Allegra Abrams’ name pops onto my Zoom screen and her camera flashes on.
She’s sporting a matching navy jogger set, decked out with doodled cherries and an eccentrically afro-ed silhoette that dances across her hoodie.
The 22-year-old designer is relishing in the success of her debut fashion line at Pacsun. The pieces she wears are signatures of her “Love To The People” collection, a gender-neutral line for the brand and a tribute to her native Minneapolis.
Her path to reaching this moment seems destined. Since she stepped foot on UW-Madison’s campus in 2018, the creator has been deadset and focused on using fashion as a means to advocate and uplift her community.
Inspired by a tumultuous year of racial reckoning and social unrest in the place she had long called home, Abrams found her inspiration.
In March of 2021, Abrams came across the Fashion Scholarship Fund x Pacsun Gender Neutral Design Competition. The case study based program asked students to create an original gender neutral collection that reflected their design aesthetic through creativity, identity and storytelling.
Initially, Abrams was reluctant to apply.
The idea of working with a fast-fashion brand in a world that she put “doesn’t need more clothes” was a challenging task.
But the opportunity, however, did present an opportunity to start a conversation.
“If I’m going to design for industry, that’s not really needed, I need to at least be purposeful within my designs,” she added.
Sketch it out
To set the tone for her work, Abrams created a case study project called Breathe In Peace x FENTY for her FSFxPacsun application. The designs would be a hypothetical collaboration between Rihanna’s FENTY clothing brand and her own design endeavors.
The capsule collection centered itself around self-care through fashion for Black women activists leading the charge on movements of social justice, climate change and political upliftment.
In her original prospectus, Abrams defines the pieces as “provid[ing] comfort and style through transitional loungewear inspired by the stories and actions that have been used to uplift Black women throughout history.”
Through her project, she sought to outline her artistic intentions.
Emphasizing sustainability, diversity and customization, Abrams work embraced physical expressions of indiviudality, peace and self-love and made her a standout candidate among the program’s applicants.
So, when she was selected as a competition winner in May, she shifted her attention to the community that raised her.
Cut from the cloth
For the second half of her sophomore year and entirety of her junior year of college, Abrams stayed at home with her family on the doorstep of racial justice history.
George Floyd’s name and image flooded every inch of her community. In protest, progress and in action, his memory inspired many.
It was from Floyd’s murder that Abrams set forth in creating her Love To The People line.
“There’s a lot of change that still need to be made, but I really think Minneapolis was the catalyst for this whole kind of 2020 revolution with social justice,” said Abrams.
In the Fall of 2021, after a summer of interning for Tommy Hilfiger and a move to New York City, Abrams solidified and materialized her ideas for her line.
“Love To The People” is a reflective collection which riffs on Minneapolis locals desire to take action and instill change. Abrams feels, it was perfect opportunity to give love back to her city and to offer them a thank you for uplifting people with optimism and the hope to keep going in the face of tragedy.
The collection features 12 signature pieces with a 70s, sporty-inspired feel. Many pieces are embellished with messages to “Love More” or camouflaged “MPLS” embroidered letters.
Abrams is grateful for the experience she had working with a major brand like Pacsun. Without the experience, she feels that learning how to advocate for herself in the industry would have been more challenging.
“One of the biggest lessons I learned is learning how to communicate what you want and be consistent with it,” said Abrams. “It’s hard to have the confidence to be directing people, but also be learning how everything’s supposed to go.”
As her industry becomes more welcoming to diverse voices and thought leaders, Abrams hopes to carry with her new innovative approaches to sustainable, thoughtful fashion.
Abrams, who is also a Virgil Abloh Post-Modern Scholar, reflected on the inspiration that the late designer gave her in continuing to pursue work in the fashion industry.
“It encourages me even more, and people within the program to support each other and continue that type of leadership,” she said. “There’s a lot of black talent in general, but, in certain spaces, even at my school FIT, like, I’m one of like four kids in my class that are black…it was definitely a good lesson early on to always try to like be supporting people within the community.”
Abrams is wrapping up her senior year at the Fashion Institute of Technology as a part of a UW-Madison visiting student program.
When she graduates in the spring, she hopes to continue her career pursuits in the realm of sustainable fashion curation and design. Inspired by mentors like Abloh, she says she won’t limit herself to one trend or path within the industry.
“I’m really trying to, like learn from different angles, and like, not be so worried about going down the traditional path and being really focused helping my community, those would probably be the main things I would take away.”