Inside (in)sight

What goes into planning the U’s senior fashion show? A&E investigates.
  • Kara Nesvig and John Sand
January 27, 2010

WHEN: Feb. 6
WHERE: Rapson Hall
TIME: 5:30 p.m./8 p.m. (2 shows)
TICKETS: $15 pre-show/$20 at door

Planning a fashion show is not as easy as it may seem. It’s not as simple as grabbing a couple models, throwing some clothes on their slender bodies and picking a few songs for them to walk to. Just ask the senior students of the University of Minnesota’s clothing design program, who have been at work preparing (in)sight .
“In some way, you’ve been thinking about it since freshman year,” design student Christina Armstrong said. “Ideas pop into your head and you set them aside. As you grow as a designer, you realize, ‘This will really challenge me.’”
The students began planning for the show in the spring of their junior year, researching target markets and materials for what will eventually become their four or five-piece senior line. All of their sketches and test garments are up for both peer and faculty review, and once their visions have been realized and approved, it’s up to the students to get working as fall semester begins.
The University’s design program has been around for decades, and year after year, students churn out creative, innovative designs. This year, 14 seniors will show at Rapson Hall with designs that range from casual daywear, like that of Emily Bryngelson and Cassie Hanson, to the more formal looks from Jennafer Crammer and Shirley Schlievert. Their creative palate is diverse, so rest assured, you won’t see 15 formal gowns in a row. “This is a fabulous class,” adviser and instructor Dr. Elizabeth Bye said of the seniors, whose fledgling design careers she has helped oversee.
Students are in charge of all aspects of their show, from choosing the venue to securing models to designing music and lighting. The entire production costs around $12,000. Show Chair Judy Bender, whose collection was inspired by the well-to-do and the game of chess, said that throughout the planning process, she has taken some advice from founding father Ben Franklin . “He said, ‘Failure to plan is planning to fail.’”
It seems as though the senior class has all of its bases covered. Though there was still a massive installation on the floor of Rapson Hall when I spoke to Bender, she wasn’t too worried.
“So far so good!” she said. Bender also credited a more aggressive online marketing campaign with the show’s increased ticket sales.
As the show approaches, the seniors are busy putting finishing touches on their garments, spending hours in McNeal Hall fitting models, making styling decisions and sewing, sewing, sewing. Here, A&E chats with a few of the designers and gives you a sneak peek into their insight.

Student Designer Interview: Carol Berger

Tell me why you chose to work with fashion and apparel design.
I started at a young age. I was always interested in art, and when I was really young, I was into crafts and art classes. It was middle school when I started picking up Vogue and [Harper’s] Bazaar and falling in love with fashion. It's combining the two creative aspects of my life.
What are you working on for your line for the Senior Fashion Show? Is there a concept behind it?
I chose soft, flowy silk against a more edgy, harder-lined composition of architecture, and I used a lot of leather as well for accent pieces. I have that in all of my pieces.
Who do you design for?
A young, adventurous woman who is looking for one-of-a-kind custom pieces. All of the fabrics that I've used are all hand-dyed, so it's truly unique.
I'm assuming you've already chosen what you want for hair and makeup.
Well, yes, I've already talked to the hair and makeup artists. The hair is going to look very much like the Chanel Spring 2010 Ready-to-Wear line. It's a mix of modern meets ‘40s. It's all curled and up. I've made some hair brooches.
And the makeup?
It's a lot of brass and gold that I'm incorporating into the belt and jewelry.
Is there a specific trend you enjoy this season?
I'm constantly on flipping through page after page. I enjoy the combination of flirty feminine with menswear, and adding a structured blazer to an outfit.
Do you want to continue with working in this field?
Yeah, of course. I plan to get a job out in New York after I graduate. I interned at Kaufman Franco in New York two summers ago, a smaller design company, but they do high-end stuff and a lot of custom stuff. I was a pattern maker and a product manager.
What do you think about breaking into the fashion industry? Has it been difficult?
I definitely think it's very competitive. If you start early on getting internships, broadening and networking, it's easier. I've already had two internships.
Oh, where was the other internship?
I worked with The Dressmaker in Edina. I really wish I could have gone back to New York again.
Where did you stay in New York?
In Chelsea and the Fashion District ... I mean it wasn't the coolest area, but I was barely ever at home anyway. One time I worked 21 days in a row before their collection came out. But, you know, I loved it even though I wasn't getting paid.
What have you been involved with while planning the show?
Me and one other girl did the whole lookbook, so designing ... setting up the photographer, which you don't think would take very much time.

Student Designer Interview: Carey Magnus

Did you try anything else before you chose to pursue apparel design?
I knew I wanted to work in the creative field, no ifs, ands or buts about it. For some reason, fashion just kind of came to me. When I was in high school, I took some classes in Chicago. … There is way more to it than just sketching. I think the complexity of the process is what intrigues me.
Do you want to continue in design?
I definitely know that someday I want to do my own thing. I think now, for the next 10 years or so, I’ll work for a bunch of different kinds of companies. I worked for Ralph Lauren this summer in New York, and I love that atmosphere.
What did you do for Ralph Lauren?
I worked in their brand department, and we did all of the color for Chaps and American Living. We saw the whole process through from conception to production. When merchandising would meet, everyone would come in and we would present it to Buffy [Birrittella, Executive Vice President, Women's Design and Advertising, Polo Ralph Lauren], and she had to approve things before Ralph came in. We would run in with our boards and she would be like “I want more pink!” … Seeing how they worked really helped me figure out the process to come up with a line.
What are working on for your line? Did you incorporate anything from that internship into your experience?
I took a lot of the aesthetic I saw at Ralph Lauren , those tailored elements and beautiful draped pieces. I was really inspired by the fabric. After the summer, my [design concept] completely changed. It’s inspired by High Line Park, which is a park in Manhattan on the West Side. When they used trains, they elevated it above everyone. Now, since it obviously isn’t used, they decided to make it into a park.
I was really inspired by the warehouse windows and this raspberry color [of the wildflowers].
I’m doing a lot of mixed elements, like a draped skirt and then tailored pants with sideband details. A lot of these are career-wear but they can be mixed and matched.
Do you have anything in the way of hair, makeup or accessories planned out?
I actually met a designer who does jewelry here, and so I’m using her jewelry. It’s a lot of bracelets and a necklace; I’m doing a lot of pearls. All of the girls have the same hair, same color. I want it to be chic and feminine, but not like she’s walking from a salon to go to prom.

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