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Apparel design students ditch the fashion show

With a small graduating class and a changing industry, apparel design students are opting for research and technical design.
Image by Amelia Roessler
The curriculum in the College of Design has shifted into two tracks of fashion design or technical design for students to expand their learning.

The University of Minnesota College of Design has shifted its curriculum this year to provide apparel design students with more options than designing clothing lines. 

Without enough pieces to do a fashion show, which had been standard in past years, apparel design seniors have opted for other options, including research development or digital representation of designs for their senior thesis.

Elizabeth Bye, an apparel design professor, said the curriculum has shifted into two tracks: creative fashion design and one focused on technical design. She added that students can also do both, which was previously the standard for the program. 

Bye said that instead of requiring all students to do a senior line of clothing to present in a fashion show, seniors now do a thesis that is more focused on some sort of research. 

“The types of projects that the students can do for their senior thesis is much broader and meets the needs of the diversity of our students’ interests,” Bye said. 

Bye added there were very few students graduating this year who had enough pieces to do a line and put together a fashion show. 

According to Bye, students must spend countless hours and resources to put on a show for little in return, as a limited number of fashion industry people attend. However, a new student group, Apparel Design Collective, still provides opportunities for students who wish to participate in a fashion show.

Isabel Friedell, a fourth-year in apparel design, said not having a senior fashion show was because of a combination of funding, small class size and the number of students not having enough pieces. 

Instead, Friedell turned toward the Apparel Design Collective, which she said was originally a group for apparel design seniors to organize the fashion show. 

The group has now opened up for any student in apparel design and continues to be the only student group for the major. 

“It’s a really good way to connect with people outside of your year,” Friedell said. “I don’t think I really would’ve met anyone, I think I would’ve been stuck with the seniors.” 

The Collective officially started in early 2024 and now has around 30 active members, according to the group’s president and third-year student Mae Sann.

Sann said the Collective is a place for all apparel design and University students to enjoy apparel and show their passion for it outside of classes. 

“There is realism that when you’re in school, that’s all you’re designing for,” Sann said. “You don’t have time to do it outside of class, and so that’s exactly what this is supposed to be. There’s no real hard deadlines to anything, it’s all very come as you are and present what you want to, not what you’re expected to.” 

Currently, the Collective is working on organizing events and exhibitions, hoping to eventually have a fashion show for all students. The group is trying to get professionals from the Minnesota area to come and talk, Sann said. 

“We’re very much taught to make a garment that fits a dress form that you can pattern and you can mass produce, so we want to provide students an exterior option to learn something different,” Sann said. 

Bye said she is excited to see the Collective reform and create an opportunity for students to do fashion shows or other events. 

“I’m thrilled that if there is interest in doing a show, that the student group is the organization that is going to take that on,” Bye said.  

Svea Krisetya, a second-year student and the Collective’s fundraising coordinator, said watching the senior’s fashion show last year was inspirational. 

“We were kind of bummed it wasn’t happening again this year, but obviously, it’s the seniors’ choice and not everybody wants to do a show,” Krisetya said. 

According to Krisetya, students have started to realize how much work and money goes into a fashion show and how necessary it is to have a club and organization to pull off something like a show. 

“Just getting the roots in the ground to be able to have a stronger foundation is the main goal of the collective,” Krisetya said. 

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