Walk this way

University seniors display their passion for fashion at a runway show this weekend

Megan Kadrmas

Allison Quinnell, a clothing design senior, has waited for more than a decade to see her ideas become a reality.

When her clothing line debuts during the fashion show for design seniors Saturday, it will signal the close of a long chapter in Quinnell’s life.

The show will mark the end of months upon months of work, Quinnell said. A considerable amount of money, time and labor went into each four- or five-piece line.

Each line was born from an idea or inspirational piece. Quinnell said she was struggling in her search for a muse until she chanced upon an exhibit at the Bell Museum on 16th century botanical sketches.

“Noise” Senior Fashion Show
WHEN: 5 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: McNamara Alumni Center, 200 Oak Street S.E., Minneapolis
TICKETS: $15 adv./ $20 door, St. Paul Student Center, (612) 625-9794

The scientific angle to the prints, with their graphic details and muted jewel-tones, instantly sparked ideas in Quinnell’s head, she said. Her line of five classic-style evening gowns reflects the precise detail and flowing lines of these prints.

Fellow clothing design senior Theresa Lastovich did not find such a specific focus for her line of fur coats. Rather, she drew upon her experiences growing up surrounded by northern Minnesota’s nature. A visit to her old stomping grounds last summer became her inspiration, she said.

Dan Roedler, another design senior, took a tip from his grandmother. He said a picture of her from the 1930s wearing a layered housedress was the motivation for his line.

The variety of clothing in the show reflects the differing interests of the designers. Quinnell’s classic-with-a-twist line and Lastovich’s various takes on the fur coat will be accompanied by a line focusing on vintage clown costumes and one drawing inspiration from comic book villains.

This variety, Quinnell said, is good for the group dynamic because no one is in direct competition with another designer. They can support and critique one another in an honest fashion, she said.

Although the group differs widely on everything from inspiration to career goals to favorite designers, there are some common ties binding them together.

Many of the designers said they were inspired by historical periods for their looks. From Art Nouveau and the roaring 1920s, to antique portraits and prints, each designer allowed history to repeat and reinterpret itself through his or her lines.

Another common bond for the considerably small yet typically-sized graduating class of designers is their claim as the first group to graduate from the newly-formed College of Design.

Adjustments involved in the transition were slight, but for the best, Lastovich said.

“I don’t see a lot of big changes, but I think that being in the company of other design-oriented fields will be really beneficial for the upcoming classes,” she said.

Quinnell also noticed, while studying in the program, a trend she identifies as “The Project Runway Phenomenon.”

There is a noticeable increase in the class sizes of the underclassmen in the program, Quinnell said. She credits the popularity of Bravo’s “Project Runway” reality series for the increased visibility and interest in clothing design.

Roedler said “Project Runway” made more people think about design as a potential career and see what it was like to design clothing.

“I don’t think everyone is cut out for it but I think it’s definitely a good way to know if you are,” he said.

The fashion show also represents the changes each designer has undergone to get to this point in his or her education and career. Each has experienced a personal shift in career goals, in addition to the administrative shift in the program.

Quinnell said in high school, she imagined moving to New York to start her own line. Now, she is hoping to get a job for Target, and said she would love to stay in Minnesota.

“I look up to Target as a retailer because of their emphasis on design,” Quinnell said. “I think it’s really important to make design affordable.”

Fellow designer Jenny Olson also said she would like to work for Target, and eventually she wants to move to New York, which seems to be a theme among the graduating designers.

These transitions are perhaps preparing the seniors for the controversy and change that frequently occur in the fashion world.

For instance, the designers had to pick their models for the runway shows and experienced firsthand the debate surrounding models and their weight that has flared around the world’s runways recently.

Lastovich said she chose a variety of models, including her mother, because she wanted to experiment with designing for a variety of body types.

Changes to the size of fashion models are not happening quickly, Quinnell said. However, she said she sees the presence of the curvaceous body of Gisele Bündchen on the runway as a step in the right direction.

“I would love to say, ‘Let’s have size-six models walk down the runway,’ ” Quinnell said. “It might not be realistic right now. But I think we’re definitely making progress.”

Olson blames the media for part of the warped image runway models represent.

“I understand having a slimmer aesthetic on the runway because the media has made us think that that’s what everyone wants to be,” Olson said. “But you don’t have to look sick to be thin.”

Regardless of where their careers may take them in the future, the designers plan to stay in touch with one another after graduation because their experiences together have created close bonds, Quinnell said.

“We laugh together, we get angry at each other, and we nitpick each other’s designs. But they are some of my best friends,” she said.