VCU fashion alumna recognized nationally, expands fashion presence

Models Rubén Pagán-Ramos and Amani Synclare wearing various pieces from Kylie Rose Carroll’s clothing collection, Divine Proportions, which was chosen to be part of the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s Fashion Future Graduate Showcase 2021. Photos courtesy of Elissa Rumford

Sahara Sriraman, Spectrum Editor

Metal chain breastplates that reflect the sunlight, blush-colored velvet suits and leather mini handbags are just some of the pieces featured in VCU alumna Kylie Rose Carroll’s clothing collection, Divine Proportions.

Rose’s collection was chosen to be part of the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s Fashion Future Graduate Showcase 2021, and launched on the CFDA’s Runway 360 website on Sept. 7 for New York Fashion Week. The program itself is meant to highlight the talent of 2020 fashion graduates and honor the difficulty they faced in school during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to its website.

Rose, who is a current fashion student working to get her Master of Fine Arts in the Parsons Paris fashion design and the arts program, said she was nominated for the award by one of her fashion professors.

“They were seeking nominations of graduates who the faculty members felt were the up-and-coming names and brains of fashion, with an emphasis on things like having a greater purpose as a designer,” Rose said.

She said the clothing collection, Divine Proportions, is focused on how societal standards of beauty for women can be harmful, especially because women are often told they need to look a certain way that forces them to fit into society’s standards of beauty. A lot of the inspiration for this project came from Rose’s journey with learning how to love and appreciate her own body, according to the artist.

“I deeply relate to the societal pressures to, like, watch your appearance and watch your weight and have your hair and makeup done,” Rose said. “Things I think can have really negative and harmful effects on women and have had really negative and harmful effects on me.” 

She said that although she was inspired by her own femininity, her clothing and accessories can be worn by anyone, regardless of their gender.

“It exists beyond an experience that someone who identifies as a woman might have,” Rose said about her clothing line. “I think everyone experiences this in different ways and it’s very universal.”

She said she wanted this project, along with most of her work, to challenge society’s disapproval when it comes to talking about body image issues.

“It’s about challenging the way things function, the way you think about things, what you are told you should be expected to be or how you think you are expected to act,” Rose said.

She said that she tried to savor and feel proud when her pieces launched on Runway 360’s site on Sept. 7, even though she is currently in school. She felt even more of an honor to be recognized on the site when she saw other designers she was a fan of on there as well.

“It’s pretty amazing and it’s an amazing opportunity,” Rose said.

She said VCU taught her to get the most out of all her experiences, even if they are limited. Rose also said she believes that you can only get what you want if you put the effort in. 

“I got everything I could out of my experience at VCU and that was because I took a lot of initiative on my own, the professors were always there to help you,” Rose said. “I was really able to design my own experience at VCU and get the most out of it as possible.”

Hawa Stwodah, an assistant professor of fashion design, said she first worked with Rose when she was a sophomore, preparing her design package for the International Fur Federation’s ReMix Student Fur Design Competition, which Stwodah oversaw. 

“It was great seeing her develop as a designer because she really wanted to master her craft,” Stwodah said. 

After Stwodah worked with Rose when she was applying for fashion scholarships, she was her professor during Rose’s last years at VCU. Stwodah also mentored Rose when she was in the process of applying to be a finalist for the CFDA award.

“She’s a forward thinker, she is going to change the structure of the industry,” Stwodah said. “That is something we’re always trying to push in our students; make a change, make it better, do something new.”

Kimberly Guthrie, associate chair of the VCUarts fashion design and merchandising department, said that Rose was “extremely resourceful,” always going above and beyond with her work.

“She knew what she needed to do to get the project done but was always curious and wondered about what work could she do or in what way could she think to make that project elevated,” Guthrie said.

Guthrie said that she is proud of Rose for having her pieces displayed on Runway 360 and is glad that Rose and her work are getting the recognition they deserve. 

She said Rose’s work isn’t mainstream, but will have major effects on the industry, such as challenging fashion norms and pushing for the restructuring of aspects of the industry, including inclusivity and sustainability.

“It might seem like a small representation, but its ripple effects are bigger and I think she will inspire all of the students behind her,” Guthrie said.

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