Rachael Sansom Chelsea Levinson

Academy of Art University awards Sarah Burton, Phillip Treacy in 2012



hen NYFW comes around twice a year, one of my very favorite shows to attend is the Academy of Art University show. The level of talent seen from the graduating class never ceases to amaze me, in fact every year I feel it can’t get any better, but it does. Regardless of conflicting shows, AAU always wins out, it is my show of the season, and I want to share a bit about this amazing school with all of you. Although the Academy of Art University was established in 1929 in San Francisco as the Academy of Art Advertising by Richard S. Stephens, a fine arts painter and the creative director for Sunset Magazine, there was a meteoric rise in publicity and notoriety when the institution hired present director of M.F.A Studies Simon Ungless in 1998. Ungless graduated from Central St. Martins School of Art, London in 1992 with M.A. Distinction, worked on many projects with and was best friends with the late and great Lee Alexander McQueen.


Ungless has not only taken the reign in the academics, he styles and produces every show. This man bleeds fashion from every pore, the fruits of his labor for all to enjoy at these bi annual events.   In addition, every year they present collections from graduating students at the 2012 Graduation Fashion Show and Awards Ceremony. At the invitation only event on Thursday, May 3rd, Dr. Elisa Stephens, president of the University, gave the degree of Honorary Doctorate to Sarah Burton, creative director of Alexander McQueen, milliner Philip Treacy, (who also did some hat demo’s),  classroom visits by guests including Suzy Menkes the fashion editor of the International Herald Tribune, Cathy Horyn the fashion critic for The New York Times, Stephan Rabimov the editor in chief of DEPESHA, and Jayne Seward the fashion editor of Apparel News, a Fashion Symposium with Sarah Burton and Philip Treacy and H.R.H. Princess Reema Bandar Al-Saud, who has extensive experience in luxury retail and is the CEO of the ALFA and AL HAMA companies that own and operate Harvey Nichols Department Store, Donna Karan, and DKNY stores in Saudi Arabia. Simon Ungless and Sarah Burton have known each other since 1996, when Simon was her tutor at the Central St. Martins School of Art, in London. Simon is a big fan of Burton’s work – he originally recommended her for an internship to McQueen while she was a young student at the school – and loves her philosophy of the craft. For her part, Burton feels that she continues to be in Simon’s debt, artistically and professionally. “He really provoked me, made me think in a different way,” she recalled. All of the designers were amazing, but not enough room for all, here are just a couple of images of talent coming out of this illustrious and extremely independent minded school, along with some final images of the event  and congratulations to Maria Romero and Zhanchi Wang who are off to intern at Alexander McQueen

academy of art university ki chung PM

Ki Chung:  Ki’s collection stands out as a perfect marriage between fashion and sustainability. He used organic materials, sourced domestically to reduce the carbon footprint. Ki also constructed his garments employing minimal waste cutting techniques and used leftover fabrics for detailing. His thoughtful design allows for some of the pieces to be worn in transformative and reversible ways.“I drew my inspiration from the process of protein synthesis; the structure of proteins dictate function and I wanted my garments to reflect that biological system.” Ki’s timeless, minimalist collection is made with organic wool and wool jersey, 100% organic cotton, and soy-organic cotton jersey blend. He secured sponsorship of some of the materials through Jasco Fabrics.

academy of art uiversity renata lindroos mina fadaie

Renata Lindroos & Mina Fadaie

Renata Lindroos, B.F.A. Fashion Design, was born just outside of Chicago, in Evanston, Illinois, and grew up in Missino Viejo, California. She graduated from Mission Viejo High School. She created a collection inspired by 1960s horror films. The films often gave audiences a skewed perspective, and Lindroos sought to recreate that perspective in her clothing by creating distorted shapes and silhouettes.

Renata Lindroos

Mina Fadaie, B.F.A. Textile Design, was born in Walnut Creek, California but grew up in Los Gatos, California, attending Los Gatos High School. Fadaie’s prints were inspired by 1960s horror films and the artistic aesthetic of Robert Rauschenberg, one of the first artists to experiment with the process of silk- screening photographs.

academy of art Rachel Sansom Chelsae

Rachel Sansom

Rachel Sansom, B.F.A. Fashion and Textile Design, was raised in Folsom, California and went to Folsom High School. She was inspired by David Hockney’s colorful and graphic paintings that portrayed life in Los Angeles in the 1960s and ‘70s. She constructed the garments using organic cotton twill, poplin, voile, and cotton pimatex. In 2008, she was awarded the David Downtown Award for Fashion Illustration, and this year received a University scholarship to study at L’Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne in Paris, France.

Rachael Sansom Chelsea Levinson

Chelsea Levinson

Chelsea Levinson, B.F.A. Knitwear Design, hails from Las Vegas, Nevada where she attended Palo Verde High School. Levinson designed knits to add dimension and texture to the collection.

academy of art university Zanchi Wang PM

Zhangchi Wang, B.F.A. Fashion Design, was born and raised in Shenzhen in the Guang Dong province of China, where she attended Shenzhen Experimental High School. Wang was inspired by the sculpture The Dream of China by Wang Jin, a contemporary mixed-media piece that is embroidered with fishing line, as well as traditional Chinese stone carvings. She used stretch wool coating and wool knit to construct the garments. Wang received a University scholarship to study at Studio Berçot in Paris, France. Sarah Burton, Creative Director of Alexander McQueen, awarded Wang an internship.

Academy of Art Kim TranOrly PM

Kim Tran, B.F.A. Fashion Design, was born in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and raised in San Jose, California where she went to Piedmont Hills High School. Her collection was inspired by Edie Beal’s psychedelic adventures in the 1960s. Tran received a University scholarship to study at Studio Berçot in Paris, France.

Orly Ruaimi, M.F.A. Fine Art Sculpture and Jewelry Design, grew up in Afula, Israel and attended George Mason University in Washington, D.C. She was inspired by elements that make up the foundation or skeleton of a home, and how they resemble the structures upon which life is built. She sculpts her pieces using recycled metal and handmade ceramics.

academy of art rumi iwasaki PM

Rumi Iwasaki, B.F.A. Men’s Wear Design, was born in Yokohama, Japan and grew up in Japan as well as the Philippines. Her collection was inspired by vintage military uniforms, but rendered modern with a minimalist approach to design. She used a combination of boiled wool, stripe shirting, leather, and jersey.

And here’s a special treat from graduate Maria Romero, she’s on her way to London interring for Alexander Mc Queen, her collection presented on this video which debuted on Nowness last month.

Maria Romero: Dulce de Reliquias


Maria A. Romero was born in Santa Barbara, California but grew up in Brillante de Miramar in Mexico. She graduated from Carpenteria High School. Her collection was inspired by her childhood memories of Dulces de Reliquias – traditional Mexican candies given out during nativity ceremonies surrounding the Christmas holiday. She sought to recreate the colors and textures of the candies using silk chiffon, silk organza, silk taffeta, and tulle. Romero produced the collection on a series of dolls, and collaborated with students from the School of Animation and Visual Effects to bring the collection to life. Sarah Burton, Creative Director of Alexander McQueen, has awarded Romero an internship.


Producer: Victoria Simiele, M.F.A. Animation and Visual Effects
Lead Animator, Set Designer, and Music Editor: Travis Weaver, B.F.A. Animation and Visual Effects Production Assistant and Animator: Mireya Francoso, B.F.A. Animation and Visual Effects Animator: Dorthy Thielsen, B.F.A. Animation and Visual Effects
Editor and post production: Federico La Tona, B.F.A. Animation and Visual Effects
Visual Effects and post production: Benjamin Arthur, B.F.A. Animation and Visual Effects
Visual Effects and post production: Luke Night, M.F.A. Animation and Visual Effects


Although I was not able to show all the designers, I do want to give them props by listing the full class here:

Designers Included were: Massa Ito, Zhangchi Wang,  Julie Seltzer,  Jacqueline Rabôt,  Angela Sison, Miriam Tolentino, Eli Daniel Odisho,  Antonio Luna,  Steven La Fuente, Maria A. Romero, Mimi Iwasaki,  Ki Chung, Orly Ruaimi, Kim Tran, Chelsea Levinson, Rachel Sansom, Rumi Iwasaki,  Ethan Chihuan Yang, Emma Mengchen Yang, Liza Quiñones,  Erica Laba,  Hely Nguyen, Mina Fadaie, and Renata Lindroos.


Academy of Art University Website: www.academyart.edu/

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