MODA Blog

2019 Designer Profiles: Kira Leadholm

2019 Designer Profiles: Kira Leadholm

Every year, the MODA Fashion Show wraps up winter quarter with the perfect homage to student talent, hard work and creativity. In anticipation of the show, we have been interviewing some of the designers involved in this year’s show. Meet Kira Leadholm, a 4th year and the director of our Designer Boot Camp program.


What are some sources of inspiration for your collection?

I’ve been very influenced by streetwear and pop art for this collection. Two of my looks incorporate pop art-like imagery, but not in the traditional sense. I use an image—red lips—that is commonly associated with women as sex objects. By incorporating this into my collection, I hope to reclaim this image, and with it, the notion that women can be sexually appealing and empowered at the same time. The street-wear aspect of my collection comes from my fabric choices. I’m using a lot of denim, fleece, jersey, and velvet.

I think there is a conception among designers—albeit a changing one—that models are like blank canvases, solely present to exhibit art pieces. That’s what mannequins are for, not people.

Have you ever done fashion design work before? What are some of the most challenging and rewarding aspects of the process?

I’ve been designing since I was old enough to hold a pencil, and I’ve sewn for the MODA show for three years now. The most challenging aspect is definitely unexpected difficulties—seams that don’t line up, garments that don’t fit your models, or finding you don’t have enough fabric. These snags seem like the end of the world, and you need to be innovative to figure out how to work around them. The most rewarding part of the process is the show. Seeing so many people in the UChicago community come to support the designers’ work is humbling and indescribable.

Kira’s first look.

Kira’s first look.

What are you looking forward to most about the show? 

This will be my last MODA show, and my parents are going to attend. My mom came to my first show, but my dad has never seen my work on the runway. I’m looking forward to sharing this experience with them.

Who do you have in mind when you’re designing? 

Myself and my models. I always aim to stay true to my design instinct, even when the process doesn’t go as planned. And when I’m sewing, I consider whether the piece will complement my models. I think there is a conception among designers—albeit a changing one—that models are like blank canvases, solely present to exhibit art pieces. That’s what mannequins are for, not people. Of course I want my designs to speak for themselves, but the objectification of models is too dangerous to acquiesce to. Instead, I try to integrate the models into my collection. That’s why I keep them in mind when I’m making my garments, so that model and garment can unite in harmony.

Kira’s second and third looks in her collection.

Kira’s second and third looks in her collection.

If you could give yourself any advice on the design process, what would you say to your younger self?

Patience and diligence. Going slow and sewing something once is so much better than starting over multiple times.

What’s your favorite aspect of the design process? 

The realization of my pieces. I enjoy every step of the way, but the best part is when everything comes together, and my 2D designs manifest as 3D creations.


 Feature image courtesy of Aisha Rubio.

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