Top student designers debut looks inspired by the pandemic, Brutalist architecture, and more at the 2021 CCAD Fashion Show

Mar 31, 2021

Top student designers debut looks inspired by the pandemic, Brutalist architecture, and more at the 2021 CCAD Fashion Show

Media contact:
Leah Spellman, APR
Director of Communications
Columbus College of Art & Design

COLUMBUS, Ohio—The future of fashion will take to the runway—and the drive-in—during the 2021 CCAD Fashion Show presented by L Brands Foundation. The most fashionable fundraiser of the year, which provides scholarship funds for student artists and designers across all of Columbus College of Art & Design’s 12 undergraduate majors, takes place two ways Friday, May 14, 2021. The public can enjoy the recorded runway show from the comfort of home during a virtual presentation or join us for a socially distanced in-person experience emceed by Amber Knicole, lead singer of the critically acclaimed neo funk group MojoFlo, at the Easton Community Drive-In.

The in-person experience, co-hosted by Columbus City Councilwoman Shayla Favor and CCAD Trustee and Alum Corey Favor (Illustration, 2003), as well as Katie Kaufman and CCAD Trustee Brett Kaufman, invites guests to dress up for a night out and turn their reserved parking space into their own red carpet. There are numerous sponsorship levels available, including Haute Couture Hosts, which provides guests two adjacent parking spaces as well as two cabaret tables, complete with linens, florals, and sweet treats.

The 2021 CCAD Fashion Show, which will be unlike any in CCAD’s history, will feature contemporary collections from 18 emerging designers who hail from all over the world. Inspired by diverse themes, from Marie Antoinette to the death-positive movement, and from escapism to the modern art movement known as Vorticism, these new designers are creating one-of-a-kind looks using a range of materials, including biodegradable and sustainable textiles and notions as well as fabrics that incorporate custom-printed, machine-knitted, and hand-dyed techniques.

“The designers featured in this year’s show have persevered through a pandemic to create impressive looks that showcase the future of design,” said Professor Suzanne Cotton, Chair of CCAD’s Fashion Design program. “I’m thrilled to be able to show Columbus and the world the creativity and talent of this year’s designers.”

Collections range from gender-neutral garments to resort wear to streetwear. The industry experts who served on this year’s panel of jurors and selected the looks that will make it to the runway include representatives from Designer Brands Inc., Easton, Abercrombie & Fitch Co., Justice Design Lab, L Brands Foundation, and Wardrobe Therapy.

Meet the designers

Some of the student designers whose work will be featured in this year’s show are:

Jesamie Houghtby
Inspired by botany, Brutalist architecture, nature reclaiming structures, and the death-positive movement, amelioration // reclamation by Jesamie Houghtby is 100% biodegradable. Houghtby’s designs use untreated wood, bamboo, organic cotton twills, knit panels, and more than 100 hand-sculpted clay "human" teeth. The avant-garde and gender-defying collection is made to compost with the human body postmortem. Houghtby spent all summer working on their collection, creating more than 50 look sketches, conducting research, and pressing plants. Working with fully compostable elements was new to Houghtby and required adjustments like using button closures instead of zippers and swapping out the typical polyester, a plastic-based thread, for 100% cotton. Houghtby says they hope their work evokes a sense of wonder and inspiration in the viewer and perhaps even provides a bit of peace and escapism.

Marvin Hutchins
Making a statement about the pandemic indirectly was one of Marvin Hutchins’ goals with his collection, Physical Activism: Exploration in the Context of Women's Liberation. One positive of the past year, Hutchins notes, is the surge in people enjoying outdoor activities. “Exploration during the pandemic is seen by many as a form of escapism,” he says. “The collection has been greatly influenced by historical elements of female exploration in contrast to daily life observed during the pandemic.” Hutchins pulled inspiration from books like Hannah Ross’ Revolutions: How Women Changed the World on Two Wheels. In the collection, Hutchins reinterprets cyclewear and hiking pieces from the Victorian era with a modern twist. He hopes people will see the story of how exploration helped push women’s liberation and freedom.

Levi Li
Through her collection, Chengdu Teahouse Crush, Levi Li weaves together ancient traditions and modern perspectives. The collection celebrates teahouse culture in her hometown of Chengdu, located in China’s Sichuan province. Growing up, Li often visited teahouses with her grandmother. The collection combines patterns and colors of tea sets and tiles with details and techniques of her grandmother’s garments. “I tried to invite young people to go into the teahouse and attach importance to objects in the past through this collection,” Li says. “It represents memories of the older generation too.” Lace, satin, polyester, and jacquard fabric are the main materials in the collection, and Li uses crochet, embroidery, and printing techniques. Feminine, nostalgic, and vintage, the collection is bright with pastel colors, floral patterns, mellow silhouettes, and lace details. Speaking of her ideal customers, Li says they are young women full of vitality who dress however they want and aren’t limited by society.  

Stephanie Li  
Avant-garde, reflective, and story-like, Stephanie Li’s collection, NEO-Vorticism World, has a deeper message. “My inspiration was from Vorticism,” she says. “The founders of Vorticism used art to convey ideas and opinions gained from them observing society.” Li did just that, surveying 100 people. She found that most young people are essentially addicted to their phones. When asked about where they felt most at peace, the majority of respondents mentioned nature. Through her collection, Li expresses her views of modern society and appeals to people to break away from a life controlled by electronics and return to truly enjoying life. Her designs are based on four paintings she created in the Vorticism style. “I broke the lines of each painting, according to the order of the painting and randomly arranged each painting's lines on two shirts and two suits,” she says. The paintings also demonstrate a progression as they move toward a relaxed environment not bound to technology. Hard lines relax into soft lines and the color palette moves from dark to light.

JoVaughn Salaam
During the pandemic, JoVaughn Salaam spent a lot of time with his dad, learning about his life and the hardships he overcame to become the man he is today. The stories, particularly about his teenage to young adult years when he was a street hustler in the mid-80s to early-90s nicknamed Wheatstrow, inspired Salaam’s collection, Vintage Wheatstrow. “I wanted to dig deep inside his head to portray the life of a drug dealer from a young age growing into a man through my collection,” Salaam says. During the summer, Salaam got into his father’s mindset, listening to the music he once did, dressing like him, and talking like him. He found inspiration by shopping for clothes of the era at thrift stores and pushed himself as a designer by using fabrics he hadn’t worked with before. Salaam says he hopes people will respond to his work with an open mind and feel the emotion and compassion he put into the collection.

Dom Susi
There’s no missing Dom Susi’s collection, Cascading Epinephrine. Warm, massive, and extravagant, the collection is inspired by the actions that cause the rise and eventual drop of the hormone adrenaline. “The inspiration has become an amalgamation of mountaineering, action sports, hunting, and war,” says Susi, who was a real estate agent in Brooklyn before coming to CCAD.  Susi says these spikes in adrenaline, such as the moment a mountaineer reaches a summit, serve as the dog-eared pages in the book of each person’s life. His collection features mountaineering silhouettes that are goose down-stuffed, rip-stop nylon garments. Susi’s ultimate goal? “To add fluidity and a lack of symmetry to the standard down puffer garment,” he says. As a result of skateboarding and snowboarding growing up, Susi says he has always gravitated toward streetwear. ”As I’ve aged and become more educated, I began to appreciate the people who were purposely pushing design and style. I’m hoping to become one of those individuals myself.”

Read more about all of this year’s designers.

Columbus is home to the third-highest concentration of fashion designers in the U.S. (behind New York and Los Angeles), thanks in part to the CCAD Fashion Design students who go on to be the creative and innovative minds behind a number of major fashion brands. Alumni now work at Abercrombie & Fitch, Kate Spade, Urban Outfitters, and many other leading brands.

The 2021 CCAD Fashion Show is made possible in part by the generous support of L Brands Foundation, Easton, DSW, Huntington, Nationwide, OhioHealth, Columbus Underground, Wardrobe Therapy, and Nurtur. To learn more about the 2021 CCAD Fashion Show and how you can make a difference in the future of art and design by supporting student scholarships at CCAD, visit

About Columbus College of Art & Design

Columbus College of Art & Design teaches undergraduate and graduate students in the midst of a thriving creative community in Columbus, Ohio. Founded in 1879, CCAD is one of the oldest private, nonprofit art and design colleges in the United States. CCAD offers 12 BFA programs and a Master of Fine Arts program that produce graduates equipped to shape culture and business at the highest level. For more information, visit