Johnathan De La Cruz is a force to be reckoned with.
Majoring in Fashion Design with three minors: Photography, Merchandising and Sculpture, Johnathan De La Cruz also manages two jobs and all his schoolwork.
“I’ve always been a passionate person,” he says. So, when he started college, he said he wanted to explore everything, and that’s how he added a minor each year for my first few years in college.
As a fashion designer, Johnathan’s work focuses on sustainable designs inspired by the alarming rise in pollution caused by the fashion industry and a lack of biodegradable material being used.
“I’ve always used nature as my muse. But when I started college, I began questioning what I was giving back to the environment,” Johnathan says. “I was taking a lot, but what was I doing for the environment in return?”
Johnathan started incorporating more nature-friendly components into his designs, like decomposable fabric and natural dyes that eventually will return to earth. One of his designs shows the beauty of evolution with simple, white petals that slowly fall open to reveal the colorful, floral garment underneath.
One of his favorite designs is a lemon-colored suit with a surprising twist. Made from natural linen and dyed with liquid chlorophyll, the suit has chia seeds planted in the fabric, which grew into small plants, making the suit a ‘living’ garment and a breathtaking display of the beauty of nature.
“I knew I wanted to make a statement with my designs while spreading awareness about sustainability and how we need to preserve the beauty of nature.”
Johnathan’s enthusiasm to share his vision helped him organize numerous interactive workshops on sustainability and how to make natural dyes to use in clothing through the Fashion Design Department.
As a son of Mexican immigrants, Johnathan’s culture plays a huge role in his designs. Growing up, he struggled to find his identity between the two worlds of Mexican and American culture.
In our society, we're often defined by our culture, religion, sexuality and gender,” he says. “Although it can be empowering for you, growing up for me, it was also constraining, says Johnathan.
He felt free to grow into his own person only when he started college, he says, and credits the diverse student population at UNT for helping him embrace his heritage, which had long been an obstacle. To pay homage to his Mexican background, his most recent design features a corset dress made from corn husk woven using traditional Mexican methods and dyed with natural dyes native to Mexico.
Johnathan’s journey wasn’t completely smooth. Like many other students, he said the COVID-19 pandemic made him question his future and affected his mental health.
“It was scary being isolated, especially since I’ve always been a social butterfly,” Johnathan says. “I wasn’t used to being away from my family, but that time also allowed me to explore myself and think about who I truly wanted to be.”
This coming year, Johnathan is set to start an internship with the Texas Fashion Collection, where he will be doing research on how culture and gender influence fashion. In the future, he hopes to achieve his long-time goal of becoming a fashion design professor, just like Hae Jin Gam, associate professor, Fashion Design, who helped him bring his ideas to life.
“Being in college can be very easy to focus on your future and try to make your dreams into reality,” Johnathan says. “But I think it’s just as important to reflect within yourself and figure out the kind of person you want to be.”
Article by UNT UBSC staff writers, December 2022