A Critique of Chicago Student Fashion Show (Dress Code, Fashion Focus)
Posh, elite, And totally fierce-bitchy, the designers of the future showcase their work in a student fashion show sponsored by Dress Code as a part of Fashion Focus Chicago 2008. Four schools presented four designers each to make this highly publicized event an interesting spectacle.
First to hit the runway was The School of the Art Institute Chicago. Known for their overly conceptual work, the collections presented were well tailored and “interesting”. Tyler Coughlin presented an explosive fireball of clothes that looked like satanic Halloween costumes. Adorned with sharp red, enameled gold, and jet black the variety of his collection seemed limited and didn’t have the wearability that the common folk long for. On the complete opposite end, Moriko Golden showcased a softer palette of earth tones and funk that drew inspiration from the mystery of gardens. Each piece had a story that was related to mother nature and was tastefully executed. Her models did not wear shoes, which was a powerful statement as most of the designers insisted on using heels to support their work. At times during the beginning of the show, one could feel a sudden jolt of confusion when the garments appeared on stage. When Min Jeong Ko presented her collection of scraps it definitely reemphasized SAIC’s tendency to choose concept over aesthetic.
The showstopper was perhaps Columbia College who was able to tone down concept to appease the audiences. Cute skirts, luxurious evening gowns, hot denim, and unbelievable footwear made is seem like these students were better prepared for the business of fashion. Liz Klimek presented a lavender sundress with budding pink and yellow flowers trimming it and it received the first applause of the night; a kick in the face to the misunderstood SAIC. It happened again throughout Yuka Tekada’s presentation. She proved her genius with a very witty use of lace and purple fabric. A conservative high-waisted plaid skirt, with rocker black lace gloves oooo’d as couture purple and brown business skirt and top awed. Her clothing was both fresh and contemporary, leaving many to wonder when they could purchase. Columbia was not all glory that night. Reginald Ilagen managed to provide the tackiness for the evening; a cliché collection of black dresses with leopard print. Although his draping technique was interesting, and his silhouettes professional, it did not encourage the same level of amazement or adventure that the designers had before him. One might suggest that Ilagen perhaps should have gone first for the evening.
The International Acadmey of Design & Technology had a few good pieces come down the runway. Fraley Le who had a natural ability to experiment with the female form. She took risks, especially in one garment were a dress had a detailed exaggeration at the hips, which might have been ill fitting but looked absolutely amazing on the model. It was clear that her vision on the collection was an interpretation of the safe “little black dress”. But the concepts of her classmates were messy and had a noticeable ego.
Once Columbia had wrapped up, the show went down hill. And it was a mighty big hill.
The Illinois Institute of Art showcased a collection of boxy and poorly executed work. It was embarrassing to watch. The clothing did not fit and was not innovative in its presentation. Common things like plaid pants or the over used “flower-as-blouse” seemed like these students allowed too many things to inspire them. At times there were hopeful moments as the models first stepped on to the runway. But the optimism was ruined by clothing falling off, string flapping around, or the apparent discomfort of the model attempting to make the garment look good. Adriana Gonzalez was mildly impressive with her conceptual work of sienna grey gowns. But it begs the question, “What are you in school for?”
In all, the fashion show was a success in it’s attempt to convey Chicago as a fashion capital. There were a few moments of annoyance, like the added finale of the “Make Me a Model” search where one of the runway models won an official contract, which cheapened the night. But events like this are absolutely necessary to redefine Chicago’s ability to be an art center.