Rashida Birdlong – Senior Thesis Project 2021

Major: BFA Knitwear Design

Hometown: Berkeley, California

I am an African American woman born and raised in Berkeley, CA. I grew up spending a lot of time with my grandparents, and my grandmother introduced me to crochet and sewing. I pulled away from this hobby for years until entering the Academy of Art for Fashion design, where I rediscovered my interest in knitting and crochet during my semester in Introduction to Knitwear.

My thesis collection is inspired by protest signs and the current state of America, specifically the BLM protest surrounding George Floyd and Breanna Taylor’s murders. The visuals used are bold and represent the mindset of the person wearing it. My concept was to create a garment that makes a statement like the powerful mantras on protest signs. I used natural yarns like merino wool and cashmere. The technique I use throughout my collection to create the patterns is Intarsia knitting.

What makes my collection unique is that it’s entirely knit with fully fashioned techniques and joined by hand stitches. The inspiration is personal to me as a Black woman in America, and I couldn’t help but be inspired by the crazy year that 2020 was: from the blatant racism by police and “Karen’s” to the pandemic, which had us all quarantined at home. In response to that came Poetic Justice, my collection of easy-to-wear clothing that makes a statement with its graphics and 3-dimensional draping.