Fashion design senior explores masculinity through menswear

fashion student sitting in his studio

For some designers, creating menswear garments can feel narrow and limiting. Keenan Ferguson isn’t one of them.

Instead, the fashion design senior—who graduates this month—sees an opportunity to use the traditional craft and architecture of menswear to explore ideas of masculinity in fashion.

“[I want to] create clothing for a new generation of forward-thinking individuals,” he says. “I don’t think we should just continue wearing the same blazer, the same pair of trousers for another hundred years.”

This thought process is reflected in a series of garments Ferguson is designing during his final semester. In Experimental Tailoring, Ferguson is crafting a jacket and thinking about functionality. By moving the jacket’s vents to the front of the garment, he allows the wearer to put their hand in their pocket without the jacket bunching.

In another special topics class, he is exploring his Scottish ancestry in a satin garment with a crest and pearl detailing meant to symbolize ideas of heritage and family.

“I was questioning what [menswear] means, and what does it mean to add a strand of pearls to a men’s look,” he says. “Expanding what is normal for a man to wear, but also keeping some things rooted in tradition. There’s a nice balance.”

Ferguson says his work this semester builds on his recent summer in New York City, where he interned for three emerging menswear labels: Rowing Blazers, Bode, and Florist.

A typical week would include two days at Rowing Blazers where he focused on the technical production side, creating mock-ups, colorways and technical illustrators. Next, he’d spend two days at the Bode studio learning the process of in-house cutting and sampling, and mending vintage fabrics. He closed out the week at Florist, where he learned how to cut and construct a variety of bag silhouettes.

The internships also contributed to Ferguson’s other interest in fashion: advocating for sustainable and fair-trade practices in the fashion industry. It’s an interest Ferguson cultivated after receiving an international study grant to spend a summer in a remote area of the Netherlands, working with Dutch textile artist Claudy Jongstra.

Ferguson says the experience was a lesson in conscious creation throughout the design process, from raw material to the final product.

“She had a real reverence for traditional craft—from the way we carefully carded the wool sheared from her flock of sheep, to the way we naturally dyed the fabric, and ultimately how she crafted her organic felted textiles,” he says. “In many ways, my process aims to mimic that method of conscious, circular creation.”

This semester, Ferguson was able to apply sustainable design practices to his own work by using remnants from past season garments produced at Rowing Blazers.

“As an emerging member of the industry,” he says, “I believe it’s my responsibility to advocate for sustainable, fair-trade practices that respect the 40 million garment workers around the world, and the environment we live in.”

Ferguson might soon have that chance. After graduation, he plans to return to New York and pick up where he left off in August.

“It just seems like that’s the right place, the right next step,” he says, “and we’ll just see where that takes me.”