by Kat Friedmann
Cedric Brown realized at a young age that clothes are much more than a daily necessity. He could tell that by seeing how his mother dressed and by browsing her fashion magazines. The way a person dresses can open opportunities, portray a sense of authority or display elegance and beauty.
“I’ve always wanted to do [fashion design] since I was younger; I just never really had the opportunity,” says Brown, a native of Stone Mountain. “I always liked to style myself. I always liked to dress [myself]. I just like the beauty of it.”
Brown attended Georgia Perimeter College as an art major from 2009-2011 and then transferred to Savannah College of Art and Design’s (SCAD) Atlanta campus to major in its up-and-coming fashion design program. Last fall, he was one of five SCAD students selected to study fashion design in Hong Kong as part of the new program. In only 10 weeks abroad, he researched, designed and launched his own “mini collection.”
“We had to create three toiles—or three looks—and we got judged, or critiqued in the middle of the process and also for the final process,” says Brown. “Getting critiqued taught me what to prepare for when I become a senior or [when I’m] developing a collection.”
Each of the five students in the program was assigned one of the major fashion capitals of the world. Brown was assigned Paris and had to design his brand of clothing as if he were a French couturier marketing to Parisian sophisticates.
“Paris represents elegance … so I had to find people who dressed elegantly,” says Brown. “I also had to go inside stores that were by Paris designers and take pictures of the store layout, notice the colors in the store, notice the way they attract customers to come in. I had to look at their clothes and see what their clothes were made out of, and if I was lucky enough, if I had a female with me, I would have her try on the clothes for me and see how they fit.”
Designing his own brand of clothing for class wasn’t Brown’s only experience in Hong Kong as an aspiring fashion designer. Outside of the classroom, he was selected as a TOMS Style Your Sole Artist. During this project, he was paid to custom paint TOMS shoes for customers at a booth in the high-end retailer Lane Crawford in Hong Kong’s International Finance Centre (IFC) luxury shopping mall. He earned 1,000 Hong Kong Dollars (HKD) a day, about $129 in U.S. pay.
Brown also was selected as a fashion assistant at up-and-coming New York brand Ranee K, which also has operations in Hong Kong. Brown spent time hand sewing sequins and beads on garments and getting ready for Ranee K’s fall fashion show, where he worked backstage, making sure models had the right outfits.
“Right now I’m still just learning about the industry and what’s the best way for me to go about getting into the fashion industry, because it is very tough,” Brown says.
Brown has dreams of creating his own commercially successful clothing brand one day, drawing inspiration from designers such as Giorgio Armani and Ralph Lauren, who have both haute couture and mass market brands. Until then, Brown will continue his education stateside at SCAD Atlanta and is set to graduate in May 2014.
“I think GPC was a great foundation for me,” Brown says. “Everything that I didn’t learn in high school, it helped me catch up to be on the collegiate level.”
Georgia Perimeter also helped Brown extend his reach globally. While at GPC, one of his paintings, “As The Twig Bends, so The Tree Inclines,” became a permanent display in The Russian Museum, located in St. Petersburg, Russia. A print of the work is also displayed at the U.S. Consul General in St. Petersburg.
Brown’s talent was brought to the attention of The Russian Museum when C. Linden Longino, international program director at the Youth Art Connection in Atlanta, showed the work to the director of the Youth Art Center of the Russian Museum. Longino said the director liked the painting and wanted to add it to the museum’s permanent collection.
International recognition was not the only good news Brown received in 2010. He also traveled to Washington, D.C., where he was awarded the Congressional Black Caucus’ Visual Arts Scholarship and shared the stage with other great creative minds, such as writer and poet Alice Walker and actor, comedian, writer and film director Robert Townsend.
“Cedric is an incredibly talented, disciplined and driven student,” says David Koffman, chair of GPC’s Fine Arts Department. “He has come back to GPC a few times and spoken with the students here about his experiences at SCAD and applying for scholarships. He is truly one of GPC’s outstanding new alumni.”
Brown says that while he was at Georgia Perimeter he learned new techniques in drawing and painting, was introduced to different mediums and learned how to better accept criticism on his artwork. He also learned how to represent and explain his artwork better, he says.
“GPC was just such a wonderful place,” Brown says. “I loved it.”