Carnegie Mellon University

Alumnus Damian Domingues and a picture of one of his designs

May 11, 2023

Flower Power

CMU alumnus Damian Dominguez creates artwork for floral show inspired by alumnus Billy Porter’s fashions

Spring has sprung, flowers are sprouting, and a special exhibit inspired by Carnegie Mellon University alumnus Billy Porter — with works by fellow Tartans — is in full bloom at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh.

Flowers Meet Fashion: Inspired by Billy Porter” runs through June 25. 

Billy, a College of Fine Arts School of Drama graduate, filmed much of his film, “Anything’s Possible,” at Phipps and developed a relationship with the organization. Together, they created this special event that highlights designs from six professional costume designers, as well as costumers and students from Billy’s local alma maters, Carnegie Mellon University and Pittsburgh Public Schools’ CAPA High School. 

flowers-fashion_400.jpg“Stunning scenes in room after room will place you directly into fantastic merger of fashion and flora, surrounding you with bursts of bright blooms like geraniums, begonias, philodendron and so much more,” according to Phipps planners. 

The show features the work of costume designers Madison Michalko, Thee Suburbia, Cathy Olivar, alum Daniele Mathews, alum Damian Dominguez, College of Fine Arts faculty member Mindy Eshelman and students and faculty from CMU and CAPA.

Daniele is a Class of 2015 graduate and Damian is a Class of 2020 graduate, both earning master’s degrees in costume design from the College of Fine Arts School of Drama. Eshelman is an associate professor, costume design, in the School of Drama.


One Designer’s Story

Damian Dominguez found inspiration in his designs for the Phipps show in two ways: His Mexican heritage and his love of Billy Porter’s Christian Siriano gown, designed for Billy for the 91st Academy Awards.

For Damian’s Phipps creation, expect flowers in the form of colorful décor on a design he created for the show, intended to blend in with the real flora but stand out on its own for its forward-fashion design.

As a native of Dalton, Georgia, Damian formed an early love of theater and music. He earned his undergraduate degree in theater and music from the University of Georgia. Damian learned much during his undergrad years from a professor, Ivan Ingerman, whose designs for “Disney on Ice” fascinated Damian.

“His passion was palpable,” Damian says. “I’m grateful for his introducing me to costume design.”

He returned to Dalton to become a middle school band director. Although he loved working with the students, he longed to pursue a career in costume design. After doing so for several years, he decided to go to graduate school and pursue an advanced degree.

Enter Carnegie Mellon, which Damian long had set his sights on. He was dismayed to learn after two times applying that he still had not been accepted. Undaunted, he applied a third time and was rewarded with an acceptance at his person-to-person interview with Bessie F. Anathan University Professor of Design Susan Tsu in Pittsburgh.


“My final interview was my first trip to Pittsburgh, and I absolutely loved it,” Damian says. “My friends and I celebrated my interview with Susan and, then, my acceptance after being asked to join the program.”

Currently freelancing in Pittsburgh, Damian has recently finished shows at City Theatre and Pittsburgh Public Theater. He takes time to join family in Mexico, where his grandmother still lives and from where he has learned to inject cultural influence into his work. He also serves as a part-time professor at Point Park University in costume design.

He encourages other designers — current students and recent alumni — to tap into their feelings and create what matters most to them.

“At the end of the day, we are fundamental storytellers as part of a performance, even down to the color of a sock,” he says. “With this career, so much of what you do is in the moment. You may do things you don’t want to do, but it affects the future you. So, take care and be kind to the past, present and future versions of yourself.”

For more information on Damian Dominguez, go to