapes,” said Robinson.

Robinson said conception was a form of self-expression for him as well, and that walking in the show was “empowering.”

“To be appreciated and celebrated for the first time in the fashion department. because something that I created from start to finish was very rewarding, ”said Robinson. “Not to mention that I wore and represented my piece for everything it is and more.”

Going forward, Robinson wants to design for people from similar backgrounds. He said he wanted people who feel like strangers, especially “young black gay boys,” to find comfort and representation in his designs.

“Being in this role and just knowing the endless possibilities in my career is so exciting,” said Robinson. “There is always something new that I can implement in my own design and aesthetic. “

Kimberly Guthrie, associate chair of the fashion design and merchandising department, said in an email that Robinson is a “unique” student and designer. Her work at the fashion show was based on Robinson’s innovative and inclusive approach to fashion.

“He / they love color and aren’t afraid to be bold with their color choices and combinations and artistic details,” Guthrie said.

Guthrie said Robinson is also able to bring his own experiences to his work while celebrating individuality.

Guthrie said she was proud that Robinson was one of two scholarship students at the event, as she saw how hard they worked last year. She said Robinson will add a new perspective to the fashion industry.

“My hope is that Michael [Robinson] will bring novelty and freshness to the industry, not only as a designer but as a citizen, ”said Guthrie. “They will certainly be a source of inspiration for the students of the department. “

Hawa Stwodah, assistant professor of fashion design at VCU, has had Robinson as a student for the past two years and describes them as a very thoughtful and innovative designer.

“On a personal level, I like a lot of things that he explores, he likes to explore identities and he likes to expand a bit into metaphysics,” Stwodah said. “He likes to push traditional ideas.

She said Robinson has a strong connection to his work and the designs he creates, which makes his pieces much more meaningful. She said he has a unique eye for shapes and colors when putting together pieces that make his design skills unique.

Stwodah said she appreciates how Robinson’s designs are primarily inspired by experience.

“Again, it has to do with this authenticity,” Stwodah said. “I enjoy the way he designs with a human in mind and he uses his own type of vessel, his own body, to be the one showing you, ‘This is what that looks like. “”

She said she believes her involvement in wearing her own fashion pieces at the VMFA Fine Art and Flower Show is just the first step in her career as a fashion designer.

“There’s nothing really holding him back, I think he’s going to jump right in there,” Stwodah said.


Joseph E. Golightly