If dream becomes reality, Vista resident Genesis Alcantar’s name will one day be as well known in streetwear fashion as those of his heroes: Off-White’s Virgil Abloh, Burberry’s Riccardo Tisci and Gucci’s Alessandro Michele.
But first, graduation. Today, the 24-year-old first-generation college student will receive his certificate of achievement in fashion design from Palomar College.
Alcantar is among nearly 2,500 Palomar graduates scheduled to graduate this year with certificates or associate art degrees. About 500 will take part in this evening’s commencement ceremonies.
Alcantar found his way into fashion five years ago when he realized it would be a lot cheaper to make his own clothes than to buy the high-end menswear he craved. Now, designing and sewing clothes has become such a passion for Alcantar, he and a friend plan to launch their own design firm this summer.
“I just want to roll the dice and go full steam ahead,” he said.
Among those encouraging Alcantar’s dream is Rita Campo Griggs, who teaches fashion merchandising at Palomar.
“I see him as the future,” Griggs said. “After all of these years in the industry, you can spot students who are going to succeed and he has a really bright future ahead of him.”
Alcantar grew up in Vista, where he attended Guajome Park Academy, a charter school that encourages individualized learning. There, he said he was drawn to art classes, drawing, writing and storytelling.
When he was 19, Alcantar said he was scrolling through Instagram looking at fashion photos when he spotted an expensive silk bomber jacket by the Japanese design house Bape.
“As soon as I saw the jacket, I was in love with it, but it was $400,” he said. “I thought if I spent $400 on a single jacket, my parents would kill me. I’d kill myself. I figured there has to be a better way. This jacket had to be made by somebody, so maybe I could be that somebody.”
Over the next four months he bought a used sewing machine from a thrift shop, scrounged around for missing parts and spent an entire day just trying to figure out how to thread its needle. With training from Youtube videos, material from thrift shops and endless trial and error, he created his own version of the jacket within the year.
Alcantar said he wanted to attend fashion school in New York, but he was worried about the cost of the program and he feared getting lost amid the vast number of aspiring design students there. When he found the Fashion Merchandising & Design program at Palomar, it seemed a better fit.
“It was 10 minutes from my house, very inexpensive and it was really good,” he said. “The teachers were so nice and I found a small community there that I could be a part of.”
When he started at Palomar in 2015, Alcantar was one of just two male students in his advanced sewing class. Now the gender ratio is closer to 50-50.
Alcantar said that over the past three years he’s become much more adept at sewing, pattern-making and screen-printing his own textiles. His favorite material to work with is denim and he especially enjoys making jackets. His goal is to make streetwear and haute couture fashions for men, women and in unisex designs.
“Now I see a shirt someone’s wearing and I think about how it’s stitched and put together,” he said. “I’ll walk by somebody wearing something and I take an interest in that and use it as inspiration.”
With his certificate now in hand, Alcantar said he is looking for an apprenticeship at a fashion house so he can learn the business side of the industry.
He’s also planning to launch his own fashion company this summer with his best friend and fellow fashion enthusiast, Nay Zavala. The company will be called House of Paix. Paix is the French word for peace. Alcantar said he would like a portion of all sales to go toward international peace programs.
The duo plans to hold its first fashion show in September at Midnight Jack Brewing in Oceanside. They will show a combined 16 pieces. Details will be announced soon on their just-launched Instagram page instagram.com/houseofpaix.
San Diego County fashion designers often end up moving to L.A. for jobs in that city’s garment district, but Alcantar said he is hoping instead to stay within the local community.
“L.A. is definitely where all the jobs are at, but my goal is to make San Diego a bigger place for fashion and to be a part of that,” he said.