Brianna Toomer

A Well-Suited Student

As a student, the current is an easy one to get caught up in and the flow of trends and fast fashion is easy to float along with. Up and coming designer, Brianna Toomer, though, has perfected the art of individualism both in her own look and in her designs. As a senior in the fashion program at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, Toomer presented her final project in the form of a capsule collection, titled “Nobody’s Housewife,” at this year’s senior fashion show. In an unexpected choice for a college student, Toomer did not take her inspiration from the 90s, 80s, or any of the eras of naught that fashion always seems to harken to; rather, she dug further into the archives and came back with a historic muse.

While the title of the collection has explicit feminist implications, the collection itself was not born out of the need to manifest feminism through design. In fact, Toomer owes credit for inspiration to director, Quentin Tarantino – partly. Explains Toomer, “The title was chosen specifically for its feminist implications, but that’s not quite what inspired the collection: the inspiration naturally developed into that.” For Toomer, the lightbulb actually went off while watching Tarantino’s “Inglorious Basterds.” “Diane Kruger’s character was so encapsulating, and the costume design was sublime. I immediately started researching women in uniform in the 40s and thus, “Nobody’s Housewife” was born.” However, Toomer’s collection is not the olive drab or Rosie the Riveter work suit that we immediately think of; her silhouettes are modernized, and her color palette is youthful. Where one might associate the uniforms of the war effort on the homefront with just that, we associate Toomer’s acid greens, electric blue racing stripes, and muted mauve with energy and joy. This unexpected color combination plays perfectly in the season Toomer was designing for. “They allow us to do whatever season we want regardless of the fact that it’s shown in the spring,” the designer clarifies. “My collection was pre-fall. I had never done an ‘in-between’ season before, so I wanted to challenge myself to find the balance. Thinking about drop times, when it hits the stores, what are people wearing or doing in these clothes. It was a refreshing challenge.”

Bridget von Hammersmark and the women of World War II weren’t Toomer’s only muses, though. With a background in styling and a sick sartorial sense of self, Toomer looked to herself for more inspiration. “I was always one of the guys, but I still had a girl side to me. To me, that’s almost the exact definition of my personal style and it influences my aesthetic as a designer in some ways.” Her experience as a stylist also helped her envision the different ways in which women could wear her collection. “A few of the pieces have what I call an ‘expanding silhouette.’ I wanted to develop a new way to showcase the juxtaposition between a masculine and a feminine silhouette.” In more technical terms, Toomer tells us, “I added in placket-covered-zippers that, when unzipped, allow for pieces to transform from tailored silhouettes into oversized, more masculine shapes. I chose to use double-sided zippers to allow the wearer to choose where the volume comes from, how much they want and to give a customization feel to the pieces.”

Toomer has visions of her icons – such as Rihanna, Adwoa Aboah, and Slick Woods – wearing her designs, and a list of brands and designers that she’d like to work with, but ultimately, the young designer aspires to become a household name, starting with “Nobody’s Housewife.” “I plan to work on developing this collection a little bit further and then to get started on the next collection on the side while I’m studying for a year at Studio Bercot in Paris,” she reflects. “I want to work in the industry for a few years, hopefully staying in Europe after school abroad, and then venture into starting my own line in the future.” Soon, this student of style will become the master.

Text Leah Tassinari
Images Courtesy of Shan Benson