Student finds identity in fashion

Senior+Eddie+Cantwell+models+his+favorite+fashions+in+practice+for+a+career+in+fashion.

Senior Eddie Cantwell models his favorite fashions in practice for a career in fashion.

To some, clothes are just a daily necessity, but to at least one University student, fashion is vital to forming and maintaining identity. University senior Eddie Cantwell, 21, has lived in Bowling Green since he was five, but found his real home at the University.

“My really early childhood years, it was fine,” he said. “But as you grow up and your horizons expand and you become more aware of things, you definitely start to realize how small of a town this is and how narrow-minded this town is.”

Cantwell felt the reach of the conservative community extensively while living in the country and attending a Catholic school. He said Bowling Green has an interesting dynamic, however because inside the conservative community is a liberal public university.

In college, Cantwell became serious with a partner who began abusing how much time he invested in their relationship.

After they broke up, Cantwell said he “went through a really dark phase.” He began counseling and thinking more about himself.

“I realized that I was holding so much back of myself,” he said. “Like the clothes I wore, I didn’t connect to. My whole lifestyle, I just thought something was wrong.”

In the process of finding himself, Cantwell also found RuPaul’s Drag Race, which sparked his interest in makeup, dress and playing a part. He started investing more money in clothes and switched to the University’s apparel merchandising and product development major. While investing time and money into fashion, Cantwell found himself appealing more to gender neutral clothing and later women’s wear. He always identified as gay, but Cantwell began realizing he didn’t align with a lot of male qualities, which was when he began identifying as gender fluid.

“I do that more aesthetically because I love to wear women’s wear, and I’m just totally comfortable in it,” he said. After a co-worker suggested Cantwell start a fashion blog, he began modeling for his Instagram and started a website.

It wasn’t without the support of friends that Cantwell got his blog up and running. One vital friend was Andy Crowe, a high school classmate and later college roommate.

Crowe lived with Cantwell for two years before they separated for Cantwell to experience life on his own. During those two years, however, Crowe became instrumental not only as a friend, but as a photographer as well.

“He would just put on the weirdest outfits, but they looked good because anything that Eddie wears looks good,” Crowe said.

He said it started out “not as experimental,” with everyday outfits, and Cantwell would just ask for Crowe’s help snapping a quick shot. It turned into a weekly photo shoot.

After Crowe asked Cantwell if he could have a little more freedom behind the camera, the quality of photos improved. As the quality improved, Crowe encouraged Cantwell to get “a little more funky with it.”

“As the photo ideas got crazier, the outfits started getting more intricate and obscure, but still awesome. Never a bad outfit,” Crowe said.

Crowe said what makes Cantwell so successful is his confidence.

“He doesn’t care at all as much as he used to about what people think of him,” Crowe said. “It can be a negative comment, and he’s still thinking ‘Well, they’re paying attention to me. I must be doing something right.”

Crowe said his fashion sense has improved just by being around Cantwell.

Clothes are genderless and there is “no wrong way to do fashion,” Cantwell said. Modeling is his way to get this message across.

Cantwell’s dream is to walk in New York during Fashion Week, but he has some issues with the AMPD program at the University preparing him for that.

“I definitely wish BGSU had more opportunities for people who want to model, and I wish those opportunities were within AMPD because they sure do talk like they are, but they’re not,” Cantwell said.

Cantwell said it seems like AMPD is a glorified business major. It’s located in the College of Health and Human Services, which doesn’t line up with the artistic or business side of AMPD, he said.

Cantwell would love to see AMPD have fashion shows and offer a sewing class to fill the gap between what the program is marketed as and what it really is.

He hopes to fill that gap by attending school at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York to get his design degree after graduation.

Aside from modeling, Cantwell is also working to start an online vintage clothing store.

“Everything in fashion is already out there,” he said. “You don’t need anything new.”

He realized he could beat the system by buying vintage clothing from Goodwill instead of paying high prices for remakes in current trends.

He hopes to start an Etsy business in the near future to begin selling the clothes he purchases at second-hand stores, but until then, he’ll continue doing what he does best: be innovative in fashion, use photos to spread a message and sport an attitude like no other.