When Eric Gaskins first worked with Allison Janney '82, he wasn't known as a designer imbued with a refined sense of elegance boasting celebrity clients like Salma Hayek, Jennifer Lopez, and Goldie Hawn. And she wasn't known for her role as C.J. Cregg, the tall, fast-talking press secretary on the hit television series The West Wing. Instead, they were both undergraduates at Kenyon working together in a play directed by actor Paul Newman '49, who had returned to campus to stage a production for the opening of Kenyon's Bolton Theater.
So it's only fitting that Gaskins created the gown that Janney wore when she accepted a best actress Emmy in 2002 for her work on The West Wing. "She received a ton of press in the gown she wore for the Emmys," Gaskins said, describing the red, deep V-neck matte jersey he designed. "Apparently more than any other gown she's worn before or since."
After graduating from Kenyon in 1980, Gaskins apprenticed at Givenchy in Paris before striking out on his own. His big break came when Salma Hayek appeared at the Academy Awards in 2000 wearing one of his designs—a lilac halter gown made of satin and covered in sparkling crystals. Everyone was suddenly talking about him, but Gaskins had worked hard to make it all happen.
"The most valuable lessons I've taken along my journey from Kenyon are my discipline and tenacity," said the studio art major. "My professors always supported me and my dreams, and made me believe that I could achieve whatever I wanted in life. That has probably been the most important gift I was given."