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Ava Balbuena

Brown Fashion Week 2023 focuses on the faces “Beyond the Screen” in fashion. So who better than the minds behind three brands focusing on empowering their audience? On Tuesday, March 14, Millicent Stiger ‘24 interviewed Arin Hayes, Olivia Hurst, and Genoveva Pedrero in a panel titled, “The Fabric of Home: Identity and Empowerment in Fashion”. Arin Hayes is a co-director at No Sesso, an agender fashion label that puts diversity first. Olivia Hurst is the designer and creator behind Olivia Hurst Designs, a brand that focuses on creating clothes for women, by women. Genoveva Pedrero is the Head of Design at De María, an ethical accessories line that collaborates with artisans in Mexico to produce unique pieces while celebrating traditional design techniques and emphasizing sustainability.


Stiger started the conversation by asking, “why fashion?” Each panelist noted that they didn’t intend to go into that field. Olivia Hurst, a student at Parsons, knew that she wanted to pursue a career in art, but mostly worked in galleries before the pandemic. As she began creating clothing in lockdown, she realized her passion and started working towards it seriously. Genoveva Pedrero fell in love with fashion through interning. Arin Hayes had always loved fashion but never thought it was a viable career. While he attended film school (and hated it), he met Pia Davis and they decided to form their brand together. 


Stiger later asked the speakers where they drew inspiration from outside of fashion. Pedrero cited museums in the city as a big source of inspiration, while Hayes said that he really finds it everywhere, especially in music though. Hurst talked about inspiration within the self, emphasizing the importance of following intuition over trends and gravitating towards what catches her eye.


The three panelists’ brands are known for their attention to identity in the production of their pieces. Stiger asked: “How do you carry the weight of feeling like you have to cater to a specific audience or feel like you have to put a community on the forefront of your work? What does it mean to you to be authentic in the creative process?” Hayes answered,“As a black queer person, you don’t really have a choice but to be political. Your every breath is political.” He continued, explaining the process of building a brand of black queer creatives and knowing how important identity is. He explained that as high fashion sets standards for beauty, it’s a no-brainer to highlight the beauty you see within the self and your community.

The last question Stiger asked was, “What is the most important thing you want people to know about you as an individual and from your work?” While everyone agreed it was a difficult question, Olivia Hurst began by saying that her clothes are “designed for women, by women. Women and their wants and needs are put first. It’s never about what I want them to wear, it’s what they want to wear.” She talked about the opportunity of having a brand, and how it gives her a chance to create something better than what has been done before. Arin Hayes emphasized that people should be critical about everything, especially in terms of sustainability and design. Regarding No Sesso, he described their priority of a human approach over a capital approach. Genoveva Pedrero talked about the importance of being conscious consumers, and that when shopping, people should consider the brands creating their clothes, and whether they pay their workers and treat them well. Pedrero finished by saying, “Let’s just be kind to one another. We’re playing dress up, let’s enjoy it.”

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