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Designing a Fashion Career

A design student creates pieces that are out of this world.
Portrait of Jacieon Williams sketching at a light box.

Fashion design major Jacieon “Jace” Williams ’24 says that fashion can be art. He plans to one day design for the haute couture industry.

When Jacieon “Jace” Williams ’24 was a senior in high school, he designed his first piece of clothing—an apron. “You have to start from somewhere,” he says.

The apron was for a fashion design class Williams took to branch out from studio art. While it was one of his least favorite classes—due to the amount of sewing which he hadn’t done much of before—it put him on a path to a career where he can make his mark.

Williams—who is majoring in fashion design in the College of Visual and Performing Arts with a minor in jewelry and metalsmithing—originally planned to study studio arts but decided to take a chance with fashion design. “I learned my first year that fashion can be more than just clothing. It can be art,” Williams says.

Photo of Williams using a needle and thread on a garment.

Williams grew up as the son of a preacher and uses his background as inspiration for his designs.

Divine Inspiration

Williams grew up in Dallas, Texas as the son of a preacher. He uses his religious background as inspiration for his latest design collection, titled “Forgive Me Father // Cyber Renaissance,” which he blends with an abstract idea of the future. “A lot of my inspiration comes from neofuturism. I love futuristic things that feel very otherworldly. I want to mix futurism with religion in fashion,” he explains.

Think Met Gala meets The Jetsons.

He’s working on avant-garde looking pieces with futuristic silhouettes that incorporate crosses, angels and angel wings. “I try to find inspiration from people with creative vision,” Williams says. His goal is to design in the haute couture industry, which he says is thanks to Professor Jeffrey Mayer.

“Professor Mayer taught me to be more creative even under deadlines,” Williams says. Professor Todd Conover, says Williams, was also instrumental to his success as a budding fashion designer. “I’m so grateful to have professors who want me to be creative and different. I don’t want to graduate and go into the industry with the same mindset as other designers and create the same things. The idea is to be different. To stand out.”

While many fashion design professionals excel in the world of ready-to-wear fashion that most people rely on daily, Williams wants to take his designs to galas and runways. “I want to create pieces that will be timeless, but also that will stand out and get people talking.”

I’m so grateful to have professors who want me to be creative and different.

Jacieon Williams ’24

The self-described maximalist appreciates how the haute couture industry allows him to be a little extra. “I love layering and wearing jewelry and accessories.” He says finding that path to haute couture early on in his college career made him even more passionate about fashion. “I like that fashion doesn’t just have to be shirts and pants,” Williams explains. “It can be this crazy well thought out garment that looks like a flower and blooms as you move. I love how broad it is.”

Close up photo of Williams' hands sketching designs on paper against a light box.

Williams’ new collection titled “Forgive Me Father // Cyber Renaissance” blends religion with an abstract idea of the future.

Education Near and Far

Williams’ favorite classes were Mayer’s Fashion Design Studio and Conover’s Digital Presentation for Fashion Design, where he got to combine digital art with fashion. He says both classes were extremely challenging but very rewarding. And his studio design class allowed him to work on fashion sketches, which brought him back to his studio art days. “That class is where I found my signature fashion sketch designs.”

I like that fashion doesn’t just have to be shirts and pants. It can be this crazy well thought out garment that looks like a flower and blooms as you move.

Jacieon Williams ’24

Williams, who lists Issey Miyake, Glenn Martens and Daniel Roseberry as his fashion influences, took his fashion studies overseas to Florence, Italy for a fashion internship as part of a Syracuse Abroad program. He also visited Milan, the fashion capital of Italy, to further his fashion knowledge, and observed the trends at Pitti Uomo, the largest menswear trade shows in the world.

He noticed that European designers take more risks with their fashion than Americans. In the United States, Williams says, people tend to stick to the basic rules of silhouette—focusing on fit and wearing a consistent color palette. In Italy he observed how people were bending those rules and creating rules of their own.

Photo of Williams standing next to a dress form with one of his designs on it.

Williams hopes his designs will one day be worn to galas and on runways.

A passionate photographer, Williams interned as a photographer and assistant to a store owner in Florence. He enjoyed learning the ins and outs of running a small business and working in the merchandising side of the industry. Williams says the experience taught him a lot about being a store owner and the importance of making connections with brands and designers. “I had to look into the designer’s perspectives for my internship, including learning how they get the designs to stores, shipment processes and how the designs present in look books,” Williams explains.

Williams is also looking to his future in other areas of fashion and design, which includes work on his fashion editorial collective, CULT, highlighting the work of student designers and models. Until then, he’s continually developing his vision and he hopes he can impact people with his designs.

“I definitely want to make a statement, and I want people to know that they can reach outside the box and make a statement too.”

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