The University of Minnesota is lauded for many diverse and rigorous paths of study and research. It may come as a surprise (to some) to hear that one of the most prestigious programs offered has nothing to do with science whatsoever.
Rather, it has everything to do with capturing trends, tailoring jackets, sketching looks and fitting models. The plight of the apparel design student may seem mostly glamorous but it’s not as simple as just “making clothes.” It’s also an extensive amount of meticulous work all building up to the one evening in their senior year when they present an entire line of clothing to a packed auditorium.
“Every year is different,” program director Elizabeth Bye said. “The overall theme of each apparel design class changes year to year but what stays the same is their commitment to clothing design and their commitment to each other as a class, as a team.”
With only 12 students (all female) making up the class of 2012, it’s hard not to understand how the students would form a unit. The apparel design program operates on an extremely strict schedule. Once accepted, students are committing to four years of loaded schedules with the same small group of students.
“We’ve definitely grown and developed together,” senior apparel design student Carol Fallabeck said. “We’re all fantastic individuals that are reaching out and finding our own creative path.”
This connection isn’t singular to the seniors working on their final show, either. It’s evident even among the younger grades.
“I’ve become pretty close with my fellow design students,” sophomore apparel design student Chloe Ahlf said. “When you do the kinds of work we do together — all those late nights in studio — it’s kind of impossible to not form a bond.”
The work the students must complete spans across a wide spectrum of design-related material. In addition to mastering the skill of sewing and piecing together garments, they must study history, textiles and costuming, along with merchandising and corporate work.
“We definitely prime the students to prepare for corporate design work,” Bye said. “That’s where most of the apparel design jobs are.”
Granted the nearby location of Target headquarters, the turnout of corporate design jobs for the company is very high and University apparel design grads snag jobs within the company nearly every year.
But until the reality of finding a “real world” job in the hyper competitive realm of clothing design is upon the students, they remain focused on completing day-to-day tasks, like Project Runway-esque studio challenges (e.g. making clothes with nontraditional materials or designing to a theme). Other time is spent planning, producing and promoting their senior show.
This year’s production marks a definite shift from the edgy, avant-garde tendencies of the 2011 fashion masterminds behind “Distortion.” The title this year is “Twelve,” which is also the amount of graduates in the apparel design program.
“We debated so long about the theme but then decided that it’s meant to be somewhat ambiguous,” senior apparel design student Lizzie Hillman said. “There were a few more rocker girls last year, but this year we’re focused on clothing that’s classic and elegant. There will definitely be some girls pushing the boundaries of particular styles, though.”
The class of 2012 also aims to up the production value of the event, hoping to hold the level of professionalism to the gold standard of New York. The work that goes into crafting the show is undoubtedly intense, but with this small group of committed, eager young artists, it’s hard to imagine that their efforts will yield anything less than impressive results.
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