Fashion on the fringe

U of M clothing design seniors prepare for their gritty runway finale, “Distortion.”
Fashion design senior Jessica George measures the waist of a mannequin Monday at the McNeal Center in St Paul.
February 17, 2011


WHAT: U of M Senior Fashion Show, Distortion”

WHEN: Saturday, Feb. 19, 5 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.

WHERE: Rapson Hall Courtyard, 89 Church St. SE

COST: $10-$25. VIP $50

Move over, Carlson. Believe it or not, the clothing design program is one of the most competitive programs offered at the University of Minnesota.

Designer hopefuls begin their freshman year as a pre-major, taking limited program courses only to be reviewed by a panel at the end of the year when the class size is drastically cut to 18.

For those who survive the elimination round, life as they once knew it is over and the eager students embark on the rigorous three-year journey that is clothing design school. The culmination of their hard work has all built up to the moment when they’ll show their senior lines at “Distortion,” the senior fashion show.

“We look at our class as being a little more offbeat and in-your-face,” senior clothing design major Amanda Matrejek said.

“We definitely didn’t want to have a theme that was super inspirational,” senior clothing design major Elise Diebel said. “We’re all a little dark and a little cynical.”

The students conceive the themes as a class, and “Distortion” most fits the aesthetic and attitude that they hope to project to the design world.

The production itself is completely student-run, which, when all is said and done, is a heck of a lot of work. In addition to actually designing and sewing the four to five looks that are meant to manifest everything they’ve learned in the past four years of academia (kind of like a thesis), the students must also piece together an entire evening of entertainment for the viewers who come to support their sartorial glory.

This means securing a venue, contracting models, makeup and hair, coordinating the runway soundtrack with a DJ, fundraising, selling tickets and, in traditional fashion-scene manner, figuring out where to throw the afterparty, all in addition to promoting the very work that’s depriving them of sleep.

“It keeps building and keeps getting worse for your social life,” Diebel said. “It’s intense. You have to really love what you’re doing.”

There’s no question that the students love what they’re doing; the question is how will this love manifest in the hot looks we see on the runway? This year, the showings are looking to be fairly diverse. From the refined menswear of Kelly Ver Duin to the modern-apocalyptic flash of Niki English to the ambitious lingerie line coming from Alix Nettnay, it’s clear that show-goers are in for a full spectrum of fashion’s finest.

Though the completion of the senior show will undoubtedly foster a sense of accomplishment among the young designers and will certainly be a load off their shoulders, it’s also a sentimental ending to a bond with classmates. Post-graduation, it’s inevitable that some will heed the seductive siren-song of New York, others will try their luck within the Twin Cities developing their lines, some may end up in commercial design jobs and others still may find themselves amidst careers outside of the fashion industry entirely.

Whether the future carries them to the runways of New York fashion week or to a boutique down the block, “Distortion” marks an integral step for the earnest graduates.

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