On the evening of March 7, as the sun sets on another cold winter day on campus, the University of Michigan Art Museum's Vertical Gallery will be transformed. Highlighting the cutting edge of American fashion, Bronze Elegance will partner with SHEI to host Michigan's 1st Annual Charity Fashion Showcase, featuring innovative design from top students at major fashion schools likes Parsons and Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT).
One of the star designers is Juliana Pereira, a senior at Parsons School of Design in New York City. This show, which will feature four ensembles from her women's wear collection, is neither the beginning nor the end of her ascent into contemporary design. As a talented, driven, and inspired designer, Pereira has aspirations big and small for her career in the field. SHEI recently caught up with the budding designer as she finishes her Parsons career, completes a thesis collection of children's wear, and takes a moment to look back at her extraordinary experiences in the fashion capital of the world.
"I've always been artistic, ever since I was a kid," Pereira said. But at public school in northern New Jersey, Pereira found few opportunities to explore these creative leanings. Fortunately, her parents were supportive of her interest in the arts, and early on she began taking classes, workshops, studios, visits to museums in nearby NYC — anything that would help her fine tune her talents. "Growing up, I would take classes in the city, at the Met," she remembered.
At first, Pereira studied classical arts like painting, an experience she describes as inspiring rather than limiting: "Getting that foundation in the fine arts was great," she explained, "because it could be translated into different art fields: film, fashion, design." As she grew older, Pereira honed in on fashion design as her artistic vocation. She started taking fashion-focused classes for high schoolers at Parsons, the Pratt Institute, and FIT. These classes exposed her to the fast-paced world of New York City fashion.
These experiences, from initiating her own designs to visiting the Alexander McQueen exhibition with her class, set Pereira apart when she began attending Parsons as a college student. Her appreciation for and knowledge of the field only deepened with intensive study and hands-on collaboration with top companies.
Pereira has completed fashion design internships with Michael Kors and Diane Von Furstenberg. She worked for months, using all her natural initiative and even volunteering during Fashion Week to get her foot in the door. At Michael Kors, Pereiras interned in knitwear, a particular passion of hers. "They were working on a show at the time," she said. "It was really awesome to see."
But it is at DVF where Pereira has found kindred spirits in the design world. The company's attention to detail and commitment to crafting beautiful, embellished textiles align perfectly with Pereira's vision. "Process is a huge part of designing," she explained. But the workplace environment was just as significant to her experience at the company: "They really take care of their employees, their staff," Pereira said, "they really treat them well."
The lessons that Pereira continues to learn at DVF combine with other influences to create her unique designs, which are characterized by their uniquely crafted textiles and organic, tonal feel. "I get really inspired by nature," she said, and she has a knack for "collecting information from my surroundings," whether Pereira finds herself in New Jersey wilderness or amidst the modern architecture of a global capital.
Look out for these diverse, nuanced influences in the pieces showcased at Bronze Elegance, which include two dresses and several ensembles of separates. Three looks are from her "extremely textile-driven" collection, and one is something different altogether — you'll just have to wait and see.
Pereira graduates in May with an MFA from one of the world's top design schools and years of experience in the industry. What the future holds for her is unknown, but surely her talents will find their home somewhere as singular as Pereiras herself. Farther down the line, perhaps a line of her own, with young students clamoring to volunteer and intern with Julianna (no last name needed). For now, an individualistic spirit and intense passion for her field are enough. "You need to know when to stand up for your designs," Pereira said. "If you love what you do, the rest comes easy."
The Bronze Elegance Fashion Showcase will take place in the UMMA Vertical Gallery from 7-8:30 PM on March 7. The event is free to attend and will include light refreshments.