Months of sketching, designing and hand-sewing original garments comes to a climax for more than two dozen student designers this week at the Cornell Fashion Collective’s 35th annual Runway Show, March 9 from 7-10 p.m. in Barton Hall.
The student-run organization provides a creative outlet and experience in fashion design and fashion management for members of the Cornell community. The runway show is one of the biggest events on campus; more than 3,100 people attended the 2018 show.
Many of the participating designers are fiber science and apparel design students in the College of Human Ecology, whose individual fashions and collections are conceived and created as an extracurricular activity, not for credit.
Juliana DaRoza ’22 is making a structured coat and a dress, combining masculine and feminine elements in one ensemble. The process has been design-intensive for her first show.
“I was having a hard time falling in love with the piece I was working on. I spent a night and a half sketching and re-sketching,” DaRoza said. “As excited as we are for the show, we’re also excited for it to be over, and for our next projects.”
Her high school art teacher in San Francisco and her mother, an artist, encouraged her to pursue design as a career. “My mom is also a designer; she had a children’s clothing company on the side before I was born,” DaRoza said.
Margaux Neborak ’19 has a bridal collection, “My Key (to the Heart),” with eight looks evoking the ethereal aspects of electronic dance music (EDM).
“I’ve always had a passion for EDM; it serves as a surface inspiration,” she said.
Neborak is meticulous in the studio. A handcrafted spreadsheet has mini-sketches of each design on its model, and a detailed checklist of what’s done and still-to-do on all pieces in the collection.
“Does it seem impossible at first? It definitely does,” she said. “With bridal wear, there’s nothing that’s a single layer. It was, ‘OK, let’s apply three layers times eight.’”
The styles have elegant, traditional shapes. Different dresses feature embellishments of flower appliqués, feathers and lace; and sequins, beadwork and iridescent fringes in geometric patterns on tulle to reflect prismatic colors under lights.
“I interviewed brides to see what their gown choices were, and I gained a lot of market insight,” Neborak said. “Many of them want to wear white or ivory, and they still want to look like a traditional bride.”
She began writing an ethnographic research paper on bridal gown choices and influences last semester for a graduate-level course, Anthropology of the Fashioned Body, taught by assistant professor Denise Green. Neborak is still collecting data via her Qualtrics survey of recent brides (within the past five years) and welcomes more brides to take the brief survey.
While level 3 and 4 (junior and senior) designers had free rein to create their collections, level 1 and 2 (first-year and sophomore) designers will present one or two pieces in this show and were given the theme “Gender and the Golden Age of Hollywood.”
“It’s more about what we perceive of the whole era,” said Julia Zeng ’21. “At that time, the gender roles were really fixed, and who you were was defined by your gender.”
For Yvonne Schichtel ’21, the theme meant glamour, and how icons like Audrey Hepburn were perceived.
“All the glamour, all that these stars were made out to be, was only seen from the outside,” she said.
She designed evening wear using sheer, translucent fabric in black, gold and jewel tones – Cleopatra being another influence – and is “playing with gathering and ruching to create textures and still cover the body.”
Schichtel found material on a winter break trip with Zeng to visit family in Hong Kong. “Fabric there is really cheap, and there’s a lot of cutoffs from designers,” Schichtel said. “One place called Harper’s Bazaar is all these tents, and under them there’s this crazy chaos of fabrics.”
Other designers went fabric-hunting in New York City’s Garment District. “You can find a lot of unique things in the smaller stores that don’t get name recognition,” said Stephanie Laginestra ’20, whose five-piece collection is called “Elements.”
“I’m using the elements of structure and shape and design for different effects,” she said. “I started with a range of concepts from architecture. I saw that it was a similar process to ours, and thought it was interesting to see how different people can apply the same principles.”
Laginestra said finding models to wear her designs was easy. Her friends lined up, including students from other colleges.
“A lot of people really wanted to; there’s a lot of enthusiasm and it’s nice to have your friends get excited with you,” she said. “We’re a smaller department in a smaller school, so it’s nice to have everyone come out to see what we do.”
Tickets for the Runway Show March 9 in Barton Hall are $10 general admission, $15 for Friends and Family seating. VIP tickets are sold out. Doors open at 6 p.m.