SCHNELL 2022: Caroline Hersman challenges the gender dichotomy with a new fashion line | Wender Mind Kids

SCHNELL 2022: Caroline Hersman challenges the gender dichotomy with a new fashion line

This post was updated on May 25 at 10:06 p.m

Misunderstood villains get a twist in Caroline Hersman’s new collection.

On Friday, Fashion and Student Trends will be showcasing the third-year psychology student’s “Awakening” line at UCLA’s Spring Fashion Show. Hersman said her interest in design first arose in fourth grade when she was first introduced to the mechanics of fashion by her father, who taught her to sew. She wanted to expand her skills by enrolling in classes, but said she didn’t feel overwhelmed by the simple lessons being taught.

“I[wanted]to learn and create really professional pieces,” Hersman said. “I think we don’t take kids seriously enough when it comes to their artistic endeavors because kids really are some of the most creative people on the planet.”

With a background in stage acting, Hersman said growing up, the theater community consisted of a binary environment with set gender roles. To appease the prototypical image of the ideal female lead, she never explored anything outside of what’s conventionally associated with girls until she arrived at UCLA, she said. Putting different outfits together, she said, allowed her to convey parts of her personality that she might otherwise not be able to show.

Hersman (left) poses in corduroys and a black and white top, and alongside her stands first-year environmental student Quinn Wynacht (right) in a look inspired by Queen Cersei from Game of Thrones. Hersman said Awakening was inspired by her journey of self-discovery. (Neha Krishnakumar/Daily Bruin)

[Related: LA Fashion Week 2022: Humans’ debut show styles sustainability in Southern California streetwear]

Inspired by her own self-identity journey, “Awakening” is based on a variety of popular villains with queer undertones, Hersman said. Last year, with the chaos and her return to design, Hersman said she went for a clean, ’90s-influenced collection. Yet as she progressed artistically and explored her own sexuality, she wanted to reflect her evolution by creating more extravagant and meaningful pieces for this year’s show.

A piece she created is based on the Marvel superhero Winter Soldier. Using elements from the original costume, she said that instead of his metal arm there will be a holographic iridescent leather arm strap paired with a see-through shirt underneath a corset bodice. In order to include queer topics, she also decorates the outfit with a collar. She said the accessory serves as a representation of society’s attempts to control the LGBTQ+ community and transform it into a heterosexual community, similar to the Marvel character whose actions are the result of being brainwashed.

“In terms of all the queer pieces I do, we’ve been vilified for so long,” Hersman said. “Only now do we have the feeling that queer people are accepted.”

Opening the Collection is a play centered around the biblical character Eve. Hersman said that while Eve is an unconventional villain, her fame stems from biting the forbidden fruit, symbolizing the patriarchal view of the dangers of women’s curiosity. To convey Eve’s corruption after gaining knowledge, Hersman said she covered the dress with flowers that slowly fade to the dead. To tie in the queer themes, she said she linked Eve’s thirst for knowledge to exploring her own sexuality.

Also included in Hersman’s line is a gold cloaked piece inspired by Queen Cersei from Game of Thrones, sculpted by Environmental Sciences student Quinn Wynacht. Wynacht said that while he was unfamiliar with the series, he researched more about the character to get a deeper understanding of her personality. Noting Queen Cersei’s intense and cutthroat personality, he said he plans to incorporate her powerful traits into his walk.

“I’m not a woman and Queen Cersei is, so I think the biggest part of being queer is wearing women’s clothing and portraying a woman’s character,” Wynacht said.

(Neha Krishnakumar/Daily Bruin)
Wynacht poses in a Game of Thrones-inspired look from Hersman’s collection. He said he hopes to emulate Queen Cersei’s intensity with his runway walk. (Neha Krishnakumar/Daily Bruin)

[Related: LA Fashion Week 2022: JimmyPaul highlights diversity of fashion with bright looks]

Working with Hersman on the project is Alberto Mancia, a fifth-year math student. As an artist, Mancia said Hersman first approached him about the project, hoping to reproduce the art style he is making for her collection. He said he contributes directly to the line by creating the logo for the collection and helping her navigate the intricacies of embroidery.

While Hersman has been involved in art her entire life, she said she has no plans to pursue a career in the industry. Because the chances of participating in high-profile shows are very slim, she said she prefers the creative control she has in designing as a hobby rather than working on pieces for big companies.

“In the future…I want to open an Instagram account,” Hersman said. “I want to try to sell my pieces and really create what I love and really enjoy.”