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Fashion alum stuns on Grammy red carpet

Rapper Tierra Whack wearing colorful coat on Grammy red carpet

February 22, 2019

The 61st annual Grammy Awards saw no shortage of envelope-pushing fashions on the red carpet, but one of the most talked-about looks of the evening boasts a Drexel connection. Tierra Whack, hip-hop recording artist and North Philadelphia native, wowed in an ensemble designed by Westphal graduate Fashion Design alumna and award-winning fashion designer Nancy Volpe Beringer with images painted by Liz Goldberg, Fashion Design adjunct instructor and internationally recognized artist and animator.

Seen here in a slow-motion video by the Grammys’ Glambot, the multi-colored, faux-fur coat and full-length dress featuring illustrations of Cuban divas smoking cigars quickly went viral, even winding up on HuffingtonPost’s Best Dressed List for the evening. The story of the garment stretches back to last year, though, when it made its runway debut.

In October, Beringer designed the colorful coat for a fashion show benefit for Libertae, a non-profit organization that empowers women through addiction recovery services and community initiatives. Drexel Design & Merchandising alumna Emily Conlon and senior Daniella Pileggi managed the runway show, which traced the journey of someone in recovery through the evolution of color in the fashions showcased. When Conlon and Pileggi saw the brightly-colored faux fur in Beringer’s studio, they suggested a coat for the finale look.

After the show, the striking faux-fur coat was featured at Joan Shepp, Philadelphia’s premiere fashion concept store. Whack, shopping for a look for the Billboard Awards, fell in love with the piece and bought it off the rack. Beringer reached out to the musician over Instagram to share the history of the coat and invite her for a studio visit. In an interview with Jennifer Lynn for Whyy’s Morning Edition, Beringer says of their first conversations, “You could say love at first sight. It was creative explosion and energy, like a force field that collided together.”

At the time of Whack’s visit to the studio, Beringer was working on a new collection of wearable art. She had purchased two paintings from Liz Goldberg, who teaches Fashion Illustration courses at Westphal College and Pratt Institute. Goldberg’s work, inspired by a trip to Havana, explores “the theme of the Diva – the flamboyantly uninhibited female and the personal and political empowerment she represents.” Beringer had just begun to drape the colorful faux fur along with a panel from the Cuban divas series. Whack loved it.

In December, Whack’s video for “Mumbo Jumbo” received a Grammy nomination for Best Music Video. A few weeks before the awards ceremony, Whack’s publicist contacted Beringer to set up a meeting about her red carpet look. The final ensemble incorporates Goldberg’s compelling imagery, Beringer’s innovative design, and Whack’s bold glamour in an eye-catching display of empowerment and collaboration.

“The entire look is a great example of women collaborating…” says Beringer, “from the work between Liz and me showcasing her art in my wearable art; the joint efforts and ideas shared among Emily, Daniella and myself, and most importantly of all, Tierra giving us the opportunity to put all of this magic into her exciting look.”