While the pandemic has certainly placed challenges on the world, it has also served as a catalyst for people to find their true callings—or at least take a chance on themselves. Yeongran Hong is no exception, and the FIT graduate has been selected as the first-place winner of the Style Forward Challenge, a design opportunity presented through an FIT partnership with accessories brand Stella & Dot.
Hong, 33, graduated from FIT 10 years ago with a bachelor’s degree in International Trade and Marketing and an associate’s degree in Fashion Business Management, but she always believed she had what it took to be a designer. Hong was working for a textile company while living on the Upper East Side during the pandemic, and then she was furloughed. It was then she realized she should take a chance on herself and decided to return to FIT to earn a one-year associate’s degree in Fashion Design.
This time around, a design opportunity presented itself through accessories brand Stella & Dot, which partnered with the college to create the Style Forward Challenge. The challenge gave female students from ethnically diverse backgrounds the opportunity to create a three-piece jewelry collection. Open to students from all majors, the collaboration marks the first time Stella & Dot has engaged a college student to design a limited-edition collection. Hong saw the opportunity and applied without hesitation.
In April 2021, Hong was selected as the first-place winner. Her three-piece collection, inspired by minimalism and luxury, is available exclusively on the Stella & Dot website, beginning January 25. As the first-place winner, Hong will be receiving a royalty from Stella & Dot from the sales of her collection.
“I really love interior design, so I am naturally drawn to furniture, lighting, and hardware,” said Hong. “I like the combination of metal and acrylic. The concept started with a ‘ruffle,’ and I used enamel that mimics the feel of acrylic. Once I created the ruffle shape I liked, I reinterpreted it as earrings, a necklace, and pendant. The collection is reversible and can be worn on either side.”
Hong’s design was also influenced by Halston and Donald Judd, an American artist whose style focused on minimalism.
Hong was involved in the creation of the collection every step of the way, from ideation to meeting with Stella & Dot’s production team virtually and weighing in on the samples. Robin Baxter, assistant professor of Fashion Business Management, served as a faculty mentor for the Style Forward Challenge, providing Hong and other FIT students with thoughtful feedback as they created mood boards and concepts for their submissions and presentations. Stella & Dot also provided Hong with mentorship as the collection was in production.
“I am so glad I had this opportunity to be the designer. When I returned to FIT, I didn’t even know how to draw or sketch, and now I have designed a jewelry collection! I want women to feel empowered when they wear the pieces. I am incredibly grateful to Stella & Dot for working with me and bringing my creative vision to life,” said Hong.
She is currently living in Tokyo and next has plans to design a handbag line.