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Student designer, Robertson Scholar paves own path to study fashion


UNC student and designer Juniper Rakhman Gerardi poses for a portrait in the Forest Theater on Oct. 30, 2023.

Juniper Rakhman Gerardi has long been on a path toward fashion.

When they were young, they learned to knit and sew from their family. During high school, they began to work more with Indigenous beadwork. 

But it was during a summer in college spent working at a glamping resort in Maine when Rakhman Gerardi decided they would make fashion their career.

The senior is a Robertson scholar, meaning they are dual enrolled at both UNC and Duke University. They created their own area of study, fashion and apparel design, through the interdisciplinary studies major at UNC, combining courses from drama, media and journalism and studio art departments.

Already, Rakhman Gerardi is building up an extensive resume. They spent the past summer in South Africa, designing a line for an established brand called Ginger Mary. The brand is influenced by the many cultures of South Africa, a detail that Rakhman Gerardi highlighted in their designs.

"As I was developing this collection, I was both using my own creativity as well as trying to think, ‘How can I honor Ginger Mary's heritage as a brand and the symbols that their customers expect from them while giving us something new?’" Rakhman Gerardi said. 

The collection was made up of three subcollections, called Creatively Capetonian, Boudoir Dressing and Elevated Basics. 

Creatively Capetonian focused on the heritage of Cape Town and its many cultures. Boudoir Dressing reflected on recent trends in fashion, like corsets and slip dresses. Elevated Basics was their unique take on staple pieces like t-shirts and tank tops.

Personal style is something very important for Rakhman Gerardi, as they said it reflects so much of a person’s character and beliefs. They design for people who value vintage and artistic pieces, and aren’t afraid to shy away from a unique statement.

"They’re very much a fashion inspiration, because I used to be someone who really sticks to trends a lot, like my Pinterest boards and my TikTok stuff," Jemmie Chinje, a photographer and model who worked with Rakhman Gerardi on their collection for Ginger Mary, said. "But just even looking at Juniper's wardrobe, I would say it's very inspiring because they really just do whatever the hell they want."

Coming from a mixed heritage background of Mi’gmaq, Jewish and Italian, multiculturalism is also heavily influential in Rakhman Gerardi’s independent designs.

"I would say that my design is — it's shaped by who I am," Rakhman Gerardi said. "It's shaped by the ancestors that make me who I am, as well as all of the places I've had the chance to visit, and places I haven't had the chance to visit, that I've heard about through fashion history studies, through costume studies, through looking at designers from the past several centuries, that sort of thing."

On their mother’s side, Rakhman Gerardi is a part of the Listuguj Mi’gmaq First Nation in Canada. They’ve participated in groups on campus like the Carolina Indian Circle and built a supportive community within the American Indian Center. 

"I'm always happy to see Juniper smile," Qua Adkins, the Native student engagement coordinator at the AIC, said. "They just kind of light up the room when you're around them."

Sustainability is also an important value in Rakhman Gerardi’s design work. Their designs are crafted mostly from sustainable materials like vintage or second-hand garments and textiles.

"I have a love for textiles and for fashion, but also, I love nature and the outdoors," Rakhman Gerardi said. "And I know that the fashion industry is one of the largest polluters of the planet that there is, so that's a trend that I'm trying to work against while also being able to make something unique and artistic."

Ultimately, their goal is to start a brand of their own or creative direct at another brand. As of right now, Rakhman Gerardi is working on a new collection of fully upcycled garments to be released in the spring. 

They will hold a fashion show for the collection on campus and it will be available to purchase through Rakhman Gerardi’s brand, Little Rabbit Boutique


@dthlifestyle |

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