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close up of Keagan Roberson standing against a wall with his arms folded across his chest and his head tilted to one side as he wears a zip up blue Fila track jacket

Keagan Roberson Challenges Societal Norms in His DEBUT Collection

Born and raised in Houston, Texas, Keagan Roberson attended San Marcos High School and graduated in 2017. He started at Texas State University, majoring in Political Science, before making the career switch to FIDM in 2020. He earned his A.A. in Fashion Design in 2022, after which he was accepted into the prestigious Advanced Fashion Design Program. The designer will be showing an inspired collection at FIDM’s Annual DEBUT Runway Show event, livestreaming on March 31, 2023, at 2:30 PM PDT. He said he aims to "challenge societal norms and embrace the beauty of difference" with Enigma Spring '23, "a blend of 1960's mod aesthetics and contemporary body positivity, expressed through contrasting textures and modesty." We caught up with him to learn more.

Tell us a little about yourself: Growing up in Houston, Texas, I always considered myself a creative and involved individual. I explored various hobbies and eventually discovered my passion for the arts in high school, after seeing my first fashion show [Chanel Fall 2014]. In 2019, I took a leap of faith and relocated to Los Angeles, CA to hone my skills in costume and fashion design. Through my work on eight AFI award-nominated short films, including a Student Academy Award Winner, my graduation from FIDM in Fashion Design (a dream come true), and my selection for the DEBUT Collection Program (a double dream come true); I have found my community and our journey in the arts to have thrived.

Keagan Roberson moodboard

Tell us about your DEBUT collection: My DEBUT Collection is inspired by my experiences growing up in the South as a queer, interracial person and the challenges that come with this intersectionality. Society often strips us of our uniqueness and identity, but with this collection, I aim to inject individuality back into fashion. By combining traditional fabrics with unexpected silhouettes and materials, I aim to challenge societal norms and embrace the beauty of difference. Enigma Spring 23' is a blend of 1960's mod aesthetics and contemporary body positivity, expressed through contrasting textures and modesty. I wanted to create a "claustrophobic" feeling in the collection, as if the models are trapped in their garments, by using invisible zippers and hiding closures at the back of the pieces. This represents the idea of feeling trapped in one's own skin.

Keagan Roberson DEBUT fashion collection sketches

What silhouettes and fabrics can we expect to see? This collection places a heavy emphasis on contour, structure, and fit. The silhouettes showcase the female form while also incorporating textures that are often considered "less flattering" or "non-traditional." I used a mix of traditional fabrics such as suiting, crepe, and tweed, alongside more innovative and sporty materials like a custom-knitted fabric with a geometric "pointed" texture, power mesh, and a pebbled slack tension fabric. This creates a playful contrast of textures throughout the collection.

Keagan Roberson DEBUT fashion collection sketches in neutrals

What is your point of view, as a designer? As a designer, I strive to create harmony through the exploration of spontaneous emotion, both natural and unnatural. Each collection I create incorporates some form of juxtaposition, be it in fabric, color, or aesthetics, to evoke an emotional response from the viewer, open to interpretation. My aesthetic is shaped by my personal experiences, as I do not fit into society's mold. My comfort lies in the chaos of not belonging, and my designs reflect this.

How do you hope people will feel when they see your designs? With this collection, I aim to evoke a sense of the push and pull of contrasting ideas. My objective is to ignite a conversation around societal beauty standards and what is considered "normal." If the viewer has an emotional reaction to the clashing, non-traditional elements and forms their own opinions on the harmony of these ideas, then I consider it a success. The collection showcases a unique harmony born from blending mod 60's references with modern structured contouring that accentuates the female form, as well as fusing intimate, textural fabrics with more traditional, elegant materials such as tweed and suiting.

What inspires you as a creative and as a fashion designer? I have always been inspired by nature and the psychology behind the human experience and the complexity of both as well as artists and designers that have the ability to spark conversation and cause disruption.

What is a lesson you've learned as you've been working on your collection? Completing this program has been an educational journey for me. However, the most valuable lesson I have learned is that the design process is a rollercoaster of emotions, but the key to success is understanding your own relationship with your work. By discovering your authentic self as a designer and analyzing what drives you, you can unlock your full creative potential and produce work that exceeds even your own expectations.

Tell us about your path to FIDM: My journey started after I left Texas State University, where I was studying Political Science with the goal of attending law school. Although I had always felt drawn to the fashion world, I wasn't sure how to pursue it after high school. However, I mustered the courage to take a leap of faith and leave behind a degree that wasn't fulfilling me. In the spring of 2019, I moved to LA and took on various roles to pursue my passion—working full time at Starbucks, taking online classes, and working as a freelance costume designer for the American Film Institute. Through my research and hands-on experience in the industry, I came to the decision to apply to FIDM, where I am now thriving and making my dreams a reality.

How is FIDM helping you get closer to your career goals? My ultimate objective as a designer is to establish and manage my own label. Studying at FIDM has been instrumental in helping me achieve this goal, as prior to enrolling, I had limited knowledge and skills. However, through the program, I have acquired numerous technical abilities that have propelled me closer to my objective.

Any advice for someone considering applying to be a DEBUT student? The only advice I can offer as a designer to another is to be authentic to who you are as a person and a designer, show who you are at your core, who you hope to be, and why you feel you deserve to be accepted into the program. Don't be afraid to present a diverse range of work, even if it isn't directly related to your studies at FIDM. Your individuality is what sets you apart and makes you a strong candidate for the program. Sometimes it's about potential and not just skill.

To view Keagan Roberson's portfolio and projects, visit keaganroberson.com.

Categories:  Fashion Design Alumni Student