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Cornelia Borgerhoff: Most Likely to Connect Cultures through Fashion

Cornelia Borgerhoff (aka Corie) grew up as the adopted daughter of a White family in Philadelphia. As a Black student at predominantly White private schools, Corie confronted racial stigmas at an early age. “It definitely was kind of a culture shock when I realized that I was being accused all the time of acting White,” she shares. 

Her love for fashion started when she learned how to sew at nine years old, ripping up her brother’s old clothes to turn them into something new. Corie’s brother, who is also Black, was always a big source of inspiration for her — from his outfits to the sports he played. 

Corie tells us none of that changed when she moved to New York to study fashion design. Her collections focused on using recycled materials, representing people of color, and creating pieces that were gender-fluid, influenced by her early obsession with her brother’s style. She thinks more brands should move in this direction but that “the world is changing a lot faster than I think the fashion industry is.”

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“I’m trying to make people have conversations with either the people who are wearing the garments or with the other people in their own lives.”

It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that Corie realized she could use her passion as a sort of “visual journal” to cope with and share her personal experiences around race. Fashion became a tool for her to explore those dichotomies in her identity and to challenge the racial stereotypes she’s dealt with throughout her life. But Corie also tries to put levity and humor into her work to make these themes more accessible (and just to have fun with it): “I don’t take myself too seriously, and my work doesn’t take itself too seriously.” This comes through in her use of bright colors, patterns, and pop culture influences. 

Corie graduated in May 2020. She hopes her work can continue “to connect people through shared experience” and inspire more Black representation in the fashion industry.

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