Tragedy changed the path of Jansen Garside, taking him from uncertainty to his true creative calling.

A 2021 graduate of Washington State University’s Department of Apparel, Merchandising, Design, and Textiles, Garside chose a career in design after the deaths of several close friends put life in deeper perspective. He honors their memories in part through his fashion creations.

“At first, fashion never really crossed my mind as a career,” Garside said.

When he arrived at WSU in the autumn of 2015, Garside planned to study neuroscience. Soon he started having second thoughts, particularly after shadowing several doctors who cautioned him about the challenge of balancing work with life.

The following summer, life changed forever. Three of his best friends were killed in a shooting at a party in Mukilteo, Wash.

“It made me think about the fragility of life, and how quickly it can all go away,” Garside said.

At the time, he was training as a residence advisor at WSU.

“It was tough going to school the day after the candlelight vigil for my friends, and trying to be supportive for students while I was finding it difficult to support myself,” he said.

Although he powered through his year as an advisor, Garside struggled with his mental wellbeing.

“I was really depressed and thinking about hurting myself, but I know I didn’t want any of that to happen.”

Garside needed a change to help him push through, and remembered that when he was expressing himself creatively, “that’s when I was the happiest.”

The following year, Garside studied abroad. He traveled throughout Europe, all the while thinking about the possibilities of a new path.

Visiting the Auschwitz Holocaust camps in Poland, he stopped to reflect on his worldview. It was then he decided to dedicate his life to making the world a brighter place through art.

“I need to create art that helps and can inspire people,” he said.

A model poses in a dress designed by Garside
Garside said he doesn’t normally feature patterns, but chose to challenge himself with his latest fashion pieces.

While he loved science, Garside decided he was repressing his creative side for a career, but not his calling.

“I need to fulfill my dreams in honor of my friends, because that opportunity was stripped away from them.”

Garside has been active in AMDT ever since he became a design major in 2018.

“He jumped into the program with so much energy and excitement, and is never afraid to look out for his classmates,” said AMDT Academic and Internship Coordinator Shanna Hiscock.

“I continue to be amazed at how fast he became a natural design student,” she added.

Although he considers his own fashion tastes very black and white, his spring 2021 collection, In Loving Memory, features colorful floral designs Jansen said are reminiscent of the flowers at his friends’ vigil.

Each morning Garside wakes up and visits a small shrine he created with mementos of the people he lost: wristbands, brochures from the funeral, and the speech he wrote for his best friend’s funeral.

“My inspiration from my collection came from my friends, and the desire to look towards the future by being inspired by my past.”

Garside graduated this May and will attend Accademia Costume & Moda in Rome, Italy starting in January of 2022.

“I want my designs to inspire people, and for people to realize that it’s not too late to change your path if you think that what you’re doing isn’t right for you,” he said.

“It can take years to figure that out. But it will be worth it in the long run. It’s what I did, and I’ve never been happier.”