Fashion Design Junior Justice Ybarra spent the summer with thread, needles, fabric and a vision. He was tasked with designing two tour outfits for singer/songwriter Jake Wesley Rogers, a 2018 Belmont alumnus. Currently on tour in Europe, Rogers will have his next fittings with Ybarra later this fall before wearing the new garb on the next leg of his tour in the U.S.
Ybarra wanted to go into fashion because it allows him to tell a story in a tactile way. Most designers are trying to tell a story. Through music, Rogers is also trying to tell a story. The collaboration formed seamlessly.
Rogers was performing at a fundraising event on campus earlier this year where Ybarra met his manager. The two began talking, and Ybarra was able to show him a couple of recent projects, such as his Denim Days Collection, as well as a few mood boards.
Ybarra said Rogers is very open-minded. “I would describe him as soulful and spiritual. It was cool for us to work together and get to focus on bringing his wardrobe back to that Nashville setting,” he said. “Jake was going through a bunch of phases in his wardrobe. He liked for everything to be clear and transparent – like tulle, but he said he was ready for the next phase. So, I was able to create whatever I was feeling.”
Ybarra spent a day listening to Rogers on Spotify and watching videos of the way he moved around on stage while creating. He sent a mood board over to Rogers and his manager, and the team narrowed down five outfit options to the two that made the cut – softer, yet masculine.
Ybarra said his world has come full circle since he flew down from Michigan with friends as they attended their freshman orientation at Belmont a few summers ago. While in Nashville, he discovered O’More and decided to enroll.
When starting college, Ybarra did not have any background in fashion, nor did he know how to sew. Now, after working with professors at O’More and then Belmont after the O’More acquisition, Ybarra is confident enough to take on these real-world projects. He hopes to have the final products ready for Rogers in just a couple short months.
“Our professors are amazing with so much real world experience. I took pattern making and draping with Jenny Kemala, and she’s really good at giving loving critique and feedback. She is a core person in what we are all able to do,” Ybarra explained. “Kevin Couch teaches studio and design history. I’ve learned how to get inspiration from what is old and make it new again.”
Aside from the mock-up design made of muslin, Ybarra has produced a shell and will create another piece after Rogers’ last fitting with the final fabrics and lining. “You end up making a garmet at least three times,” he explained.
Ybarra’s source of inspiration changes from project to project. Sometimes it comes from his favorite designers like Alexander McQueen and Marc Jacobs. Sometimes it just depends on the story he is trying to tell or the brand he is representing.
And although this is technically Ybarra’s first “real-world” project, he did not really see it that way. “I think O’More and Belmont do a great job of making the in-class projects feel ‘real world,’ so this didn’t feel that new to me. They really help you stay on track and see how you can be successful,” he said. “But this project IS something I went out and did. The school brings us a lot of great projects, but this is special because I did it myself.”
Ybarra said he loves attending Belmont and getting to experience a more well-rounded education. His other classes have taught him skills he needs to be a successful designer beyond creating the designs.
He has also gained a sense of credibility after doing this project, especially when he told his friends who his client was. “They were really excited about it because they love Jake’s music,” he said. “This has been really fun for me, and it will be cool to go to his show in Nashville and see him wear my designs.”
After graduation, Ybarra plans to move to New York to further his career in fashion. His dream job is to work for Tommy Hilfiger or, if he is really dreaming, to work for Designer Brandon Maxwell. Wherever he lands, his time at Belmont has provided him the opportunity to get one amazing project in his portfolio.