Arts & Culture

A South Carolina Designer’s Colorful Rise

The Columbia Museum of Art celebrates Sergio Hudson’s decade in fashion with a new retrospective

A rainbow of suits on a clothing rack

Photo: Jesse Volk

Sergio Hudson's vibrant suits.
photo: Jesse Volk
Sergio Hudson.

Sergio Hudson has no shortage of muses—a short list includes Beyoncé, Rihanna, Keke Palmer, Serena Williams, and Rachel Brosnahan. But the thirty-nine-year-old is perhaps best known for the looks he created for First Lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Kamala Harris to wear during the 2021 inauguration festivities. And all of it—his success, his point of view, his aesthetic—can be traced back to his South Carolina mother. 

“I wasn’t a normal child,” Hudson says. “I don’t think other children pick out their mother’s shoes at five years old. But I was heavily influenced by her because she encouraged it. She instilled confidence in me.”

photo: Crush Rush for the Columbia Museum of Art
Hudson’s suits at the Columbia Museum of Art.

photo: Crush Rush for the Columbia Museum of Art
A houndstooth coat in the exhibition.

That confidence is now on vivid display through June 2024 at the Columbia Museum of Art, which has styled a retrospective of his work that includes eight garments and twenty sketches dating to the start of his career in 2013, when he won Bravo’s Styled to Rock competition. Many of the pieces reference the nineties. “Even when I try to run away from it, I end up incorporating it back in some way,” he says of his preferred fashion decade. “I think it’s important to just lean into who you are and keep going.”

photo: courtesy of the Columbia Museum of Art
Hudson’s sketches for actress and writer Issa Rae (left) and actress Kiki Palmer.

The exhibition tells his story piece by piece, and throughout, a pervasive Southernness emerges, as seen in his bold use of color and the polished quality of the silhouettes he crafts. “I’m influenced by the world, but Southern women tend put a little icing on the cake,” he says. “They match the shoes to the bag to the belt.”  

photo: courtesy of the Columbia Museum of Art
Hudson’s belts.

From now until the new year, Hudson says he will be dreaming up a new collection. “It’s go time, because once January hits, fashion week is tomorrow. It’s always about what’s next.”  

For more information about the exhibition visit here.