CCAD’s annual Senior Fashion Show is not simply the culmination of four years of design training for students, but also evidence of a symbiotic relationship that is helping to drive the continuing development of Columbus as a fashion hub.
If the presence of established corporate fashion and the increasing proliferation of indie designers help inform the training of young designers at CCAD and other institutions, those young designers are, in turn, building on the city’s existing reputation and moving it forward in new, exciting directions.
“There is a great access to talent here. Having corporations that bring people here to work who stay here and maybe move on to a boutique or create their own collection provides students with real feedback from professionals,” CCAD Fashion Design Chair Suzanne Cotton said. “Our program brings a lot of people here, many not just to study but also to stay here and create.”
The designers featured in this year’s show bring varied approaches conceptually, aesthetically and technically. Jacob Maitland’s eveningwear pieces are luxurious and elaborate. Jiaqi Kou’s looks are inspired by her Chinese heritage and feature her own hand-dyed fabrics in wool, linen and cotton. Sheri Wu’s “Resonance” looks to draw inspiration from her treatment for a brain tumor (“Resonance” as in, Magnetic Resonance Imaging), including a custom fabric she modelled on her own brain scans. Lauren Metelitz’s looks feature more than a hint of Spanish style, with nods to matadors and flamenco dancers in all black material.
“Matadors wear these beautiful, custom-tailored clothes and then go out and do what they do, which feels like a tragedy, so that’s why my collection is all black,” Metelitz said. “I used all different textures — lots of different kinds of fabrics — and incorporated hardware and fringe.
Metelitz said she was going for a look that was “more daring, something really interesting.”
“We strive, as a department, to encourage students to develop their own aesthetic. The goal is to develop the creative designer mind,” Cotton said. “If you can create your own process, you can be successful.”
Each year, once collections are selected for the show and pieces finished, the students complete a design study unrelated to their collections. This year, Cotton said, she decided to explore the issue of sustainability as it related to fashion.
“Sustainability is becoming more and more important in our industry, looking at processes and asking ‘Are we being responsible?’” she said.
Cotton invited fashion designer and visionary Celeste Malvar-Stewart to discuss her favorite topic with the students.
“This was the highlight of my year so far,” Malvar-Stewart said.
Since moving to Columbus about three years ago, Malvar-Stewart’s commitment to exploring sustainable fashion has increased, as she connected with local farms for fiber and foraged for locally-made dyes.
“People have this image when you say ‘sustainable fashion’ of wearing burlap sacks,” she said, only half-joking. “The challenge for these young designers is how to create beautiful pieces within a sustainable model, without compromising design. I wanted to come in and make students aware of every aspect of the design process.”
Among the sustainable projects was Metelitz’s white dress design, created from used dryer sheets.
“At first I was trying to do something with lint, to try and show how these microfibers wash away every time you clean your clothing,” she said. “Celeste gave me this big bag of lint and dryer sheets, which are also unsustainable. I started ironing the sheets and then cut them into smaller squares and sewed them into rolls. It looked like a brick pattern. So now I have this simple, elegant dress made completely from dryer sheets.”
Metelitz admitted the dryer sheet dress is “an awareness piece.” “I don’t know that people are going to wear dryer sheets,” she said.
“It’s so lovely,” Malvar-Stewart said of the dress, adding, “All of the students made these really innovative pieces.”
The sustainable pieces will be displayed on mannequins in the party area of the fashion show. Meanwhile, the collections will be modeled on the runway at CCAD’s Design Studios on Broad. A VIP reception kicks off the Friday event, followed by the show itself at 8 p.m. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. for general admission. VIP tickets also include a post-show party and admission to the Jazz Lounge. General admission also includes the after-party.