Five years ago, Katie Hogan ’23 was a high school junior at Moravian Academy in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and her interest in fashion design brought her to the annual Cornell Fashion Collective Spring Runway Show, in Barton Hall.
The lights, the music, the runway – it all resonated deeply, and a few months later she applied early-admission to Cornell, to major in fashion design. She looked forward to the day when she could see her designs strutting haughtily down the Barton runway.
But the pandemic struck midway through her freshman year, and that spring’s runway show was scrapped. The show took a couple of different forms the last two years, but on March 11, Hogan – and approximately 90 other designers, from beginning to advanced – will finally get to see their creations under the Barton Hall lights.
“In Retrospective Forethought” – looking backward and ahead – is the theme for the 39th annual CFC Spring Runway Show. The doors will open at 4 p.m., with the show expected to start at 4:30. Tickets for the event are $10 student general admission; $25 for friends and family seating; and $40 for VIP seating. Tickets can be purchased on the CFC website.
The show will cap “Cornell Fashion Week,” which begins March 4 in Barton with the Afrik! Fashion Show, sponsored by the Pan-African Students Association. Other events are scheduled throughout the week, including the Digital Fashion Gallery, March 9 at various sites on campus.
The theme for this year’s CFC show was inspired by its recent history: The event was upended in 2020 by COVID-19, which has not fully loosened its grip on society but has ebbed enough to allow the event to return to Barton.
Last year’s show was held outside on the Arts Quad, and while it was unique and memorable, organizers are excited to be returning to the place it called home for its first 35 years.
“Last year was just so different, having to be outside, so a lot of people are really excited to be back in Barton,” said Anna Paaske ’24, CFC’s creative director and co-organizer of the show, along with Devin Schneider ’23, the club’s president.
Paaske said there will be some new wrinkles, partially inspired by last year’s outdoor show. The runway itself will be longer than in past Barton shows and in a “T” shape: models will walk the length, then across top of the “T” to give the anticipated crowd of 3,100 spectators a longer look.
And a giant screen behind the runway will show videos, from the designers and organizers, that match the collections.
“We wanted to go back to what we were known for, but also make it new and exciting, so we’re coming up with some different things,” Paaske said. “We’re really excited to kind of play around with the space; it’s a really large space.”
Barton will be decked out in gray with “pops of red,” Paaske said, to replicate the early creative process of sketching ideas out on paper. As usual, designers in levels 1 and 2 are required to stick to their themes – “In Retrospect” and “Forethought,” respectively – and the video screen during their presentations will feature architectural sketches of Cornell buildings past and present.
“We want the show to feel like you’re sitting inside the creative process, inside an idea or the designer’s mindset,” she said. “Everything is just sketched out, so you feel like you’re really just like sitting and watching the creative process happen.”
Each designer in levels 1 and 2 will have the freedom to interpret their assigned theme as they like, Schneider said. “Level 1 is past fashion trends; Level 2 is future fashion trends,” she said. “It’s a very loose interpretation of the theme, so it’s whatever they choose to do with it.”
Designers in levels 3 and 4 have more freedom in their design choices, with Level 3 designers each producing a small-scale collection (four to six pieces) and Level 4 a full collection (eight to 12 pieces).
Mattie Nguyen ’25, a fashion design management major, is director of design for levels 1 and 2 and also has a Level 2 collection. Angela Lan ’24 is creative director for levels 3 and 4; she’s excited to help the upper-level designers realize their ideas.
“Each designer has six to 12 looks, so it’s quite a lot to manage,” she said. “I just want to be there and help them overcome any creative roadblocks that they have, and make sure that all of their pieces are done on time and are wonderful.”
Hogan, a Level 4 designer, said her line is a bridal collection “focused on appliqué and embellishment.” Her designs are inspired by movies of the 1950s as well as the modern era, “going from more traditional bridal looks to the more modern and untraditional styles that brides are leaning into today,” she said.
Another Level 4 designer, Aidan Collins ’23, a fiber science major, has used leather, silk and wool to create “a straightforward collection that combined American Western themes with European refinement.” He’s already pursuing a master’s in materials science and engineering and would like to pursue composite manufacturing for Formula 1 automobile racing.
And Beckett Fine ’24, a Level 3 designer, is developing a line with Cornell branding that combines “my interest in activewear along with streetwear design with Cornell branding, to illustrate the endless possibilities that Cornell could use in their store.”
Like many of the designers, Hogan hopes the show is a springboard to her professional life.
“This will be my last opportunity to show a collection on campus,” she said. “I have grown so much as a designer these four years, and this collection showcases my aspirations for the future. I plan to work in the bridal industry, and ultimately start my own company, and this collection is my first step toward that.”
Kim Phoenix ’12, M.A. ’18, CFC’s faculty adviser and a senior lecturer in the Department of Human Centered Design, in the College of Human Ecology, said the excitement at returning to Barton is palpable.
“We are coming full circle,” Phoenix said. “We are changing things up a bit with a longer runway, so more people are close to the models. The biggest challenge is just making sure the students understand the amount of work to be done, before and after, on the day of the show.”
Some of the CFC’s show’s designers will be invited to take part in the inaugural Cornell Fashion Expo, to be held April 14 at the National Arts Club in New York City. Alumni in the fashion industry and industry partners will attend the juried show, which will feature the best student work, including fashion design and tech.