Devin Ricks is an incredible senior fashion design student at Central Michigan University. His refreshing designs influenced heavily by street style and Gorp-Core are a refreshing new addition to the program. Devin is finishing his senior year at Central Michigan University and is expected to graduate in December 2023. He plans to obtain an internship in the summer in order to advance his technical skills. After graduation, he hopes to find a job in which he can use his creative skills and expand his knowledge, while learning skills he will one day translate into his own brand.
What does the future of fashion mean to you?
The future of fashion to me is going more into formal wear but wearing it as leisure wear. It is moving into people dressing classy but making it casual, kind of similar to Gorp-core, but mixing the two aesthetics together to create something unique.
How did you start in the fashion design field? Was there any one thing/person that inspired you to pursue this career?
I hated engineering, to be totally honest. I came to Central Michigan University to study mechanical engineering, but it was not for me. I've always been into fashion, I've always loved to dress nicely and understand style trends, and how to form my own unique aesthetic. Fashion design was my minor from the start, but I wasn’t taking any courses for it at the time. Beginning of 2021, I made the switch to the fashion program, and I have now gotten to the point that I see the correlation between fashion design and mechanical engineering. Now that I have studied fashion design for this long, I have brought in aspects and skills that I used in engineering into what I do within fashion, even the research that I do. I use electrical engineering to fabricate a sensor which is engineering, but within fashion. It is so interesting to see how the two intertwine.
I always liked at a younger age to try and distress my jeans or put holes in the knees, Ive always been chopping up my clothes to try to understand how they were constructed. I never really thought about it as a career, it was just something cool to do.
How does being a black creative in a primarily white institution affect you and your work? Are there any specific challenges that you face?
Honestly, growing up I have always been in primarily white areas, whether it was Georgia where I was born or Illinois where I lived for a few years, and even in middle school in Michigan, as a multicultural or mixed person, I have always kind of been the only Black person around. I was never surrounded by many other races. It really comes with the struggle of self-identity, and not really knowing who I am as a person. It really took me a long time to try to figure that out. When I was in engineering, it was a reality that there was a chance I would be the only Black man that I worked with, because within class I was the only Black person. It was always me thinking, what can I do different from my white peers that I am surrounded by to prove myself? That was, and still is one of my biggest challenges, because I struggle with a lot of self-confidence, but I am getting better at this, knowing I am in an area pursuing my passion, and I have my heart as a driving force. I become self-conscious in my skill set, and I don’t look at my work as the best, and I am still trying to figure out how to be the best and have that self-confidence, and knowing what I should be making or doing.
If you could design for one brand/fashion house, which would it be and why?
The first one would be Golf Le Fleur, Tyler The Creator’s brand. His brand is very LA-esque, very preppy casual-wear, but it is clothing that you wouldn’t necessarily see Black men wear. A lot of the models and the people that he works with are Black or people of color, and it consists of puffers, loafers, really tying in the UK-prep type of vibe but with a twist with the floral and pastels he brings into his brand, the vibrance. I think its so cool to see what he has been doing with that for the last few years.
The other one is called Post Archive Faction. They are a very utilitarian, functional brand, all of their pieces you could see on the runway, on the street or even hiking, its very focused on activewear. It is all functional where you can utilize the garments for a variety of purposes. It also has a unique form to the garments and good craftsmanship to all of the pieces. These two brands are very opposite in their aesthetics, but would be so interesting to work for.
You’re very involved on campus with Threads Fashion Show and VERGE Magazine, how does your involvement affect your work and your life at CMU?
Especially since we have started VERGE, I have had a lot on my plate. I was a person that struggles with time management and with keeping everything in order, it has definitely pushed me and taught me how to be organized within a workplace. I treat it as a job, you have to stay on time, you have to have everything in order and have your priorities straight. I would say it has definitely helped me. Before, without as much involvement, I would just do school and homework. Once I finished homework, I would stay in my room, I didn’t do much else. I didn’t have a motivating force that pushed me to do other things on campus other than classes. It has definitely helped open my eyes to how the industry works, its very fast paced and there are so many moving parts all happening at once.
Were there any specific Black designers that you looked up to as inspiration when you entered the industry?
Very much so. The first one was Virgil Abloh, seeing what he did for the industry, further than just making clothes, but how he revolutionized fashion. He created a bridge between low-class streetwear and luxury fashion. He even would teach classes, like the Harvard lecture, I watched the whole thing and was so inspired, I sat there watching the YouTube video and taking notes. He has been a huge inspiration for me as a young designer because of the bridge he built. He has a similar background to me as well, he went to school as an architect and just liked wearing cool clothes, but was more popular and knew upcoming celebrities. Another person was Jerry Lorenzo, the creative director and founder of Fear of God, another big streetwear brand back in 2014 when the name streetwear or ‘hypebeast’ became more prevalent. Seeing what he has done by taking exclusive streetwear pieces that he would create and making them into more comfortable essentials that are sold in specialty stores. Another person is Tyler the Creator is another person that I look up to. A lot of music artists or rappers don’t see fashion other than just putting on clothes or the celebrity style. He has always stayed true to himself and who he is from when he was growing up. One of the things I have taken from him is, in an interview, he talked about how Jasper (comedian) and him have stayed friends from when they were 6 years old, and now they are big names in their industries, both riding their own wave and staying true to who they were growing up in California.
What are your plans after graduation, and long-term goals?
After graduation, I just want to find a career where I feel at home, and not just feel like I am working for a paycheck. I don’t want to feel like I have to wake up and go to work everyday, I want to be creating or be on a team that creates weekly and always has projects to work on, that is what I am being tested for right now. I am being tested to see how much I can handle because that is what I want to do. That was one of the reasons I left mechanical engineering, because there was a large chance of me working at a cubicle doing CAD work all day, or on an assembly line. Long-term goals would be setting a foundation for my own brand. Right now I have Ambient Studio, but this is what I want to use as a way to breakout, to hold all of my designs, I don’t really see that going long-term. I want to transition into something that is more niche, and not just me playing around with different aesthetic. I want to create something that is uniform, having a known aesthetic behind me. As I said before, my struggle with self-identity, it is that struggle of finding myself. I don’t know exactly what I was to be long-term, I just want to see where I go, and knowing there is a divine plan that is set for me.
Where do you gather inspiration for designs?
Instagram, even though that is controversial. I have an entire saved folder named design inspiration, I gather it from what I see online. I can see that this stuff fits my aesthetic and stuff I would wear. I would want a niche group of people supporting my designs, I don’t want to design for the masses. I get inspiration from UK fashion, activewear that has form and function, and also from my peers. I see a lot of clothes that my friends wear and get inspiration.
What advice do you have for young adults wanting to pursue fashion?
Just do it. Honestly, if you feel you want to do something in fashion, just try it out. You also have to realize there is a lot that goes into making garments that are quality. If you feel the push to go to the industry, try it out, even if you hate it you learn skills and can utilize them somewhere else, you can utilize fashion in so many ways because it is a part of everything.
What do you hope changes for the future of the industry for the next generation?
Find your own stuff. Even though I am a part of the fashion cycle, there needs to be something that breaks that cycle. Not in terms of sustainability, but everyone is wearing the same things, its losing individuality. There is more individuality coming into play, but even just understanding fashion, there’s too many trends and fads, especially with fast fashion, which needs to stop. People need to be able to find what they like and find their own style instead of trying to find it from trends.