Article By: Piper Hale
Published: Oct 27, 2011
Thomas Gaddis, from Birmingham, Alabama, is working toward an M.F.A. in fashion at SCAD Atlanta, where he also earned a B.F.A.
Thomas Gaddis is an M.F.A candidate in the fashion program
. From a young age, he loved shopping and flipping through style magazines. His ambition to become a designer began to crystallize when, as a thin teenager, he was confined to shopping at the sole store that stocked his size. Frustrated by the restrictions in his wardrobe choices, Thomas began thinking about ways he could contribute to a fashion scene that offered style options to everyone. "I want to make clothing for a wide variety of people," says Thomas. "Everybody should just be able to go and pick up clothing. It shouldn't have been that hard for me."
His first foray into fashion was at seventeen, when he made a pair of pants without a pattern and without ever having used a sewing machine before. "They were just a little rinky-dink pair of pants," says Thomas, "but I swear I thought I was going to just die after that. I never imagined that I would go on to get my degree and then get my master's."
When Thomas began looking around for fashion degree programs, he was immediately drawn to SCAD. "I researched everything and I fell in love," says Thomas. "It was the only school that I really wanted to go to. It was the only school I actually applied to. I just knew this was where I was going to go."
As an undergraduate, he was able to see SCAD Atlanta
grow from its first day while he too developed as a designer. He transitioned from having almost no experience using sewing machines to suddenly having access to all of the technology in the fashion department's brand-new space. "The facilities are amazing," says Thomas. "There is really nothing we don't have. We have our garment printer, our plotter, our Gerber technology. We have a ton of sewing machines and dress forms. We have everything."
After Thomas completed his B.F.A., he decided to continue on at SCAD for his graduate studies. He briefly researched other graduate programs, but ultimately decided to stay at SCAD, partially to carry on working with the professors who already knew his work, and also because he had already established a small presence in Atlanta and didn't want to have to begin building a new professional network from scratch in an unfamiliar city. "Atlanta is a great place to be a new, upcoming designer," says Thomas. "If we were in New York, designers come a dime a dozen. Here is a much, much smaller community. So it's easier to network the gap here and meet different people that I might not be able to if I were in a bigger city."
Thomas enjoys how SCAD Atlanta's centralized location promotes constant interaction with other artists, both in the university and in the Atlanta community. "It helps me to expand my own aesthetic and to critique my own work," says Thomas. "I can see what someone is doing in another subject, like animation, for example, that might give me an inspiration for a new collection. That kind of great cross-over constantly puts new color palates and silhouettes on my radar."
While studying at SCAD, Thomas started HePaintz, a freelance business in makeup artistry, styling and photoshoot direction. His makeup work explores colorful and startlingly geometrical facades that tie back into the aesthetic present in his fashion designs. He is also interning at Maria Harper Designs, where he contributes to designs for Atlanta-based clients, including Fantasia, Music Soul Child and Tyler Perry. In one of his favorite projects, Thomas designed the stoning for what he calls "Cee Lo [Green]'s infamous gold robe" for the 2010 Soul Train Awards.
Thomas is currently dividing his time between his internship and work on his thesis, a collection that reflects his original purpose in getting into fashion. He is designing a line for the plus-sized market. He wants his garments to provide more options to a group he sees as drastically underserved, and to innovate in a market niche that historically has reused the same ideas constantly. "I don't want to go the route of the random muumuu," says Thomas. "I want it to be really fresh, really fun-trendy." After graduation, Thomas will work on his own line and continue in his mission to make fashion accessible to everyone.
View Thomas's fashion designs and HePaintz makeup portfolio.