Zada Stuart ’25 discusses her collection, “A Contemporary Re-Articulation of Armor,” at the inaugural Cornell Fashion Expo.

Cornell’s first Fashion Expo takes on New York City

The College of Human Ecology’s inaugural Cornell Fashion Expo offered a unique opportunity for student designers to present their work to industry experts and Cornell alumni in one of the fashion capitals of the world. Held April 14 at New York City’s National Arts Club, the event’s theme was “fashion within AND beyond the traditional.”

Twelve standout submissions were selected for the expo, and student designers interacted with more than 100 attendees, explaining the thought processes and cutting-edge technologies behind their work.

Lila Frost ’25, right, describes the inspiration behind her collection, “Broken Pomegranates: A Sensorial Exploration of Emotion and Unveiling through Underwear.”

“This event, which we hope will become an annual tradition, helps strengthen our college’s presence in the city while giving our amazing student designers a one-of-a-kind experience,” said Rachel Dunifon, the Rebecca Q. and James C. Morgan Dean of the College of Human Ecology. “This multidisciplinary, human-centered approach to design is what sets Human Ecology apart.”

To be selected, students submitted their designs and written descriptions to a jury of faculty members, and each collection was examined for its inventiveness, commitment to sustainability and ability to inspire a feeling of connection. Their designs were inspired by issues such as fabric waste and violence against marginalized groups, and they explored the human experience, including their own personal life journeys. Those selected said the opportunity to display their designs at the fashion expo was vastly different from the Cornell Fashion Collective spring runway show in Barton Hall.

“When the runway show happens, the feedback you hear is more along the lines of ‘Wow, that’s a beautiful piece,’” said Nikolas Martin ’26. “And while that is wonderful, you don’t really get to tell the story behind each design, what the entire process was. There’s so many hours and so much thought that goes behind every single piece that’s made.”

Martin’s collection – Sếu Đầu Đỏ Đang, Vietnamese for “The Red-Headed Crane Is Bleeding” – featured a black suit with a 3D red origami crane protruding from the chest. The collection was inspired by the near extinction of the sarus crane following the Vietnam War and reflects his culture as a person of Black and Vietnamese descent.

Creativity and technical proficiency are at the heart of Angela Lan’s ’24 three-piece collection, Webbed Affair. Using techniques learned in Assistant Professor Fatma Baytar’s fiber science course this semester, Lan prototyped her designs on a computer then used a laser cutter, 3D printer and engraver to construct a golden web pattern on a corset attached to a silky, sage-green romper.

Many of the selected designers were underclass students, representing the rising stars within Cornell’s fashion community. Zoe Alvarez ’26 used more than 150 strips of cloth to weave a retro pantsuit by hand, and she explained to expo attendees the time-consuming and labor-intensive process of making the garment.

Mattie Nguyen ’25 saw the expo as a chance to deepen and expand his understanding and goals as a designer. “As a student studying both design and management, my aspiration is to design men’s ready-to-wear that seamlessly integrates conceptual fashion with commercial viability,” he said. “New York is the center of U.S. fashion, so being able to show here is so special to us.”

Location is everything, echoed Kim Phoenix ’12, M.A. ’18, senior lecturer and faculty adviser for students in this spring runway show and jury member for the expo. “Anybody who’s anyone in the design world has a presence in New York City,” she said.

Nadine El Nesr ’23 said that being selected for the expo in its inaugural year was a crowning moment in her college career as a designer. “The atmosphere and ambiance curated by the selection jury, the National Arts Club and designers at the event set the tone for a beautiful night of celebration, networking, laughter and learning,” she said. “Being part of the first Fashion Expo, in New York City no less, was a very special moment for me and a highlight of my time at Cornell.”

Alumni attendees said they appreciated the opportunity to learn more about the work from the designers.

“I was thoroughly impressed with the thought, creativity and execution of each piece,” said Lucie Ayres ’98, founder of 22 Interiors, a full-service interior design agency based in Los Angeles.

Lori Greene ’92, president of the Human Ecology Alumni Association added: “The future of fashion design looks very bright in the hands of these students and their dedicated faculty.”

Natalia Rommen is a communications specialist in the Cornell University Cooperative Extension – NYC; Galib Braschler is a communications specialist in the College of Human Ecology.

Media Contact

Abby Kozlowski