Fashion Forward: Kenli Mays is blazing her trail with unique designs

Fashion Forward: Kenli Mays is blazing her trail with unique designs

VU Fashion major Kenli Mays

March 21, 2022

By University Relations Student Journalist Josie Kidder

Sewing different, unique fabrics together to create a custom statement piece and displaying it to others is what drives Kenli Mays’ passion for fashion.

The Vincennes University Fashion major's favorite style to design is Y2K fashion. She loves the many influences she can create with this style, adding bits of alternative, hip hop, and pop to her clothing.

Although the Indianapolis native loves the statement Y2K fashion makes, she said her favorite garment she has made so far at VU would be an iridescent purple and green with a black-based mesh marabou robe with feathers attached around the trim of the sleeve and the base of the robe.

Mays modeling the marabou robe she designed and created
Mays modeling the marabou robe she designed and created

Her interest in fashion started when Mays read a Barbie fashion book in the third grade. Her desire only grew stronger when she designed sketches in middle school and then turned her designs into reality when she made clothes in high school.

As a Fashion major, Mays learns all about the world of patchwork and how to assemble enticing and stylish clothing.

“In our sewing classes, we usually focus on sewing samples, learning different techniques, and how to press different samples,” she says. “For my history of costume class, we're learning about different eras of fashion, and in textiles, we do a lot of labs. We test fabric, learn fiber content, and learn what we can do with different fabrics.

“It’s a very diverse set of courses. VU gives you everything you need to learn about your future career, and the teachers are super helpful and nice.”

Students participate in the Family and Consumer Sciences Fashion Show at the end of every fall semester. They stitch fabric together to make new and exciting garments and then model them for other students to see. Mays participated in VU’s Fall 2020 and 2021 virtual fashion shows.

“My favorite part of them is creating garments into what you imagined them to be and seeing how they turn out in the end. I also loved seeing how everyone else’s outfits turned out,” Mays says.

One garment Mays has been working on recently is a halter top. She made the halter top out of an old jean jacket she acquired several years ago. She is practicing her knitting skills, so she can put them to the test this summer and create more clothing items.

“Toward the end of the semester, we will have a bigger project where we start working on our garments. We usually have to design a bottom garment with a top or a dress or a one-piece. It’s cool whenever you can make what you want, and you can showcase it to everybody else.”

Mays plans to blaze her path after she graduates in December of 2022 by continuing her educational journey at Columbia College of Chicago.

Her dream is to craft her own innovative clothing brand.

“The type of fashion I want to incorporate into my brand is urban and streetwear because it is a more realistic concept that I feel people could relate to and want to wear," Mays' says. "Many times, the chic runway fashion that people see in magazines can be intimidating or unappetizing."

After classes, Mays spends time peer mentoring or helping with student events. She's diving into more fun-filled activities and upping her participation in campus life. She hopes to start a fashion or styling club.

“Last semester, I was a peer mentor for Collaborative Opportunities for Postsecondary Education (COPE). I volunteered for Blazerpalooza and attended the lunch-in for first-generation students. It was fun.”

Fashion is a constant thread that runs throughout Mays’ entire day.

Even when hanging out in her dorm room, she creates new, chic designs to expand her portfolio.

“I usually do homework, sketch out outfit designs, and look at how to recreate my old clothes. My favorite garments to make are dresses. I like to step out of the box sometimes and add my own dazzle to it to make it my own. Last year, I made a mesh robe that took a while, and it was one of my favorite pieces.”

Learn more about VU's Fashion Degree