Wearing a woolen beret, leather jacket, black tie, cobalt-blue bell bottoms and platform patent loafers in front of Doe Library, Kode Delos Santos looked as though he had traveled through a time machine from the 1970s.
A UC Berkeley freshman studying media studies, journalism and Asian American studies, Delos Santos is part of the Fashion and Student Trends or FAST club, “a student-run nonprofit organization designed to bring the world of fashion to the University of California, Berkeley,” according to the group’s website. As one of FAST’s clothing designers, Delos Santos is currently crafting a piece for Metamorphosis, the theme for this semester’s fashion show taking place Sunday, April 9.
One of Delos Santos’ first memories of fashion was when he and his sister would play with Bratz Dolls, a line known for its stylized proportions and fashion-forward clothing in the 2000s. “I just started dressing up the dolls, I just found that entertaining,” said Delos Santos in an interview with The Daily Californian.
During his sophomore year of high school, Delos Santos began visiting thrift stores with his sister, becoming an avid thrifter in the process. While he admitted it is labor-intensive to look through racks and racks of clothing, it makes finding a piece that suits him and speaks to him all that more special. “I feel like I get a rush of dopamine or something,” Delos Santos said.
Besides the advantage of uncovering one-of-a-kind pieces, thrifting also helps Delos Santos limit his consumption of fast fashion, a production process that prioritizes mass production of recent catwalk trends and high fashion designs at the expense of the environment and laborers.
To further reduce his environmental impact, Delos Santos is working on adopting a personal principle. “Because my goal is to stop (engaging in) mass producing, I do want to only invest in three pieces a month and get rid of three pieces in my closet,” he said. This three in, three out policy will ensure that his wardrobe size remains sensible, while still allowing room for some experimentation and creative freedom.
When asked if he incorporates the latest fashion and style trends into his wardrobe, Delos Santos explained that he almost never buys into crazes due to the short nature of consumer cycles. Instead, he prefers to seek out items he genuinely likes, as opposed to giving into fads for the sake of being trendy.
“Some of them are not even timeless pieces,” he said. “I feel like there’s no point in spending money if it is just going to be hot for like three months.”
After a lifetime of exploring his fashion likes and dislikes, Delos Santos began to develop his own personal sense of style: one that is bold yet sophisticated.
“I feel like fashion in general is basically a representation of who you are. And for me, I like to stand out,” Delos Santos said. “My confidence comes within that fashion realm and playing with color theory.”
Initially beginning his exploration into different hues and shades by learning about the color wheel, a circle designed by Isaac Newton to visualize the relationship between different colors, Delos Santos now knows it by heart.
“When I am choosing my outfits, (the color wheel) just gravitates toward me,” he said. “I don’t know, it just happens to be a part of the color scheme when I’m wearing it.”
Delos Santos’ style cannot be captured by just one word. While the words “sophisticated” and “colorful” may seem like an unlikely pair, they aptly describe Delos Santos’ style — or at least what he aims for. “That’s the reason for my loafers and my ties and my bandanas around my neck,” he explained. “I feel like it gives me some sort of sophistication.
Alongside experimenting with his own personal style, Delos Santos is also starting to design original garments through his work in FAST. For the Fall 2022 season, he created a bandeau in the shape of interlocking hands. Interpreting this semester’s Metamorphosis theme as representing transformation, beauty and freedom, he is currently creating a corset, a garment intertwined with both oppression and empowerment.
Delos Santos plans to dedicate the bodice to Vivienne Westwood, a widely celebrated and respected punk designer who recently passed away at the age of 81. “I want to pay homage to her work because she was a designer that stood out to me the most and I want to dedicate my work for this semester to shout out to her.”
Confident in his own skin, Delos Santos wants everyone to know his piece is a representation of who he is. Thus, he decided to pick a masculine-presenting person to model a piece he himself would describe as feminine.
“It’s supposed to tell everyone, ‘I’m comfortable with my sexuality and my gender fluidity,’ and I feel like that’s perceived through my models.”