Elegant dresses made of not-so-elegant materials, including mirrors, pipe cleaners, plastic utensils, pumpkin seeds and chicken wire, electrified the runway at PhilaU’s annual Design X show Feb. 26.
The fashion show featured more than 30 experimental designs made with unusual materials by fashion design juniors and seniors for a fashion problem-solving course.
Senior Lauren Casale created a stunning black gown from 150 garbage bags. “The biggest challenge was getting rid of the garbage-bag shine,” she said. “So, I added sparkles and spray paint to achieve the look I wanted.”
Casale said the challenge forced her to think outside the box in terms of body coverings, learning that “even garbage bags can be fashionable.”
“We’re always astounded by the creativity of our students at this show,” said Sheila Connelly, fashion design program director.
Faculty member and “Project Runway” winner Jay McCarroll, who emceed the event, told the audience in Downs Hall auditorium that students in his class needed to be resourceful to be successful. “Students have under three weeks to produce their pieces, which must be made using little to no fabric and a budget of no more than $20,” he said.
Carly Kusy, assistant fashion design professor who also taught the course, said, “The parameters of the projects provide exciting opportunities for students to experience similar constraints that they will be faced with in the industry. As always, they exceeded expectations.”
“Designing in this class is a really fun experience because you can go in whatever direction your imagination takes you, and you can be as creative as you want to be,” said junior Susannah Huffer. For her Design X dress, she used vibrantly painted cardboard to mimic the look of a lionfish’s venomous rays, which was inspired by an aquarium visit.
“It’s challenging at first,” senior Brittany McFadden said of the design process. “You have to think very abstractly. Anything goes.” McFadden created an avant-garde head covering, inspired by the Japanese ceremonial teahouse at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, by incorporating materials such as wicker baskets and wooden dowels.
Design X was produced by members of the student group Fashion Industries Association. Senior Taryn Scala, FIA president, worked behind the scenes to direct the show, including selecting the music and determining the lineup. The experience, she said, “gets us ready to produce the Annual Fashion Show in the spring.”