Boston Fashion Week: Spotlight on the designers of The Launch

Boston Fashion Week The Launch Sasha Thomas

Sasha Thomas with models in her designs

Despite what many people — ahem, New Yorkers — might say, Boston is not a style-barren wasteland populated entirely by denizens in North Face fleeces and boat shoes (though, OK, we do have a lot of those).

No, Boston is a fashionable metropolis in its own right and, while we may not have a scope or concentration of designers and high end couture to rival Manhattan, we certainly have our fair share of innovative designers. And many of them are just getting started.

Case in point: the up-and-coming local designers featured in The Launch showcase in this year’s Boston Fashion week. The four diverse designers — all recent graduates of regional fashion design programs — were hand-picked by Fashion Group International of Boston and BFW to show their collections in a group show tonight. If you can’t make it, you can check out their designs, at your leisure, on display at Copley Place through Oct. 11.

We checked in with three of the four designers you’ll hopefully be hearing a lot more from soon to talk shop.

Tell us about your design aesthetic.

Sammi Yang (23, West Roxbury): “My collection for Launch is a mix of day wear and easy evening wear inspired by the dramatic process of intensive sunlight turned from dark and massive storm clouds. Through precise yet feminine tailoring and intricate couture detailing, I recapture the grace and refinement of the 1940s in Modern styles to empower today’s women to be both ladylike, strong and accomplished.”

Carlos Villamil (37, Somerville): “I approach fashion from the point of view of the slow fashion movement. Instead of the continuous production and merchandise of clothes, I want to create items that are less influenced by trends and more related to experimentation, both in their production and in their aesthetic. I design with ‘zero waste’ in mind. I want to create long lived garments that have a deep emotional connection with the user and are environmentally sound, not only from an ecological point of view but also from a social perspective. The look of the pieces is a result of the design approach and also simple geometric language, I take basic shapes like squares and triangles, and use them as modules to create grid-like patterns. The final garments are structured and clean. I am greatly influenced by design history and modern architecture.”

Sasha Thomas (27, Southbridge): “I have a very bold perspective. I invite my customers to see the world through a darker lens and inspire them to walk the path less traveled. I am all about reinvention. Even though my collection is heavily inspired by various historical time periods, I mix them all together in ways to create something new and exciting.”


Carlos Villamil with a model in his designs

How do you think Boston measures up, fashionably, to other cities, like New York?

SY: “People get dressed very chic and more about what’s in trend.etc [in NY]. I noticed that New Yorkers always wear something to catch others’ attention. However, in Boston, people just dress in their own styles. I would say Boston fashion is more unique.”

CV: “I don’t really think about Boston fashion, and its industry, comparing it to New York. They are two very different cities and, for me, it is difficult to establish parallels in terms of fashion. The evident element is that New York is one of the cities in the global fashion calendar, while ours is not, and I like to think about Boston as the heir of a wonderful manufacturing and industrial tradition. And to cite Jay Calderin, I agree with him about thinking that our option to become a bigger player in the fashion world is to take advantage of our education and technology strengths to create ‘smart fashion.’ I see Boston’s future in this industry in intelligent materials, sustainable production systems and circular processes, all these things are already being done and can be further evolved thanks to our city’s incredible human wealth.”

What does fashion, or style, mean to you?

CV: I believe fashion is an expression of identity rather than a particular look or style. Each group, each community, reflect their idiosyncrasy through many social phenomenons — and fashion is one of the most visible ones. Boston has its own identity related to history, education, finances and technology and all that is reflected in the way people dress. Some neighborhoods also have strong roots with their immigrant population or with specific lifestyles that at the end add to the bigger final concept of Bostonian fashion.”

ST: “Fashion, to me, is an unspoken voice that we all possess to tell the world who we are. What we wear speaks volumes to everyone we come in contact with, whether we know them, whether we even speak to them, or if it’s just in passing. What else is there that has that much silent power? In my opinion, Boston fashion has always been a bit on the conservative side, but after seeing the reaction to my bold collection, I think they’re ready to shake things up!”


Sammi Yang with a model in her designs

What do you hope this exposure will do for your career — and what’s next?

SY: “I feel really appreciated and lucky to have been chosen for the Launch. I truly learned a lot through the whole process, including the collaboration with real professional stylists, models and photographers. Also, the most important thing is that I see my collection in a very different perspective through the Launch Lens [an event at the W over the weekend]. I hope this can be one of my big steps and help me to present myself more professionally and clearly. I will move to NY and continue pursuing my career there.”

CV: “It is truly amazing to be part of this special group. It’s an honor and I appreciate the risk they took when picking me, because I do conceptual fashion and it takes courage and the desire to innovate, to open the doors and recognize the work of designers like me. I already can see some effects of being part of The Launch, it’s a tremendous opportunity for exposure and to establish connections, while at the same time it puts a huge responsibility on your shoulders since you have to deliver a solid concept and collection. And it forces you, in a very positive way, to keep going with your project in the future. I know this adventure will take me closer to the dream of establishing a solid brand and to start my own independent practice in the realm of sustainable fashion.”

ST: “I like to think of myself as a free floating feather. I consider all opportunities equally and I’ll go wherever the wind blows me. I look at this wonderful experience as an opportunity to broaden my horizons, meet great people, and hopefully as just the beginning of an exciting new journey!”

For more information on the designers, and Boston Fashion Week, visit


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