Typically, around this time of year, the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) hosts its annual Future of Fashion runway show, a professionally-produced event that spotlights the work of top graduating fashion design BFA students. Like every other fashion school, though, the New York City institution had to pivot to create a virtual version for its 2021 graduates. 

Despite the challenges this past year brought to design schools and their students, there was no shortage of creativity among these hardworking designers, and at FIT, they were awarded for it: Out of over 200 students, 12 were chosen as Critic Award Winners by a panel of designers and experts working in the industry — Jussara Lee, Haidee Findlay-Levin, James Thomas, Kobi Halperin, Megan Renee, Sophie Theallet, Sergio Guadarrama of Celestino Couture, Jessica Ly of ML Monique Lhuillier, Jane Woolrich of Jane Woolrich Couture, WGSN Head of Kidswear Erin Rechner, Stacey Tester of Coach and Victor Glemaud. Each one helped students complete their collections during their final semester, and selected their own top designer.

"Kerrigan's work is relevant to what’s happening in fashion and what's happening to us as a society," said Halperin of graduate Kerrigan Steger, who focused on comfortable, contemporary clothes with an eye towards sustainability and inclusivity. "I feel his work demonstrates his keen insight and thoughtfulness. The results represent his handwriting and vision as a designer."

Theallet chose Rian Core, who took inspiration from Native American art in a thoughtful way. "She chose Maria Martinez, an amazing Native American artist and her beautiful black-on-black ceramics," said Theallet. "I love the way she approached her work without copying anything, but only by getting inspired, with lots of love and respect."

Lee's pick was Abraham Azamy, who was inspired by the art of undressing: "Abraham's idea is simple, but quite innovative. Subtlety and effortlessness are rare qualities in the world of abundance and exaggeration we live in and Abraham was able to capture that."

See and learn more about all of their final looks — and those of all 12 winners — in the gallery below. And view students' digital portfolios, and a special "Runway From Home" fashion video, here.

Never miss the latest fashion industry news. Sign up for the Fashionista daily newsletter.