Juniper Rakhman Gerardi is a current senior here at UNC-Chapel Hill and at Duke University. Juniper is a part of the Listuguj Mi’gmaq First Nation and grew up in Fayetteville, New York, but home is where the rez (reservation) is. They are majoring in Interdisciplinary Studies with a minor in Anthropology Advertising/Public Relations with a certificate in Fashion Communications and Marketing. An education track such as this is atypical at these institutions; thus, Juniper took on the task of creating their own major with the guidance of academic advisors that allowed the focus to be on Fashion and Apparel Design.
Juniper is a Robertson Scholar, which allows them the unique experience to attend both UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke University. The Robertson Scholarship provides aid for two semesters of studying abroad and three summer experiences, in addition to aid for four academic years. Receiving this award granted them the resources to flourish in their dream of pursuing fashion. For Juniper, pursuing a higher education was something they always wanted to do. At an early age, they expressed interest in reading and a desire to know how the world works. They wanted to learn and explore new places, and the scholarship has given them the freedom to do so. Juniper previously traveled to South Africa and Italy, and most recently traveled to Nepal and South Africa once again. They completed two internships in addition to coursework in fashion history, fashion business, and menswear tailoring. They attribute their significant improvement as a designer to the compilation of these experiences.
Juniper remembers having an interest in fashion at a young age, but only as a hobby. It wasn’t until the summer after their freshman year of college that they fully started pursuing fashion. That marked the moment when Juniper began constantly thinking of fashion and art independently…and then fashion as a form of art. To Juniper, people indulge in fashion and art every day. They feel it is a way to express themselves and says a lot about who a person is.
Furthermore, Juniper shared that their long-term goal is to open their very own fashion brand. They wish to attend Central Saint Martins Art School in London to pursue a master degree in Fine Arts in Fashion Design. Juniper identified their biggest accomplishment in life to be when they designed and released their first fashion collection (photos below). Juniper hopes many Native and non-Native people will find pleasure from wearing their designs, seeing how there is a scarcity of Indigenous representation in the fashion world. Juniper hopes to serve in a role where they can uplift other Native artist and inspire youth to always follow their dream. Ultimately, Juniper hopes to return home to the rez where they can have their own studio and employ their tribal community members.
Juniper describes their time at UNC-Chapel Hill as exciting and often reflects on the strong relationships built with students in the Carolina Indian Circle (CIC) and staff at the American Indian Center (AIC) on campus. They indicated that finding a sense of community on campus felt tough at first, possibly due to them being from out of state, but they quickly felt right at home after connecting with the CIC and AIC. They are family that they can always lean on. Juniper often advocates the importance of maintaining space on campus where Native students can be the majority.
Authors: Jalyn Oxendine & Qua Adkins
Juniper’s First Fashion Line…