Last Thursday afternoon, the fashion design studio on CCAD’s campus was buzzing from a cocktail of relief and anticipation that only the final days of college can concoct. But one unique alteration faced this group of graduating seniors as they sat through their last class of critiques — there was a TV camera in the room.
“I think they get excited about it more than anything,” said fashion design chair and instructor Suzanne Cotton of the students’ reactions to the citywide attention the school’s senior fashion runway show has garnered over the years. “It challenges them to push themselves.”
Embracing personal challenges seemed to be the mark of this year’s class, which will show its final looks at Friday’s runway event, a to-the-nines production that has become a boon for CCAD’s scholarship fund. They’ll sell more than 800 tickets — some for as much as $350 each — to the fashion show and net around $200,000.
What makes this year’s class unique is its size. Compared with previous years, the 2012 class is small: Just 15 students comprise the lineup of designers for the big finale night.
To make up the difference in head count, Cotton decided to allow students to send more than the typical two looks down the runway, as long as each look passed the grueling jury of local fashion industry power players. (The jury panel can be painfully honest in their selection process, making Nina Garcia look like a kitten. Denied designs have been slammed with adjectives like “medieval” and “cheap.” Only the best make it to the runway, even if that means a student doesn’t make it there at all.)
The result, Cotton said, is a runway show that is better witness to the complete vision and ability of each designer.
“There is such a wide range of looks this year,” she said. “Because the students could do more, they could really make a great, individual statement.”
Several students are showing as many as six looks, all of which they constructed from sketch to topstitch in the past year.
“You really get to see who the designer is. You’ll get to see the whole transition,” said designer Rachel Kaplan, a Hilliard native heading to a job at Abercrombie & Fitch after graduation. She has five garments in tomorrow’s show, from a gold sequin jumpsuit to a maxi dress to a formal gown. “It was a really great opportunity for us. I can show that I can do skirts, separates, whatever.”
As for all the extra work, four-look designer Michele Watson put it best: “The overwhelming amount of work and crazy deadlines to meet, that’s the real world.”
The collections’ guiding light this year came from students’ art history books. Each designer was assigned to chose a famous artist — preferably one painter and one sculptor from the same era — to use as inspiration for their pieces. Runway show attendees will be able to spot the influences of the geometric patterns beloved by Gustav Klimt, the erotic lines synonymous with Louise Bourgeois, or the textural tenacity employed by Antoni Gaudi.
Theme has been a prominent aspect of senior fashion shows of years past. Next year, though, there won’t be one.
“I just talked to the junior class of fashion design students — they number in the high twenties — and was saying that I really want to find a way to offer to them the level of expression this year’s class had,” Cotton said. “We’re not having a theme next year. I want them to create their own theme, their own story. I’m really excited about it. I want them to really explore themselves and what they’re trying to say.”
Regardless of what changes come future senior fashion design classes’ ways, it is likely that the VIP ticketholders and TV cameras will keep coming. One doesn’t become a top-rated fashion program without working up a little recognition.