The fashion industry relies on the ideas of new designers to keep the industry fresh and exciting. Every year it seems like new names are emerging and creating fresh looks we can’t wait to get our hands on. However, these new designers may find it hard to gain exposure while in the shadow of big name designers. That’s why 303 Magazine will be going from coast to coast to give you a first look at new and emerging talent.

Eleonore Santos and Ben Cherng-Hann Lee are both graduating seniors at the Academy of Art University located in San Francisco. With their graduating show coming up the two are hard at work completing their current collections. While both designers seem to have a fascination with color and art, their designs vary in very unique ways. We sat down with both designers to discuss their aesthetic, influences, and future plans.

  Ones To Watch: Eleonore Santos and Ben Cherng-Hann Lee

Eleonore Santos 


Photograpy by Bob Toy

Eleonore’s designs play with color and conceptual being. She draws influences from art when designing, experimenting with shape and structure. Gary Miller has been a driving force behind Santos’ coming of age as a young designer. She sought council in him, showing him abstract ideas for projects and pages of wild sketches. “He would never tell me to pull myself back,” she told 303 Magazine. “I think that the timing of doing my senior thesis on Francis Bacon and having Gary as my teacher was perfect, he really helped to shape that collection and me as a designer. “

303 Magazine: Your designs looks fluid and seem to have a Japanese influence. Did you look at Japanese designers or traditional clothing at all in creating this collection?

Eleonore: I did not. But that’s not the first time someone has told me that. I looked mainly at Francis Bacon paintings, I watched his interviews, I did a lot of reading. In terms of clothing research, much of it was very hands on with draping directly on a mannequin.

Your designs are full of color and seem to emulate spring/summer seasons. Do you always tend 041515_71towards color in your design?

Elenore: In my designs I love color. Color brings life to everything. For this collection, myself and my textile designer, Anna Metzel, really paid attention to how and where Bacon would use his color. If you look at his paintings, at first glance the work seems dark and disturbing, his figures can be really grotesque. It is only when you step back you notice the lilac purple back ground and many shades of pink and pastel greens, all these lovely candy colors, the work is no longer dark. Even in his interviews, he doesn’t mean for his works to be disturbing, yet they are.

What plans do you have after graduating from AAU?
Eleonore: I am moving to New York in June for an internship with Yigal Azrouel.
How has living in San Francisco influenced your art and design?
Eleonore: You need to live in a place like San Francisco to get inspired. It is getting really gentrified now, which is good for some, but not for me. It seems like most of the interesting people have gone or are in hiding. Perfect timing for me to move.
Where would you like to be in ten years?
Eleonore: Paris.

Ben Cherng-Hann Lee


Ben is a diverse menswear designer whos not afraid to break boundaries. When we asked him about his design aesthetic he responded: “For me, I find beauty in many different objects. No matter what kind of thing it is, if I really want to look at it I can find its beautiful part. I think my style is simple; I want my designs to be simple and wearable for people.” You can certainly see these aspects in his most recent collection. The use of non-traditional fabrics such as lace for menswear creates a sense of luxury. Like many young designers after graduation Ben plans on making the trek to New York to observes designers first hand.

041515_43What major influences have affected your design?

Ben: I was in fine art major before I began studying fashion, so I think sculpture, sketch, and oil painting inspired and helped me a lot.

How has living in San Francisco influenced your art and design?

Ben: Living in San Francisco really give me a fresh feeling. Since I came here, I have seen huge diversity in peoples’ styles. I think it’s because San Francisco is so international, many of the residents come from different countries. They bring their attitudes from their home countries and merge that with what already exists in San Francisco, creating a new feeling. If I have spare time I love to people watch and see all of the different things people here wear; it’s so interesting to me.

Where would you like to be in ten years?

Ben: I hope in ten years have a good design team and have a studio. I would love to have my own brand in the future—not just a place to show my fashion collection, but I also want to share my other art, like drawing, through that studio space. When I envision people coming to my future studio/store, they can look at garments but also see other beautiful art.

Your collection seems to be driven by structure. Is this something you plan to continue in your designs? The colors are also quite monochromatic, do you have interest in playing with color?

Ben: For me, I feel structure and simplicity are the strongest parts of my design taste. Although my graduation collection is menswear, I would love to use this same simple, structured approach on womenswear. Because I feel there are more and more strong women in the world, I hope my designs can convey their strong attitude.

If I have some more time, I think I will play around some color on my collection. owever, I also feel excited to see model wear this monochromatic version. Because of the monochromatic palette I chose I feel my collection has gotten stronger.

Was menswear always your main focus? Would you have any interest on producing womens garments in the future?

Ben: I like to see women wearing suit jackets, or long tailored coats. And I feel my designs also work on womenswear, so I think I definitely will try my design on womenswear in the future!