U of M Senior Fashion Show kicks off Fashion Week

JAHNA PELOQUIN | Updated 2/20/2013

Graduating seniors made their local fashion debut on Saturday night.

Look by Lucie Biros

The college fashion show is a coming-of-age moment for the young designer — a benchmark that, at best, exhibits promising new designers, and at worst, offers a crash course in what not to wear. Seventeen graduating seniors had theirs during the 45th annual Apparel Design Senior Fashion Show at the University of Minnesota's Rapson Hall on Saturday evening, which doubled as a kickoff to this spring's edition of Minneapolis-St. Paul Fashion Week. This year’s show, entitled "Flux," offered lines ranging from the highly commercial to the all-out bizarre to the truly inspired.

Overall, this year’s crop of designers seemed intent on showcasing their commercial abilities — all the better to get a job upon graduating. A number of designers offered up well-made looks with smart design details, particularly by Jessica Loomis and Issa Mello, who both turned in children’s lines. I particularly coveted an adult version of Mello’s spiked jacket, rocked by a particularly hip, faux-hawked 9-year-old boy on the runway.

Look by Issa Mello

Look by Issa Mello

Anna Sviben’s collection of tailored shorts and jumpsuits showed promise, with a clear point of view, unique design details and a knack for mixing prints, though the execution could have used some fine tuning. Ellie Hottinger presented a smart collection of modern bridalwear with unique details and intriguing silhouettes, making her one to watch. Jen Voth’s sporty, color-blocked line attempted to think out of the box, though at times veered into over-designed pieces that fought for attention.

Look by Anna Sviben
Look by Ellie Hottinger 
Look by Jennifer Voth

Look by Jennifer Voth

It wouldn’t be a student fashion show without some experimental, flat-out weird lines, particularly Grace Lorig’s punk Ren Fest patchwork ragamuffins and Lucie Biros’ vampy collection of pointy-shouldered goths. Neither designer seemed concerned with commercial viability, which should always be a consideration unless one is planning on a future in theatrical costume design.

Look by Grace Lorig

Look by Grace Lorig

Look by Lucie Biros

And then every once in awhile, someone stands out from the pack. Tonight’s wow moment came courtesy of Claire Ward, whose colorful, four-piece line mixed kitschy, gaudy materials like clear vinyl, plastic beading and plastic gimp with linear silhouettes and detailed embellishment that revealed a sense of humor, conceptual vision and sophistication, particularly particularly with a clear vinyl raincoat that was embellished with candy-like beading. (Unsurprisingly, Ward counts Emma Berg as a design mentor.) It was what a strong student collection should be: experimental and memorable, with a clear sense of identity and purpose.

Look by Claire Ward

Look by Claire Ward 

Look by Claire Ward

Look by Claire Ward

[Top photo: Jahna Peloquin. Additional photos: Rod Hasse/handout]