At the 27th Cornell Fashion Collective (CFC) spring fashion show April 16 in Barton Hall, 65 student designers "put [their] hearts out on the runway," said Fiber Science & Apparel Design (FSAD) major Nhu-Thu Nguyen '11.
To the delight of an estimated crowd of 2,500 guests, Nguyen and fellow designers and stylists across Cornell sent their labors of love down the catwalk, showing more than 200 pieces inspired by world cultures, film and popular art, and contemporary and classic fashions.
The show also concluded months of planning by the eight-member CFC executive board, guided by President Jaclyn Foster '11 and Vice President Lucy Howat '11, that transformed an enormous athletic facility into a glitzy fashion hall.
From a line of shimmering Indian saris to a carnival theme topped off by a model towering above the runway in stilts, a panoply of styles appeared onstage. Candice Elliott '11 staged a collection of dark and luxurious gowns crowned with original hat designs, reflecting her study of millinery under Richard MacPike, senior lecturer in theatre, film and dance, and her summer internship with acclaimed hat designer Diana Cavagnaro.
"The creations shown were as unique and special as the designers themselves," said Anita Racine, FSAD senior lecturer and CFC adviser.
The audience was also treated to three special presentations: the winning garment from the 2011 Cornell Fashion Design Award high school competition, an otherworldly black-and-white outfit with an exotic headpiece and an alien exoskeleton; a young men's line inspired by 1950s Americana by the Pendleton Scholarship Team, a group of FSAD and Applied Economics and Management students working from materials donated by Pendleton Woolen Mills; and eight glimmering ensembles created from Spectra Elegance fabric, a patented material that combines hidden LED lights and optical fibers to illuminate clothing details.
For Nguyen, who hopes to enter the bridal or eveningwear industry after graduation, the show offered a chance to present her line of 10 eclectic gowns, one inspired by a newsprint comic strip and another crafted from a pair of reclaimed blue-and-white floral drapes.
"My line is very personal; every single one of my garments tells a story," said Nguyen amid her final backstage preparations. "You push and push until the very last minute, doing the best you possibly can, and hope the audience responds."
Nearby, FSAD designer Lea Freni '14 was eager for her first opportunity to show a garment on the runway -- a floor-length strapless silk gown modeled by anthropology student Jasmin Harvey '14.
Prior to Cornell, Freni had never worked with a model. She called the entire process -- from early sketches to patternmaking and final fittings -- an "amazing experience" that allowed her to experiment and learn the "nuances of fashion design," which she hopes to apply this summer at an internship with Pendleton Woolen Mills.
As show time drew near, Nguyen held back tears at the thought of her last Cornell show, admitting to a "cry-fest" with fellow seniors earlier in the day.
"It'll be odd to see 600 hours of preparation go down the runway in about six minutes," said Nguyen of her collection. "The emotions are running over."
But John Sohn '11, whose "Submerge" line closed out the show, had other thoughts in mind.
"I'm looking forward to going home and sleeping," Sohn said. "Nothing beats that."
Others will push forward, however. Racine noted that FSAD management students will begin planning this week for the 2012 edition of the show.
Ted Boscia is assistant director of communications in the College of Human Ecology.