Angela Jernigan flips the narrative in CCAD Fashion Show collection

The Dublin Jerome grad and CCAD senior is one of 18 fashion design students featured in the art school's annual event on Friday, May 14

Joel Oliphint
Columbus Alive
CCAD Fashion Design senior Angela Jernigan.

Over the summer, Columbus College of Art & Design senior Angela Jernigan worked Downtown and lived just up the road from the center of the city, which put her right in the middle of the racial justice protests that erupted after the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. During the media coverage of the uprisings, Jernigan couldn’t help but notice how Black men were often presented.

“They’re seen with a target on their back, and the only way that media portrays them is through their trauma,” Jernigan said recently by phone. “Why is it that the only time I remember seeing Black people in the media is when they've been killed?” 

Jernigan, a fashion design major, began thinking about how she could present a different narrative of Black men in her clothing collection. “I’m showing him in a different light, making him look more vulnerable and more susceptible to wearing pastel colors with a more feminine silhouette,” said Jernigan, who included a tunic, crop tops and high-waisted pants. “I wanted to show how Black men don't have to wear black or tans or neutrals in order to be these masculine beings. Pastel colors pop on their skin tone. It makes them look very vibrant.” 

Jon Johnson wearing a look by Angela Jernigan that will be part of the 2021 CCAD Fashion Show.

Jernigan’s collection, titled "Alive," will be one of 18 featured in the 2021 CCAD Fashion Show on the evening of Friday, May 14; the socially distant, in-person version of the show will take place at the Easton Community Drive-In, and CCAD is also hosting a virtual experience. Today (Monday, May 10) is the last day to purchase tickets for this annual event that raises money for student scholarships.

Jernigan, a graduate of Dublin Jerome High School, initially got into fashion through the skateboarding scene. After a false start pursuing a nursing degree (“I realized I hated everything about it”), she enrolled at CCAD, where she began exploring the aesthetics of skateboarding. “As skateboarding has become more accepted, the fashion behind it has become very front-page. … In skate culture, there's hippie skateboarders, grunge skateboarders, street skateboarders, metal/hard-rock skateboarders. I was very into the hippie, rock-and-roll, ’60s/’70s era when I started,” she said.

“But as I've developed, I've really gotten into creating narratives with the clothes that I've made, and doing more androgynous clothing,” Jernigan continued. “I realized, throughout my time at CCAD and within skateboarding itself, all clothes are pretty much androgynous. I have worn so many guys’ clothes, and guys have worn so many girls’ clothes. I just don't think there should be too much of a label set on what girls can wear and what guys can wear.”

Abigail Carter wearing a look by Angela Jernigan that will be part of the 2021 CCAD Fashion Show

This new approach is on full display in "Alive," which challenges notions of femininity and masculinity, and not just through the aforementioned pastel color palette. Jernigan also sourced some of her materials through second-hand blankets purchased at thrift stores, which evoke the familiar comfort of a visit to grandma’s house.

“I wanted to give that sense of home and that sense of nurturing that you don't usually get from Black men depicted in the media — that sense of warmth, a sense of home, that sense of being approachable and nurturing and welcoming,” she said. 

While Jernigan’s approach might be unexpected, she argues that it shouldn’t be surprising, in the same way that it shouldn’t be rare to see a Black female fashion designer.  

"If you look at all the big-time fashion designers, they're usually white men,” she said. “It is really hard for Black women to get out there and be seen, [and] it is really, really hard for Black women, in general, to be taken seriously. They have to carry themselves a specific way and talk a specific way in order to not be taken for granted and to be appreciated.” 

In that way, Jernigan hopes to flip the narrative not just in her collection, but in her chosen vocation. “I want to start remembering Black people in the media because of the things that they've successfully done,” she said.