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designers WENDY COHEN and VARIOUS SAIDON with Alisa Caira

Wendy Cohen first met Various Saidon through a class collaboration in her Archaeology and Social Justice class with a Congolese refugee woman community. Wendy, as an artist herself, was interested in Various’ work as a designer. Various made a dress for Wendy and wanted to have these designs reach Brown and a greater community. Accordingly, the two began to work with Wendy as a facilitator to help Various’ designs reach a larger audience.

Various is a refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo but lived in South Africa before moving here. Before he moved, he studied fashion design in college in DRC. In South Africa, he opened his own sewing shop with the ultimate goal of making his own label. He describes wanting a unique look that is “good, smart, and happy.” In terms of inspiration, he looks towards his own life but is also inspired by each customer and their desires. Various also cites Italian boutiques and Pierre Cardin as industry influences. His process often stems from this collaboration and personalization, and he emphasizes that he believes there is something truly special in things that are custom-made.

For the future, Various sees himself continuing his work in this community that he only joined last year; he hopes to keep getting the word out about himself and his work through shows like this. He is enthusiastic about his diverse customer base, moving beyond any narrow ideas of fashion to create what is best suited for everyone around him.