Seek out collaboration: An interview with alumnus Juan Andrés Rujana

Models wearing Epimonia clothing

According to the UN, there were more than 82 million forcibly displaced people in the world at the end of 2020—nearly half of them children. Refugee-founded fashion label Epimonía was founded in 2018 to bring awareness to the issue.
University of Minnesota College of Design graduate Juan Andrés Rujana (BS ‘20, Product Design) turned a part-time job into an opportunity to grow, experiment, and make a difference supporting refugees as Epimonía’s design director.
In this interview, Andrés Rujana talks about his work with Epimonía and how his experiences in the product design program have affected his career.
For those who are unfamiliar with Epimonía and its work, how would you describe its mission and products?
Epimonía is a refugee-founded fashion label with a central mission of supporting refugees. We upcycle material from life jackets that were worn by refugees on the Mediterranean Sea. Our products feature this material in order to bring awareness to the refugee crisis. Our goal is to build communities for refugees all around the world.
What’s been your favorite part of working for Epimonía so far?
Leading the design development of collections that have an extensive reach. Whether it's designing a collection for New York Fashion Week or products for a collaboration with Minnesota United FC, it’s been surreal to see my work on such platforms.
How has your degree impacted your work at Epimonía?
My product design degree taught me how to apply and refine my design process when developing products. However, in a start-up environment, there are always new things to learn and help out with outside of my design role. Whether it's editing a video or leading client meetings, having that strong design foundation allows me to tackle tasks beyond design.
What is one lesson you have taken from your time at the College of Design that you have applied to your career?
The importance of collaboration. I wish I had taken more advantage of being in a building filled with creative people from different backgrounds. Once you get out there, you have to actively seek out collaboration and it’s easy to forget how important it is. All of my impactful work so far has been in collaboration with very talented individuals.
What advice would you give to current students?
Explore classes that you might not think you’d be interested in and allow yourself to keep an open mind. Once you graduate, you realize there is a lot of overlap between fields, so having a broader perspective will only benefit your work.

This story was adapted from the College of Design.