Senior Designer Char’nae Davis Is Clothes Minded Creating For CAU’s First Virtual Reality Exhibition

Joshua Burrell, Features Editor

You don’t have to be a fashionista to miss mixing fits and making walkways your runway. The Clark Atlanta University (CAU) Fashion Department didn’t miss a beat when they released their First Virtual Reality Senior Exhibition on April 28, 2020. We talked to clothes-minded Senior Designer and Creative Director for the exhibit, Char’nae Davis, about what brought her designs and the futuristic “Fashion, To Go Please!” exhibition to life. 

“It was a collective idea,” Davis said. “My colleague (Ga’tonia “Gigi” Hayward) came up with the virtual reality experience and I decided it should be a 3D fashion show through Sims.” 

Closing the Atlanta University Center’s (AUC) on-campus living had a greater effect than displacing students and restructuring academic life. Engagements planned through the semester were promptly canceled. That meant, or so assumed, that the annual CAU Senior Fashion Exhibition was also canceled. While all non-essential businesses were and are closed in lieu of the COVID-19 pandemic, CAU’s Fashion Department was motivated to keep moving forward.

“Honestly, fashion in the future is innovation. Technology gives fashion a safe space to make anything and be accessible,” Davis said.

Campus shutdowns made funds a daunting obstacle for the 12 CAU Fashion Department seniors. Usually, the CAU fashion department will support senior exhibitions with allocated funds. Since the campus was closed, the funds were there, yet students didn’t have access to them because they couldn’t physically meet. This set back was the springboard for the virtual show.

Surprisingly, inspiration stemmed from the popular simulation game, Sims, and a Facebook forum for Black people who play the game. After finding modifications that resembled the Fashion Department seniors’ designs, skin tones, hairstyles, and body types, they hired an International 3D Designer to create their models for the exhibition. At that point, the last thing they had to worry about was the near $100 price they accrued. 

“We came out of pocket $10 each,” Davis said. “You ever work for a project so hard that you don’t see the dots connecting, but when you’re done you how everything comes together? It’s beautiful honestly.”

The virtual fashion exhibit exercised making fashion accessible and free. 

“People put parameters on fashion that make it more of a business than fun. It’s times like this that I believe people shouldn’t put price tags on everything.”

Char’nae Davis knows, although being creative is a 24-hour job, that it should be fun at the end of the day. Read more on our conversation, lightly edited for content and clarity, as it follows below.


JB: What inspired your set?
CD: Physically my relationships and (I) inspired my set. I was able to see my insecurities but come out stronger with more clarity. All of my clothes have contradictions: that’s essential to my design process. 


JB: What made you choose Kanye West’s “Lost In The World” as the backdrop for your set?

CD: I heard it for the first time two years ago when I studied fashion in New York. I would runway walk through the subway with this song in my ears and imagine how I wanted models to walk while wearing my clothes. I knew I wanted this song to be in my shows since that day and I here we are now.

JB: Why did you choose “CATHARSIS”?
CD: Everything I create stems from real-life experiences that I’ve gone through. Me releasing this was a release for me and it intertwined with how I love other people and my self. It was a release of the old me. That’s why I’m timid about my execution because I know it’ll bring strong emotions to people. Sometimes I feel that it’s too much.


JB: My favorite piece was the last piece based around “Anxiety.” Could you share how you came up with the design for it? 

CD: The anxiety piece was a lace bodysuit over the mouth. It’s the idea that anxiety in relationships can be very hidden and unsure. Sometimes people are anxious to understand or let go. That’s why half of the face is visible and the other isn’t.  The feather represents how light your approach can be to manage your angst. A simple way of dealing with (angst) can be breathing and being present. 


JB: How do you think fashion will look in the future? 

CD: With the collaboration of fashion and technology, everything will be more custom and specific to whoever. If a designer wanted to create something that day, they can as long as technology makes it accessible. The fact that I could send (our 3D Designer) a picture through the internet, she make it digitally on an app, then send it back to me in multiple file-formats is exactly what I mean.


Watch the CAU Fashion Department Virtual Reality Senior Exhibition s/s2020 here.