On Tuesday, September 7th, Jefferson Fashion Design alum Lucas Circello (’21) debuted their senior collection “HAUS of Camp” live on the Council of Fashion Designers in America’s (CFDA) Runway360 website. Launched in 2020 during the pandemic, CFDA Runway360 is an innovative digital platform which allows designers to launch new collections direct to buyers and consumers virtually. It is currently used by some of the most influential fashion brands in the market, including Michael Kors, Nicole Miller, Marchesa, and Christopher John Rogers, just to name a few. Through the Emerging Designer Graduate Showcase, Lucas was selected from among 40 students to be added to the roster of designers already featured on the website. We sat down with Lucas to talk to them about this momentous occasion, and to hear more about the collection and their future plans.
We want to start off by congratulating you on this amazing accomplishment! You are the first Jefferson Fashion Design alum to be recognized by the CFDA, which is a prestigious honor. Can you tell us a bit more about the process? How does it feel to be recognized alongside some of the most well-respected designers in the industry?
During the time when I got the news about the CFDA Runway360 feature, it was all very vague. I was nominated to submit back in May by one of our professors. I didn’t know at the time entirely what it entailed; however, I carried forward and filled out the application with the portfolio portion of my collection. It wasn’t until the second week of August that I received a call from the project director reaching out to let me know I got it. The whole process feels crazy and has been as absolute whirlwind.
Being chosen to debut my collection on the platform has been completely thrilling and validating. When you look at the other people utilizing this platform, its heavy-hitters in the industry. It’s really pertinent people in this field, as well as up-and-coming designers, entrepreneurs, and artists. The CFDA informed us that we now have this platform to utilize for the rest of our careers. As we grow as designers and create new collections or unveil new product offerings, this is essentially a platform that we have to utilize and put stuff out there. Its amazing to see such a prestigious entity want to acknowledge the emerging generation and those who will lead the industry down the line from those that are leading now.
Can you give us some more background about yourself and how you first got interested in fashion?
I grew up in rural New Jersey with two older brothers and a very keen interest in art. I was always very effervescent, unapologetically myself, and enjoyed experimenting with my physical identity through dress-up. I really have my family to thank for that. I was raised in an environment that was super supportive and conducive to letting me play around with not only my identity but also my interests. I was able to dabble in so many facets of fine art from ceramics, to paints, to pastels, 3D forms, etc. All these different mediums really led me to fashion. Fashion had always been at the back of my mind until senior year of high school when I took my first fashion course, and everything seemed to click.
Tell us a little bit more about HAUS of Circello and what inspired you to create this collection?
I am a femme-presenting, non-binary queer person. I wear my identity with so much pride and have so much love for this community that I’m a part of. Going into my senior year at Jefferson, I wanted to challenge myself with new design techniques, but also pay homage to the community of queer folk that I’m honored to be a part of. This collection is a message of self-expression and self-love, as well as a love letter to all the queer pioneers who paved the way for queer folk today. It’s a declaration that fashion and art are for everyone.
The collection started as a sociological study I had done on the queer community, specifically during the 1980s. It was a really difficult time in the community with the rise of the AIDS epidemic and the stigma around being Queer. Queer youth at the time were seeking haven in the ballroom scene. Through my research, I found parts of myself in those that came before me. The collection helped me to further define not only myself as a designer, but also who I am intrinsically and how I want to present myself and be remembered. It ended up evolving, unintentionally, into this discovery of self-identity.
The collection ultimately ended up being six looks in total and for each look, I wanted to represent a specific persona that is a part and pertinent to not only the history of the community, but not often celebrated or represented in contemporary media. The looks represent the club kid, the master of ceremony (Emcee), the drag queen, the house mother, the butch queen, and the femme queen. It was really important to me to not only represent the categories in which people would walk in these balls, but also the people that make up the community at large.
Can you tell us a little bit what your undergraduate experience in the Jefferson Fashion Design program was like?
The way the Jefferson Fashion Design program is structured, they really build you from the ground up. Starting with something as micro as childrenswear, then moving into eveningwear, followed by this evolution into tackling bigger projects and niche markets, it helps to formulate a sense of self. You are kind of dabbling in everything and so by the time you reach the culmination of the first 3 years, you definitely have this better understanding of where you lie within that market space and where you want to fall.
What have you been up to since graduating this past May, and where do you hope to see yourself in the future?
After graduating, I knew I wanted to establish myself as a brand identity and a marketable asset. For me, I knew grad school would provide me with that business edge. I am currently enrolled in the MS International Fashion Design Management program at Jefferson, studying in the entrepreneurship track.
Although I love fashion and fashion will always be a part of who I am, I think at the end of the day when you water it down, I want to be seen as an artist. I create art- I hold it at such high value, and I don’t mean that in a pompous or arrogant way. I really just want to establish myself as a man of all trades. I want to dip my hands into creative direction, as well as fine art, as well as fashion design… I am not putting myself into a box just yet.