DEBUT Student's Collection Inspired By Book Published 100+ Years Ago
Hip-hop dancer and Advanced Study Fashion Design Student Jiarui (Ruby) Cai is currently working on her DEBUT collection, inspired by W. Somerset Maugham’s book, “The Moon and Sixpence,” published in 1919 and based partly on the life of painter Paul Gauguin. A graduate of Excelsior School in Pasadena, Ruby attended Cal State Fullerton before transferring to FIDM in 2019. We caught up with her to learn more about her journey.
Tell us a little about yourself: I am a transfer student, and my major is Fashion Design. I started my A.A. degree in Oct 2019. I am also a hip-hop dancer, which influences my desire to become a fashion designer a lot.
Tell us about your DEBUT collection: My DEBUT collection is inspired by the book, “The Moon and Sixpence.” People use one sentence to cover the whole book, which is, "All over the place was sixpence, but he looked up at the moon." The protagonist in the book is a stockbroker who becomes a painter. It is the same as my personal experience since I transferred from accounting to become a fashion design major. This collection is not only for myself but is also for people who are struggling with the direction of their life. My hope is that they stay with what they love and chase their dreams.
What silhouettes and fabrics can we expect to see? My direction for being a fashion designer is streetwear, so there are a lot of oversized pieces. Most of my fabrics are not expensive, such as twill and fleece. I’ve figured out a way to use cheaper fabrics but create a high-end feeling as the end result.
What is your point of view, as a designer? A lot of customers are paying for the logo/brand when they purchase streetwear clothes. I hope when customers choose my clothes in the future, they will pay for my design. Another fact, when I select my inspiration, I do not like to just choose pretty objects. I like to choose something related to my personal experience or some social problems I am concerned about. That is also why I changed my major; in accounting, everyone must get the same right answer at the end, but as a fashion designer, it’s your chance to let your customers understand how you think about the world.
How do you hope people will feel when they see your designs? I was thinking about becoming a psychologist before since I hope to use my energy to reduce people's negative emotions. Although I am learning fashion design, I hope that when people see my collection, they can have fun and laugh.
What inspires you as a creative and as a fashion designer? Of course, it is hip-hop. When I started to learn hip-hop dance, it changed my wearing style; I began to purchase many oversized and colorful clothes. As I continue to learn, I am starting to understand hip-hop culture. You should have your attitude when you are dancing, but it also has a strong inclusiveness inherent to the culture.
What is a lesson you've learned as you've been working on your collection? Except for the technical part, keep staying with what you believe and love because my collection gets controversial. And [FIDM Fashion Design Department Co-Chairs] Nick [Verreos] and David [Paul] told me: "there are some people who will super like your collection, and also there are some people who will super hate it—but more dispute and controversy is better than people seeing it, making no comment, and forgetting it."
Tell us about your path to FIDM: I never thought of studying fashion design until I visited the FIDM campus for the first time. I was applying for the MBA program and got a call to interview on the OC campus. When I arrived there, I saw the whole pink wall, the Barbies in the glass cover, and the DEBUT Runway Show was on the television. At that moment, I decided I wanted to learn fashion. The advisor suggested I choose between Merchandise Product Development and Fashion Design. Since I didn’t have any portfolio and artwork to show, I asked my advisor, "Is it easier to apply for the Product Development major since I have an accounting background?" And she said to me, "Choose whatever you love." That is also the first lesson FIDM taught me.
How is FIDM helping you get closer to your career goals? All the class sizes at FIDM are small which means we can be close to our instructors. Even the pattern or sketch instructor, whenever I feel uncertain about the technique part/design/career. And they are all willing to help me. Also, the FIDM Career Center has a professional system to help students upload their portfolios and show a lot of job opportunities.
Any advice for someone considering applying to be a DEBUT student? Do not only do the requirement the instructor gives to you. I am super lucky to have the chance to do the red dress program, the DEBUT collection I am doing now, and another opportunity I will be able to share with you soon! I used one and half years to get those, with zero experience to begin, because I always exceed their expectations. And always keep in communication with your instructors. I would not have found these opportunities without them.
Follow Ruby Cai on Instagram @rubyornotruby626.
RSVP to attend our virtual DEBUT Runway Show on August 12, 2021 at 5:00 PM PDT.