Showcased at New York Fashion Week, Alum Pays Homage to 1980s LGBTQ Community

Recent grad Lucas Circello evolved as a fashion designer and embarked on a journey of self-discovery while creating senior collection.
Lucas Circello models a piece from their collection
The Harlem ballroom scene inspired Lucas Circello's "HAUS of Camp" collection. Here, Circello models the butch queen look. (Photos/video courtesy Lucas Circello)

The work of fashion design alum Lucas Circello is now featured alongside some of the world’s most influential fashion brands. The 2021 grad recently debuted their senior collection “HAUS of Camp” on the Council of Fashion Designers in America’s (CFDA) Runway360 with Michael Kors, Nicole Miller, Marchesa, Christopher John Rogers and more.

Launched during the pandemic, the digital platform CFDA Runway360 allows designers to present new collections direct to buyers and consumers virtually. CFDA highlighted Circello as part of its Emerging Designer Graduate Showcase during the famed New York Fashion Week.

Jefferson spoke with Circello about their influences, the collection and future plans.

You’re the first Jefferson fashion design alum to be recognized by the CFDA. How does it feel to be in the same company as the most well-respected designers in the industry?
Thrilling and validating. When you look at the other people on this platform, it’s the industry’s heavy-hitters, as well as up-and-coming designers, entrepreneurs and artists. It’s amazing to see such a prestigious entity acknowledge the emerging generation. Plus, we can use this platform in our careers as we create new collections and unveil new products.

Can you give us some background about yourself and how you got interested in fashion?
I grew up in rural New Jersey with two older brothers and a keen interest in art. I always was effervescent and unapologetically myself, and I enjoyed experimenting with my physical identity through dress-up. I have my family to thank for that.

I was raised in a super-supportive environment conducive to letting me play around with my identity and interests. I could dabble in many facets of fine art, such as ceramics, paints, pastels and 3D forms. All these different mediums led me to fashion. Fashion always had been at the back of my mind. Then, during my senior year of high school, I took my first fashion course and everything seemed to click.

The Council of Fashion Designers in America featured Lucas Circello as part of its Emerging Designer Graduate Showcase during New York Fashion Week.

Tell us about “HAUS of Camp” and the inspiration behind this collection.
I’m a femme-presenting, non-binary queer person. I wear my identity with so much pride and have so much love for my community. Going into my senior year at Jefferson, I wanted to challenge myself with new design techniques but also pay homage to the community of queer folk. This collection is a message of self-expression and self-love, as well as a love letter to all the queer pioneers who paved the way for queer folk today. It’s a declaration that fashion and art are for everyone.

The collection started as a sociological study I did on the queer community, specifically during the 1980s. It was a difficult time with the rise of the AIDS epidemic and the stigma around being queer. Queer youth at the time sought haven in the Harlem ballroom scene. (The Vogue dance style originated here, and the FX series “Pose” captures the essence of the ballroom scene.)

Lucas Circello models a piece from their collection
After graduating in May, Lucas Circello enrolled in Jefferson’s MS in international fashion design management program with a focus on entrepreneurship.

Through my research, I found parts of myself in those who came before me. The collection helped me further define myself as a designer, who I am intrinsically and how I want to present myself and be remembered. It ended up evolving, unintentionally, into this discovery of self-identity.

My collection is six looks: the club kid, the master of ceremonies, the drag queen, the house mother, the butch queen and the femme queen. For each one, I represented a specific persona pertinent to the community’s history but not often celebrated in contemporary media. It was important for me to showcase the categories of people who would go to these balls and make up the community at large.

How did Jefferson give you the skills to excel as a fashion designer?
The program builds you from the ground up. Starting with childrenswear, moving into eveningwear and then tackling larger projects and niche markets helps formulate a sense of self.

You try everything, and by the time you finish your first three years, you have a better understanding of where you lie within that market space and where you want to fall.

Lucas Circello models a piece from their collection

Lucas Circello models the house mother look in their collection.

Where do you see yourself in the future?
After graduating, I knew I wanted to establish myself as a brand identity and a marketable asset. Grad school would provide that business edge. I’m currently enrolled in Jefferson’s MS in international fashion design management program, concentrating in the entrepreneurship track.

Although I love fashion and fashion always will be a part of who I am, I want to be seen as an artist. I hold art at such a high value, and I don’t mean that arrogantly. I want to establish myself as a man of all trades. I want to dip my hands into creative direction, as well as fine art and fashion design. I’m not putting myself into a box just yet.

See more of Lucas Circello’s work here.

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Design and Style