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It’s a studio home. That’s what we decided at the end of our time together. Brandon Darreff and Zain Islam-Hashmi are architecture students at Carnegie Mellon University who set up their studio wherever the space will allow. And right now, that space is their (thankfully) expansive living room floor. 

The partners in design will present two pieces at the Carnegie Museum of Art’s Material Worlds Fashion Show hosted by the Ace Hotel of Pittsburgh this Friday, March 24. This isn’t the first foray into fashion for these designers. That happened in February at the Lunar Gala where they presented their collection,  de+struo (meaning to break down). With that project, they explored the transition from pristine geometry to burned and cracked ruin. 

You know how sometimes designers talk about a theme that inspires their pieces and you nod along while they’re talking and when they walk away you think, I don’t get it. Yeah, that’s not this. 

Material Worlds is inspired by the work of Iris van Herpen, a Dutch fashion designer known for her innovative experiments with materials, techniques and technologies. (Transforming Fashion, featuring several of her other-worldly pieces, is currently exhibiting at CMOA until May 1. GO and be amazed.) Brandon and Zain may not have been immediately familiar with Iris van Herpen the designer when this opportunity to present designs came to them. But they had come across her designs before and they were intrigued by her prowess with pushing materials. They knew they could go there too. Because they already had.  

Brandon and Zain have a very clear point of view and their execution on it is captivating. They are the youngest designers presenting at Materials Worlds, making their unadulterated confidence in their perspective all the more enviable. The pieces they plan to present on Friday are a natural extension of their work on de+struo

Brandon’s aesthetic leans toward clean lines punctuated by texture. He has taken on the “rigid” piece featuring a series of stalactite spikes of various sizes made of concrete that will jut from the entire garment. God speed to anyone who gets near that model. 

Zain uses words like kooky and out there to describe his perspective. And when you see his work you can feel why he says that but he is a master of controlled chaos. With elements that imitate the negative of cracks, his piece is the perfect juxtaposition to Brandon’s orderly, structured design. 

Neither designer had ever really sewn a garment before their presentation at Lunar Gala. It’s baffling to think about how challenging this sort of work is when you’re at minimum a practiced tailor. Clearly these two don’t allow fear or doubt tether them in place. I can’t even say it’s the challenge of it all that was appealing to them. In the short time I spent with them, it feels more like the artistic process feeds them. They are natural born creators, each taking such joy in the art of making. Need to know how to sew? That can be figured out. Let’s get to the design. Oh, and let’s carry a full course load and apply to jobs and work in a little time to be normal college students for a hot second. 

There is so much that I want to share about Brandon and Zain but I’m going to let their work speak for itself. I plan to post their design sketches and my own crude summation of their construction process soon. So watch for that. If you aren’t attending Materials Worlds this Friday, please follow along on Instagram. I will definitely post to my stories. You can also follow #transformingfashion and #irisvanherpen for all sorts of amazing shots from attendees. And there is a roundup of what’s happening on social media at http://transformingfashionpgh.com

I’d like to thank Brandon and Zain for inviting me into their studio home to get a sneak preview of what they’re creating. Break a leg you guys! See you on Friday! 

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