Anne Kyrsten Cruz Cunanan (Fashion Design, ‘22) has always had a passion for fashion. Born and raised in L.A., Anne has been interested in fashion design since she was a little girl playing with transfer fashion Barbie plates, mixing and matching different tops and bottoms together.
“When I got bored of them,” she recalls, “I decided to add unique prints using stripes, shapes, and color blocking.”
Turning this beloved hobby into a career, however, proved to be a bit of a challenge for Anne’s parents to accept, the designer says. “In a Filipino household, the typical job we are destined to be is a doctor, nurse, accountant, or engineer,” she explains. “But I was driven to create change in my family. I did not want to be a cookie cutter so I could mainly be stable in my future — which is important — but I want to be happy in my life.”
When the mother of her closest friend — an alumna of Woodbury’s Architecture program — recommended the university to her, it felt like an immediate fit. She was drawn to Woodbury’s Fashion Design program because of the close relationships that students form with professors who encourage them to “not only get a job in the fashion industry but to have endless creativity; to really enjoy our time as students and to love what we are going to make as our career in the future.”
Some of Anne’s fondest memories of life at Woodbury center around days and nights spent in the studio at her sewing machine. “Playing music or having a show play in the background as I worked, watching the sun setting, enjoying the cool night breeze when the moon was shining and the stars were dancing, seeing the I-5 freeway getting into traffic at its usual morning rush hour — all of those moments flew over my head so quickly. Days became weeks and weeks turned into months,” she recalls. “Soon I was walking on stage to graduate. It was a wonderful journey, and I miss those times on campus.”
To this day, Anne is exceedingly proud of her Senior Collection, “The Imperial Jewel,” which was showcased in May 2022 at L.A.’s Petersen Automotive Museum. You can see it here, starting at 1:14:00. She describes the collection as “an odyssey of gems and jewels that go through the phase of metamorphism, but it is also a representation of myself and others. We are being pressured and tested through trials as we face them throughout life … it is one of the many benefits of attaining strength, endurance, and the beauty of development.” She enthuses: “The process of an entire year of work, from rough sketches to each look walking the runway, is a moment I want to relive again. In showing my creativity, how far I can go beyond my limits, making the impossible become possible, and showing my love and passion for this to become my career — all of it.”
After graduating in 2022, Anne quickly leveraged an opportunity she found on Instagram to work as a dresser for Coral Castillo, an LA-based designer who specializes in macrame and was featured on Project Runway Season 19.
While it was not a paid position, the experience was a great stepping stone that led to her current position as a freelance assistant designer at Glendale, CA-based Estilo Filipino working under Lou Razon, a designer with nearly two decades of experience in the pageant market.
This fall, the position presented Anne with an opportunity some designers only dream of: collaborating with Ms. Razon on a show-stopping dress she designed and created for the Miss USA 2022 Pageant and worn by Miss New Mexico contestant Suzanne Perez (shown below left). “The project took about a day and a half of work in draping, cutting, and sewing,” she recalls. “We both draped different parts of the dress, and I did the sewing of constructing the pieces together. I was able to add some input to the design, such as length and construction/technical aspects.”
This high-profile project was not only a thrilling opportunity (“I personally do love a spotlight moment!”), but it taught Anne some important lessons about pageant design strategies, such as selecting a color and silhouette that best complement the contestant and helps them stand out from their fellow competitors.
Currently, Anne is working on designs for a collection she plans to showcase in the next year or two, but for now, she’s still searching for her niche as a designer. “I am still on the journey of seeking my voice, for a part of me that speaks to the world by saying, ‘Oh, that’s Anne’s designs’ or ‘That’s Kyrsten Couture.’”
Next on the list of dreams and plans for this ambitious young creative are a master’s degree, a job in a high-profile fashion house, and eventually, her own line that she showcases at fashion weeks around the globe. She’d also love to create a yearly grant for another aspiring fashion design student — “some kind of money in helping them attain a dream, from designer to designer.”
What drives this up-and-coming designer to keep achieving? “My past self,” she reveals. “There are different versions of myself in the past, but one thing they all had in common is the dream of becoming a world fashion designer. She would be proud of who I am today. She would be excited to see that I am following my dreams and always dreaming bigger.”
Last Updated on December 16, 2022.