U students at height of fashion in senior design showcase

Pamela Steinle

More than 500 spectators, many with a wine glass in hand, crowded around a 60-foot catwalk constructed in the Gateway alumni center.

As the house lights dimmed, the audience turned its attention to models dressed in sophisticated suits and revealing dresses as they pranced and posed along the runway.

Ten clothing design seniors presented their senior theses in the senior clothing design fashion show Friday night, each with a line of distinct apparel.

Each line was different, reflecting each designer’s creativity. Ruth Thompson’s rock ‘n’ roll-inspired line was met with cheers as her models jammed to AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long.”

This was Thompson’s first show, and after her models completed their walk, she cheered and assaulted the girls with huge hugs.

“It was the best; it was perfect,” Thompson said. “It was everything I wanted it to be.”

Thompson’s models agreed things had gone well – mostly because they didn’t trip. The models weren’t professionals, but rather people of average shape and size.

Each designer worked with girls who either responded to the show’s call for models or were the designer’s recruited family or friends.

In contrast to Thompson, designer Jsené Bedford is a fashion show veteran. She has participated in shows for the past five years, but her experience didn’t dim the importance of the senior show.

Her clothing line was a tribute to her grandmother, who helped instill Bedford’s love of clothing, and her American Indian heritage.

“I’ve been sewing since I was 10. My grandmother and I did bead work,” Bedford said. “I picked it up from her.”

Bedford is a member of the Lake Superior Band of Chippewa and is attending the University through the Grand Portage scholarship program.

Her line included silk fabrics that she hand-painted in patterns representative of traditional Chippewa designs.

Her music choice also accentuated her personal tribute. She chose Electric Skychurch’s “Dreamcatcher” because her grandmother used to make dreamcatchers.

The show itself paid tribute to Bedford’s grandmother, who died from breast cancer. A portion of the event’s proceeds will be donated to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

Audience members praised Ann Erickson for her line of tailored suits and Yating Luo for her exclusive use of recycled clothing.

Jeanju Choi’s line completed the evening. Her modern urban streetwear sported her self-made label, Recognize Integrate Change Educate (R.I.C.E.).

In addition to responsibilities as a designer, Choi also took on the role of fashion show coordinator.

“All the seniors are really good friends,” Choi said. She also said the group “just knew” she would be the one to take on the show.

Earlier in the day she was “flustered as hell” due to unfinished and misplaced paperwork, but by the end of the show she was pleased with how smoothly the evening proceeded.

The show is produced through a cooperation of the College of Human Ecology, the department of design, housing and apparel and the Twin Cities Style Association.

The TCSA uses student fees, profits from previous shows and income from year-round fund-raising efforts to support the annual show.

The seniors have a semester to go from conception to completion. This includes doing market research, buying fabrics, creating patterns, fitting a test garment, completing alterations and sewing the final piece.

At the show’s conclusion , associate professors Karen LaBat and Elizabeth Bye reflected on the cohesive and supportive nature of these seniors compared to other years.

“There’s not a lot of competition; it’s a nice environment,” LaBat said. “It can get competitive.”

“This group really has a lot of fun,” Bye said.

And “fun” is the key word. Several of the seniors said they designed because they loved it.

But perhaps deep down, they’re all like Thompson who said she was a designer because “life’s too short to wear ugly clothes.”

Pamela Steinle welcomes your comments at [email protected]