Clark Atlanta University fashion design students Niambi Davenport and Lenora Gray are being lauded for their heart-wrenching Holocaust memorial dress, created in honor of Jewish fashion designers who were killed during World War II. Davenport and Gray constructed the dress from paper and adorned it with shards of plexiglass inscribed with the names of those persecuted Jewish designers. It was unveiled in January at the “Can You Fashion It” event commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Holocaust, and the end of Nazi rule in Germany.
“The reaction was one of amazement,” said Davenport, referring the emotional response from those who witnessed the unveiling of the elaborate creation. “No one could believe the dress was made with paper.”
The destruction of Jewish fashion houses by the Nazis during World War II became known as Kristallnact, which translates to a night of broken glass. On this fateful night, fashion houses were ransacked and burned to the ground. It’s one of the reasons the CAU design duo chose to embed shards of plexiglass in the fabric of the dress.
“The dress symbolizes a lot of pain, but the beauty of it is amazing,” remarked co-creator Gray. She said she was at a loss for words at the response to their work. “To know the significance of Jewish designers in the fashion industry, and to know that was unjustly taken away from them, it really hurt me,” she continued.
The impact of the dress was so profound its creators have been invited to present it March 29 at CAU’s Center for Undergraduate Research and Creativity Symposium. Next, the Goethe-Zentrum/German Cultural Center is partnering with the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust to sponsor a traveling exhibit for the dress throughout the state beginning April 27. And, perhaps the most exciting of all are efforts to raise enough funds to display the dress in Germany.
“It’s an amazing feeling to know something I helped create was liked so much they want the world to see it,” said Davenport.
The Holocaust memorial dress was created under the tutelage of senior lecturer Cynthanie Sumpter in CAU’s Department of Art and Fashion. This is the latest in a long string of success stories emanating from Art and Fashion, one of the fastest growing majors at CAU, and one of the few such programs among HBCUs nationwide. It builds on President Ronald A. Johnson’s theme of “Lifting Every Voice” for all CAU students.
For more information about the Holocaust memorial dress, contact Prof. Sumpter at 404.880.8122. To give in support of efforts to display the dress in Germany visit https://invest.cau.edu/give-now.