2013 alumnus creates a runway between art and awareness
Derek DeAndre (Matthews) ’13 went from watching “Project Runway” on TV to becoming a two-time semi-finalist on the show with his own designs. Born and raised in Birmingham, Ala., DeAndre’s supportive family pushed him to excel in all his endeavors. Pursuing a liberal arts education at Berea College sparked a dream that would take him not only down the runway, but to the creation of an artistic movement that promotes equality and social awareness.
DeAndre first became aware of Berea when his older brother, Brandon, began his first year at the College in 2005.
“I never planned on going myself,” DeAndre said.
Shortly after his brother enrolled, Carl Thomas ’78, Berea’s Birmingham admissions recruiter at the time, contacted him and explained the no-tuition promise.
Intrigued, he decided to participate in the Carter G. Woodson Diversity Weekend, which allows prospective students to get a glimpse into the lives of Berea College students of color. After visiting the campus that weekend, DeAndre knew Berea was where he was meant to be, and he met people he is still friends with today, he said.
Stepping onto campus in the fall of 2008, DeAndre chose to major in technology and applied design with a concentration in artisan studies. As the only major at Berea that combined elements of graphic design and photography, he knew his choice would pave his way for success.
“I’m a maker at heart,” DeAndre passionately explained. “I’ve always loved taking things apart and putting them back together. I’ve always loved to build and create, and that’s what was for me.” At a young age, he also developed a love for storytelling and won many county-wide writing contests for poetry and short stories.
The African Student Alliance and the Black Student Union were two clubs at Berea that put on annual fashion shows, which resonated strongly with DeAndre. He felt encouraged by the people he met and pinpoints the fashion shows as the catalyst for discovering what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. DeAndre also was encouraged by students like Victoria Wreh ’11.
“She inspired me to teach myself to sew,” he said. “She was another designer in the [College’s fashion] shows, and when I saw what she could do, I knew I wanted to do it, too.”
Reality TV also played a major role in exposing him to the world of fashion. He was particularly inspired by shows like “America’s Next Top Model” and “Project Runway,” which revealed to him that the fashion industry could be a viable career option.
DeAndre is now a 28-year-old freelance designer, graphic artist and photographer, and the CEO/founder of his own clothing brand Love & Osker. In May, he earned a master’s degree in human environmental sciences from the University of Alabama. One of his greatest accomplishments, though, is serving as the co-founder and managing partner for Magic City Fashion Week (MCFW) based in Birmingham.
Founded in 2017, MCFW aims to cultivate, connect and display Birmingham’s artistic community through fashion. MCFW seeks to both develop emerging designers and promote relationships with community partners to utilize fashion as a vehicle for change. In its first year, MCFW partnered with Birmingham AIDS Outreach for its inaugural multi-day event that took place during the week of the 76th Annual Magic City Classic, an annual American football “classic” that features Alabama A&M University and Alabama State University.
DeAndre explained that the mission of MCFW is to fill a void in the creative community in Birmingham while also raising awareness for HIV. It is a platform for talented people to express themselves artistically through fashion, advocate for social change and promote diversity. This inevitably educates the community.
“We believe that art—specifically fashion—has the power to send important messages that could otherwise go unheard. Over time, advocacy and community outreach has intertwined itself into the DNA of Splashed by DKG, and Magic City Fashion Week is a direct result of that.”
Splashed by DKG is a luxury street-wear brand based in Birmingham, founded by Daniel Grier and run by him and DeAndre.
“I’ve created a platform for other people to grow and showcase their talents,” he said. “I’ve been a contributor, and that’s what’s most important to me.”
In addition to his appearances on “Project Runway,” DeAndre has dressed celebrities and has had his clothing showcased on national television. He is looking forward to the 2019 Magic City Fashion Week Season III.