By Iris Chau
Susana Hernández makes a political statement with plus-size clothing that is bold in design and technically constructed. Through her work, she celebrates plus-size bodies by pairing something as bold as a see-through pant with a brief underneath.
nona, Hernández’s thesis collection, has a wide range of ready-to-wear items that cross lingeriewith traditional techniques in design. She combines the use of sheer fabrics and solid silhouettes that showcase a woman’s body.
nona will be unveiled at 2018 The Show presented by Tamoda Apparel Inc., on April 19 and 20 at Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s (KPU) new purpose-built Wilson School of Design building. The beautiful and innovative $36-million building houses a range of design programs including the fashion-design-and-technology program. Thirty-one other lines by KPU fashion design and technology students will also be showcased.
Iris Chau: Describe your collection.
Susana Hernández: nona is an apparel line that promotes self-sexualization and breaks size discrimination stigmas so as to normalize parts of curvier women’s figures that should be celebrated.
IC: Who or what was the inspiration behind your line?
SH: I first learned what feminism was from my older sister Andrea in high school. It was then that I started researching feminism more on my own. In grade 11, I was slut-shamed by one of my teachers. I was really proud of myself because I was able to have a heated discussion with her based on my knowledge of feminism. It was important for me that I know how to defend myself, especially against a conservative adult.
That event led me to believe that women should not be harassed, judged, or slut-shamed just by the way that they dress. My other inspiration is my sister Rosy. She wears a size 12. She’s not plus-sized, but she was harassed when she was young by her classmates because of her clothes. Even now, she has trouble finding clothes that suit her taste and fit her well.
IC: What word best encapsulates you as a designer?
SH: Daring. Every time I design, I try to go outside the norm, whether it is with design, construction, or even communicating my own values. I am a loud person but also one that is willing to fight to change things that I do not agree with in the industry. For example, the lack of representation and inclusion within different ethnicities and body shapes.
IC: What are your plans after graduation?
SH: I would like to be more involved in visual merchandising for my workplace, as well as doing custom work on the side for nona. In the next couple of years, I would like to keep working on my plus-size blocks and successfully grade them so that I can have a good foundation for starting nona as a business.
I am very lucky to have an entrepreneurial family: we have had four businesses over the past 20 years. I’ve seen them succeed and I’ve seen them fail, so I have an idea of what to do right and what mistakes to avoid. I am not afraid of failing as I have seen my family, time and time again, pick themselves up from low points in their business.
IC: What aspect of design are you most passionate about?
SH: There is not one aspect of design that I am not passionate about. To me, my work has always been holistic. I like to approach most of what I do from a critical angle and learn the most from every aspect, whether it is technical packages, sketching, fittings, production, or flat design. I love every single thing I go through in the creative process because it is enriching in its own way. Having a favourite part seems very contrarian to my philosophy.
IC: How do you set yourself apart from other designers?
SH: Since the beginning, I have always had a focus on feminist issues. Throughout my four years, the more I read about feminism, the more I learned about all these issues we as women have to tackle. In second year, we did a project called coordinates and that project was the first one that illuminated for me how underserved the plus-size market is.
It made me feel frustrated with the plus-size industry and the lack of choices they have for women. It drove me to want to create clothes that could be available to them. If I were a size 18, and wanted to find the clothes I’m wearing now, I wouldn’t be able to. That got me thinking that there must be somebody out there looking for a different product.
Iris Chau is a final-year fashion design and technology student at KPU’s Wilson School of Design.