Looks by Kora Gleason (Photo: Ellen Dahl, special to Vita.mn)
Student fashion shows have become synonymous with gimmicky contrivance -- a skirt made of neckties, a backwards shirt, a trash bag dress -- and wobbly fabric construction. But in recent years, the College of Design at the University of Minnesota’s Apparel Design Fashion Show has gone lengths toward disproving this notion, and this year’s crop of graduating seniors are better than any in recent memory.
Out of the 19 designers at this year's 47th annual show, "Align," seven rose above the crop. Kora Gleason started off the show with a five-look line that included a gorgeous, intricately-seamed grey wool coat and a lovely winter white top and pants ensemble that demonstrated the designer’s fine tailoring skills and knack for subtle details and textures.
Hot off a summer internship with Los Angeles’ Rodarte, Jessa Manthe wowed with a four-look grouping inspired by Rorschacht tests and insects that shared the fashion house’s sense of texture and quirky sophistication. Her elegantly-sculpted, cocoon-like tweed coat with Rorschacht-like fur detail was, without a doubt, the standout piece of the night.
Lindsey DeWitt, seen previously at “Envision: Artopia” and MNfashion’s Emerging Designers Showcase, showed a chic, breezy little line of separates that draped beautifully and showed the designer could handle working with a tricky fabric -- in this case, a shiny shantung -- with ease.
Kayna Hobbs showed promise with a five-look collection featuring overlapping panels, sharp edges, leather detail and lacing, rendered in an unexpected palette of winter white and lavender. Though the looks came close to over-design, she showcased a talent for tailoring and interesting lines that helped her land a job as an assistant patternmaker at New York fashion house J. Mendel following a fruitful internship.
Laura Schaefer offered an on-trend quintet of easy-fitting dresses, coats and separates of hand-dyed silk, Italian wool and leather with a southwestern, slightly sporty vibe -- which she no doubt picked up during a recent internship with Calfornia-based surf company Hurley.
Crystal Compton played with graphic lines, sheer fabrics and physically-constricting silhouettes in her line that seemed to play with notions of femininity -- as in a floor-length look that emulated a woman’s figure while strategically constricting and revealing it.
The lone male designer of the bunch, Paul Erling stood out with a quirky line that answered the question: what if an art school kid went to fashion design school? His collection seemed to playfully tease at art school convention while having some genuine fashion moments, such as an chunky, cartoonishly oversized sweater and a dress decorated with whimsical geometric shapes, all shown on rather unconventional models.
Some designers, like Stayce Petraborg, Jordyn Reich and Mary Berglund, found inspiration during internships at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in the WEAR (Wearable Electronics Application and Research) Lab, which they referenced with clean lines, functional design elements and sci-fi themes.
With over three quarters of the show’s designers having participated in internships with everything from national names like A.L.C. and Hurley to local brands like Tara LaTour and Hackwith Design House, perhaps the rise in quality at this year’s show has a little something to do with on-the-job experience.