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Design media arts student debuts latest collection at New York Fashion Week

Fourth-year student Matt Sarafa is the youngest designer to have shown his work at the New York, Los Angeles and Paris fashion weeks. Sarafa said he started watching Project Runway at age 7 and eventually went on to study at UCLA to refine his design and business skills. His clothing uses unorthodox fabrics to compliment the logo of his initials. (Ashley Kenney/Daily Bruin)

By Alyssa Wheeler

Feb. 11, 2020 10:28 p.m.

Matt Sarafa’s latest collection at New York Fashion Week is another runway under his belt.

The fourth-year design media arts student debuted his fall/winter 2020 collection Friday. The showcase is the second time he has presented his work at New York Fashion Week, with collections at both Los Angeles and Paris fashion weeks. But before his work made it to the stage, Sarafa’s first encounter with fashion, he said, was watching “Project Runway” at 7 years old. His career kickstarted after eventually competing on the show himself, and studying at UCLA has refined both his design and business skills, he said.

“I always forget how exciting the time right before fashion week and right after is,” Sarafa said.You put all this work in for months and months, blood, sweat and tears just for that 10 minute moment on the runway. To have all of your ideas come to life is the best feeling ever, but also the most nerve-wracking.”

[Related: Functionality grounds glamour in student’s clothing line inspired by Met Gala outfits]

Sarafa said studying design media arts has allowed him to explore a greater breadth of disciplines than fashion alone. He said learning technical skills in classes like “Network Media” has allowed him to use coding skills to build his own website.

His studies have both taught him practical skills and provided insights into theoretical approaches to design. Illustration skills are especially pertinent to his favorite part of putting a collection together – the actual designing – he said. Sarafa’s design process, he said, begins with a mood board of colors and patterns that the looks will utilize. His latest collection began with a simple black and white palette and a bold houndstooth print. Since then, he said his textured designs have sprung to life from mere strokes on a screen.
(Courtesy of Matt Sarafa)

Sarafa said his favorite look features his signature use of unorthodox textiles. The look opens the show and is comprised of ostrich feather pants with a tailored bustier, accessorized with houndstooth gloves made from custom fabric featuring Sarafa’s logo. Sarafa’s head of photography and videography, Lala, said Sarafa’s logo – a stylized version of his name – is subtly incorporated throughout the pattern, rather than plastered all over the design.

Sarafa’s logo can also be seen at the top of the bustier’s closure, providing small details that elevate the look, Lala said. She said the muted black and white palette adds sophistication and power to the designs. The entire collection, Sarafa said, was inspired by the first look.

“For this (collection), I really wanted to just stay true to myself and my identity as a brand,” Sarafa said. “Just the silhouettes alone have been really elevated since my last collection.”

Sarafa said he aims to stay true to himself by designing clothing that is unapologetically him – glamorous, couture and always high fashion. Comprised of highly tailored looks that hug the figure, Sarafa said he incorporated a black ostrich feather textile and houndstooth motif throughout.

The diversity of models in the collection, Lala said, exemplifies Sarafa’s desire to provide women from all backgrounds with clothing that makes them feel confident. Fourth-year political science student Keanu Balani said Sarafa designs clothing with power, as evidenced in Sarafa’s “Boss Bitch” merchandise. The designs are comprised of oversized hoodies and crewnecks with a simple message embroidered in gothic text: “boss bitch.”

“(Sarafa’s style) is chic, edgy and always looks expensive,” Balani said. “He makes clothes that are empowering. You can tell when he has models wearing and walking in his clothes, you can sense the feeling of empowerment.”

[Related: Student makeup artist Keanu Balani highlights original looks through Instagram]

But to look expensive doesn’t always mean sacrificing affordability, Balani said. Sarafa’s jewelry line, he said, offers varying price ranges. Sarafa said it was important for him to provide those who wished to support his brand with affordable options. The luxurious designs rival those of designer brands despite the drastic differences in price, Balani said. One of his favorite pieces is a snake choker, he said, whose ornate design is more intricate than jewelry at fast-fashion retailers like Forever 21.

Sarafa said he doesn’t want to just stop at jewelry. With time, he said he aims to expand his brand, eventually adding fragrances and cosmetics. High-profile events like fashion week, Sarafa said, provide the exposure necessary to branch out into new endeavors.

“I always just try to design things that I like, and hopefully other people (will) like them,” Sarafa said. “I’m kind of selfish when I design because I know my style … and at the end of the day, if I’m doing something that I like, I’m going to be happy with it no matter what.”

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Alyssa Wheeler
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