Students’ designs hit the catwalk

by Kathryn Nelson

Art senior Danielle Swanson began making outfits for her Barbie as a young girl. Now she’s designing couture-style clothing for shows that draw thousands of onlookers.

Swanson submitted six pieces for Electro Couture Culture, a fashion show infused with DJs spinning electronic beats at First Avenue on Friday.

She said her clothing designs draw from the simple silhouette of a body.

“I design with a complicated simplicity,” Swanson said.

Swanson said a requirement for the show was that 80 percent of the submitted pieces be black.

She said one of her pieces, created out of vinyl, was the most difficult to make but also the most striking.

“It looks like a suit of armor,” she said.

The show was the creation of local artist Mackenzie LaBine. A dancer for 12 years, she said many fashion shows have models that catwalk to a beat that doesn’t fit.

Inspired by the punk rock and techno subculture, LaBine said she chose designers and DJs who reflected the dark underbelly of pop fashion and music.

She said she gathered eight local designers to create clothing for the show.

To produce a unified style, LaBine said she gave each of the designers a CD and photos from magazines to “pull something from the same inspiration source.”

History senior and show model Kelly Striegel said she heard about the event through word of mouth and MySpace, an Internet networking Web site.

Striegel, who had never modeled before, said she was hoping she didn’t trip or pass out while walking the runway.

On Friday night, designers were shuffling in and out of backstage, some still sewing the remaining pieces of an outfit just hours before the show began.

Dozens of models sprawled across the grungy floor of the venue, waiting their turn to be transformed into models that resembled Harajuku girls.

Harajuku style is defined by bold hair and makeup that often resemble Japanese comic book characters.

Andrew Wood, known as DJ Knotty Wood, was watching the preparation in First Avenue’s main room along with the venue’s employees.

“(LaBine) and I have always vibed,” he said.

Wood and the group Ectomorph were chosen to perform for the fashion show.

Wood said he described his music as “expressionistic, a new wave of high energy and high disco.”

Wood, who said he generally draws a fashion-forward crowd, said he wanted to provide a rhythm and overtone for the models during the show.

“I hope people are losing it in front of the speakers,” he said.

When the lights went dark and models began to appear, pre-law junior Sohail Akhavein moved to Wood’s deep beats.

The way fashion and music intertwined was the biggest draw of the show, Akhavein said.

He also said he wished the University offered similar events.

“Gophers After Dark is lame; bring (students) here instead,” Akhavein said.

Minneapolis Community and Technical College student and show model Tyra Keleban had just come off the runway, and walked past models practicing their struts.

“The crowd was really supportive,” she said. “If I could do this every day, I would.”