Alumna makes creative strides in the fashion industry working with high-profile figures

Fashion designer Jessica Holt poses with Lil Nas X’s group of background dancers at the 2021 VMA awards. Holt helped create some parts of the costumes worn by the artist and his dancers. Photo courtesy of Jessica Holt

Hadia Moosvi, Contributing Writer

Since the age of 12, VCU alumna Jessica Holt loved to experiment with sewing, clothes, accessories and colors. She now lives in New York City, where she’s helped create pieces for the MTV Video Music Awards, New York Fashion Week, the Met Gala and American Vogue. 

Holt studied fashion design at VCU and graduated in 2019. She moved to New York City in February, and is currently interning for fashion designer Christopher John Rogers, who has created pieces for Beyoncé, Vice President Kamala Harris and Miley Cyrus. 

“It’s been crazy how fast things have been happening here [New York City,]” Holt said. “I think my biggest lesson that I’ve learned from all of this is that good work is rewarded with more work. And that’s basically how I’ve been getting each opportunity.”

Jessica Holt stayed with her sister, Danielle Holt, for a month in Villanova, Pennsylvania. There, Jessica Holt found out about the Christopher John Rogers job opportunity, according to Danielle Holt.

“She got the notification about the opening, and she just went ham. She did everything to apply,” said Danielle Holt. “I think within two or three days they had called her and told her like, ‘You got the job,’ so she just went to New York.”

Jessica Holt said she got the opportunity to help with rapper Lil Nas X’s VMAs performance costumes in September on behalf of the Christopher John Rogers brand.

“I was at [the Christopher John Rogers brand], and I was there late working on something. My boss, David, got a phone call,” Jessica Holt said. “I hear him mentioning, ‘Oh I know the perfect person.’ So he gets off the phone and basically he said he was talking to Lil Nas X’s stylist, and she needed somebody to help out with the costumes.” 

The weekend after receiving the phone call, Jessica Holt said she was helping bedazzle undergarments and shirts for Lil Nas X and his team of dancers. 

Jessica Holt said she also got the opportunity to hand paint a glove for fashion editor Eva Chen’s Met Gala outfit, and she embellished a wool slip dress worn by model Bella Hadid for the September cover of American Vogue, on behalf of the Christopher John Rogers brand. 

“I did not know it was going on Bella Hadid. Honestly, I didn’t even know it was on the cover until I was on the train and Christopher [John Rogers] posted it on his Instagram,” Jessica Holt said. “I’m looking at my phone and I’m just screaming.”

Jessica Holt also works as a product development assistant for a fashion consulting company, Lenese Calleea Apparel Consulting, and she recently wrapped up an internship with a fashion agency known as Harlem Fashion Row. 

Jessica Holt said she helped with pieces in this year’s New York Fashion Week alongside Harlem Fashion Row.

“That was my first time working a big show. It was super exciting,” Jessica Holt said. “It was amazing just to be able to work on it from behind the scenes and then see it come to fruition.”

Jessica Holt’s childhood sewing teacher, Margaret Garland, said she started to teach Jessica Holt how to sew in middle school. Garland owns a sewing school called Sewfabulous.

Garland said Jessica Holt was always willing to enhance her skills during sewing class.

“Jessica [Holt] always loved to learn new things. So when she got into sewing, and she got into my wing, it didn’t make a difference if she made a mistake with something,” Garland said. “She just kept showing me that this was something that she wanted to do.”

Jessica Holt said she went on to study digital fine arts at George Washington Carver Center for the Arts and Technology, a magnet high school in Baltimore, Maryland. 

When it came time for her to apply to college, Jessica Holt realized the closest options to digital fine arts would be graphic design or illustration.

“I was like, neither of these are what I want to do,” Jessica Holt said. “Something just kind of clicked and I was like, well, fashion is what I’ve always been passionate about.”

The alumna said she chose VCU for its fashion design program and the opportunity to create a fashion collection in the program’s senior thesis. 

The VCUarts fashion program pushed her creatively as a designer, according to Jessica Holt. During her time at VCU, she created a six-piece collection called Aposematism as a part of her senior thesis, which was centered around the theme of self-protection and vibrant colors inspired by poison dart frogs. 

The process of creating the collection was tedious, according to Jessica Holt. The process involved different rounds of cutting, research, prototypes, sketches and experimenting with fabrics — but she felt rewarded when the final product was finished.

Hawa Stwodah, Jessica Holt’s senior thesis professor, said the alumna was a curious designer. During the creation of the senior thesis, Jessica Holt was open to new ideas and perfecting her work, according to Stwodah.

“We were able to expand on some of her experiences, what she was really trying to convey in the garments that she had developed,” Stwodah said. “I remember we were talking about her concept. It had to do with camouflage as a form of protection, so she was really interested in the patterns and shapes.”

The collection is displayed on Jessica Holt’s website along with her shop called On the Wave Durags, where she sells satin do-rags. She created the shop shortly after graduating, and said she wanted to start off small as she continues to network, build ideas and advance her skills.

“I’m hopefully planning to start developing more designs towards the end of this year, so that next year I can kind of hit the ground running a little bit more,” Jessica Holt said.

Jessica Holt said she hopes to make an impact in the fashion industry by increasing diverse representation. 

“I still feel like there’s a lack of representation in fashion, and when it comes to women being at the forefront,” Jessica Holt said. “Definitely to see more Black women in fashion, and I would love to be a part of that.”

Alumna makes creative strides in the fashion industry working with high-profile figures

Katheleen Knopf

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