Many talented young designers have passed through the halls of the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, but one, Bria Hendrickson, is focusing her skills in a way that pays tribute to her grandfather William Christopher Delk Sr., who passed away in 2016.
“I found some of [my grandfather’s] sweaters while cleaning out his house with my mom, and I automatically wanted to have them to wear,” says the 21-year-old student from Greenlawn, N.Y. “But I also thought there was something more to be done with all the things he left behind that would be really useful.”
She decided to incorporate her grandfather’s spirit and style into the garments she was creating for her senior-year FIT collection.
The resulting designs are feminine in feel, but with influences of menswear, particularly in the plaid of the coat she created. The scarf that accessorizes it was made from a sweater of her grandfather’s that she felted. The scarf also incorporates plastic grocery bags. She explains: “When we were cleaning out his house, we found a lot of bags and a lot of stuff. I got the idea to repurpose some of those things. The plastic bags resonated with me because I saw so many around his house.”
Hendrickson, who graduates this month, received a Critic Award from the school, in the sportswear specialization. The honor is a big one, as Critic Award winners are selected by major designers and design houses that serve as mentors to seniors as they create their final collections. Hendrickson’s works are also among the outstanding designs selected for an end-of-year fashion show, the Future of Fashion, taking place at FIT on May 8 at 7 p.m.
Hendrickson says her professor had encouraged her to create textiles with “something sentimental” in order to put together a portfolio with real meaning.
“My professor said to find something we were attached to that has a hold on us and to produce from that emotion,” she says. “And so that’s what I did.”
Hendrickson credits her grandfather with always inspiring her to pursue her passion, fashion design.
"That’s why this whole process was sentimental and therapeutic for me,” she notes. “He was always very supportive of me. He always encouraged me to follow my dreams of being a fashion designer. When I was in high school and took precollege classes at FIT, he would take the train in from Brooklyn and meet me at Pennsylvania Station so that he could walk me to FIT and then pick me up from school.
“He always wanted a sweatshirt from FIT and was so excited to be a part of what I was passionate about,” she adds.
Into the music scene, her grandfather had played the saxophone and loved going to jazz clubs.
“When I got into art and fashion, he got so excited because he knew it was a way I could express myself just as he had been able to express himself,” she said.
Hendrickson says “creating” has always been second nature to her, even as a child.
“At a young age, I constantly found myself drawing and coloring and begging my great-grandmother to make doll clothes with me,” she recalls. “As I got older, I would always want my parents to buy new clothes, and my great-grandmother would say, ‘Why don’t you just make them yourself?’ ”
During high school, she spent two summers in FIT’s Precollege Program that prepares students for the FIT admissions process, including creative arts portfolio development.
And what about the future?
She’s currently applying for a job to be a design assistant. And then it’s hopefully off to Paris or Milan. “It’s my dream,” she said.