Amplifying voices in fashion takes the stage at annual runway show

The College of Design's 52nd annual fashion took place Saturday.

<p>Models showing Designer Ian Harris' work walk the runway at the Amplified fashion show at Rapson Hall on Saturday, Feb. 15. The show features designs by University of Minnesota apparel design seniors.</p>

Parker Johnson

Models showing Designer Ian Harris' work walk the runway at the Amplified fashion show at Rapson Hall on Saturday, Feb. 15. The show features designs by University of Minnesota apparel design seniors.

Farrah Mina

The University of Minnesota’s College of Design hosted its annual senior showcase Saturday, which highlighted a variety of unique voices and communities not often represented in fashion.

The fashion show, called “Amplified,” placed a focus on the diversity of the senior class and their communities. It featured collections from a range of voices and backgrounds, including sustainable design, gender neutral fashion, modest apparel and plus-size clothing.

SOMALI BAAN AHAY (I AM SOMALI) by Warda Moosa

Warda Moosa sought out to challenge commonly held perceptions of Somalia with her designs.

“Somali Baan Ahay” translates to “I am Somali” and is a collection of modest apparel inspired by Somalia’s nomadic lifestyle. Moosa’s designs – featuring hijabs, turbans and dresses in rich hues of red, blue and orange – pay homage to her culture and heritage. 

In her collection, Moosa wanted to showcase the arts and culture of Somalia. But finding depictions of her country online that were not images of war, terror and poverty was difficult, she said.

“It’s the first time ever that I have taken the time to explore my culture besides what I see in the media,” she said. “It was really hard because at first there was nothing that was positive that was on the media and online.”

Moosa said she hopes her collection can paint a different picture of Somalia and serve as a source of cultural pride to other Somalis.

Mxtape by Maxine Britt

Maxine Britt’s senior collection is made for all genders. Britt, who uses both they/them and she/her pronouns, crafted gender-neutral designs that center the needs of transgender, non-binary and gender non-conforming communities. 

“I think that it’s really important to represent that group in fashion because fashion is so gendered as men’s or women’s right now,” they said. “That’s really harmful for a lot of people.”

People view gender-neutral fashion as a more masculine way of dressing, she said. But it can be more than wearing basics like jeans and t-shirts. 

“I want with my lines to open people’s eyes to the fact that anyone can wear a dress, anyone can wear pink – those things shouldn’t be seen as so feminine. People should be a lot more open to expressing themselves however they see fit.”

Reduce, Reuse, and Restyle by Andrea Dunrud

When Andrea Dunrud was a freshman, she worked at Forever 21 for one day. 

Her passion for sustainable design did not align with the ethics of the fast-fashion company.

“I realized after walking in there that I just cannot participate in this,” she said. “The numbers about sustainability are truly staggering.”

Dunrud’s senior collection showcased designs exclusively made from thrifted and reused clothing and textiles, from white t-shirts to prom dresses to vintage wool skirts. Her collection saved 42 garments and textiles from likely ending up in a landfill, she said

“Realistically, we don’t really need to make new clothes,” Dunrud said. “We have enough clothes in the world.

The United States threw away almost 12 million tons of textiles in 2015, most of which ended up in landfills, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Most of the clothes in Dunrud’s own closet are thrifted. She said she hopes her designs will inspire people to look at their closets more sustainably.

Moi by Ian Harris

Ian Harris described his designs as a love letter and a thank-you letter to the Twin Cities “fat” community. Harris wants people to know that fat is not a bad word and seeks to empower that community.

Harris’ collection was showcased by a range of plus-sized bodies. His models, taking the runway to Lizzo, wore bright shades of orange and pink, donned in sparkles and tulle. 

“While plus sizes have come a long way, there’s still so much that needs to be done, and that’s what really shaped my perspective as a designer,” Harris said.

The inspiration for Harris’ designs come from one of his icons, Miss Piggy.

It was from her numbers in “The Great Muppet Caper” that she became an icon for Harris and, as he later discovered, for the broader fat community, he said. “We saw ourselves in her and how bold and unabashed she was … like, ‘Yeah, I’m a pig. I’m fat, but I’m amazing.’”

In past showcases, many of the collections tended to feature white, thin models, Harris said.

“While it is how the fashion industry works, I think we’re showing where the fashion industry is heading.”