CORVALLIS – It’s going to be fierce.
More than 30 student designers from the Oregon State University Department of Design and Human Environment will share their new collections in the department’s sixth annual fashion show at 8 p.m. Friday, May 14, at the CH2M Hill Alumni Center. The doors will open at 7 p.m.
The theme for this year’s fashion display is “Iconography: The Art of Fashion.” The annual show is the biggest fashion show at OSU and is funded by the DHE Department, according to Deedra Stephens, a junior, who is part of a class of 17 students who organized this year’s event.
Putting on the event requires finding and training student models, recruiting junior and senior apparel design majors and ultimately putting on an exhibition for them complete with runway, lights, music and a panel of expert industry judges.
“We’re mostly looking to bring some more popularity to our department,” Stephens said. “Financially, the department is struggling, and while engineering majors and science students are important we feel it’s our turn for some of the spotlight.”
DHE is a department full of passionate teachers and students and is growing. There are about 720 undergraduate students, 29 graduate students and nine tenured and tenure-track faculty in the department, which is the only program west of the Rockies that offers bachelor’s through Ph.D. programs in apparel design, interior design, housing studies and merchandising management.
The work of the juniors and seniors in apparel design ranges from avant-garde to more commercial ready-to-wear influences.
On a recent Saturday afternoon the sewing studio in Milam Hall was full of industrious students working on a variety of projects for the show.
“I’m going off of a lace and bridal theme — but not tacky,” said Janine Garb, a senior from Walnut Creek, Calif. Garb was an intern last summer at Jessica McClintock in San Francisco.
“This is not required, so every student that does it volunteers to do it and is responsible for making their garments and for providing their own materials,” Garb said.
Taylor Sieg, a junior and Portland native, was hard at work piecing together a collection geared towards the active business person.
Sieg focused on men’s wear and incorporated technical fabrics of different weights and colors to create breathable and waterproof items. His accessories include backpacks.
“It’s just kind of a play on the formal and informal,” he said. “Very luxurious and very utilitarian at the same time.”
Sieg is one of a growing number of men enrolled in the department. Still, he said, “For every male there is like five females in my cohort of 25.”
Hillary Waddle, a senior from Clackamas, had always been interested in fashion, but never considered studying it. She started college as a language arts and education major, and later tried exercise science before deciding to become a designer.
Waddle describes her collection as “Mediterranean and Greek inspired, but with a modern feel.” Her collection focuses on the movement of fabric and has some reoccurring prints in pink, orange, purple and red.
“I get in the zone,” she said, and gestured to a newly finished top. “I worked on this for 10 hours straight and just really busted it out.”
The show serves as a final project for many students, and the bar for quality and workmanship is set high.
“You can’t fake a garment,” Waddle said. “It’s a requirement. Every garment has to be completely finished or it is not allowed in the show.”
At the show a dozen industry representatives will be on hand, including Elizabeth Ruess-Byrd, Chanel; Carrie Beth Largham, Nike; Kim Nye, Nordstrom; and Tonja Schreiber, Perry Ellis and Abby Swancutt, Columbia. Many of the guest judges are alumni of the program.
The show is a chance for students to network and catch the eye of possible employers.
A student who won an award for her collection last year got an internship with Columbia and is now working there, according to Garb.
“It’s amazing being able to show your stuff,” Garb said. “I did the show last year when I was a junior and it was just amazing being able to watch something you crafted, that is absolutely your original design that you made (on the runway).”
“There is a big sense of accomplishment,” Sieg agreed.
“I think until you’ve done the show, you don’t understand the impact personally that it has on you,” Garb added. “It was such a motivating factor for me. It made me want to be in the industry so much more.”
The event gives hopeful models a chance to strut their stuff as well.
Model Katie Koman, a liberal studies major who stopped by the lab for a fitting, was very excited to walk in the show.
“I’ve seen a few of them (the garments) and sketches of others. I’m so amazed that it is students making them.”
Like many of the models, Koman had no experience before trying out to be in the show. She and the rest of the models have had weekly training sessions since January.
Rachel Knauss, a junior from Eugene, was planning to make one dress and several shorts and tank top outfits that reflect her own personal style, which she described as “a little old-fashioned, kind of like the fox in ‘Pinocchio.’”
Before starting on her DHE degree she studied education, psychology and fine arts.
“I was more hung up on the practicality of the degrees,” Knauss said. “Then I just decided to give in.”
Knauss is not a fan of the conventional fashion industry; rather, she is interested in redesigns — taking old fabric and making something out of it. She recently had an internship with Deluxe in Eugene.
“This is going to be my big finale gown,” said Ashley Norberg, a senior from Corvallis, as she worked on a periwinkle dress with a black pleather bodice.
Like Waddle and Knauss, she didn’t start her college years studying fashion.
“I actually started out at UO in Spanish and International Affairs,” she said.
Her collection of gowns incorporates layers and jackets and is about displaying “inner emotion” artistically on the outside.
“I’ve lived in Milam Hall all term,” Norberg said. “Gowns are probably the most difficult because you have to do all the understructure and boning. It’s like making two dresses.”
Norberg has also been a costume shop technician for OSU Theatre productions such as “The Mikado.”
Like the majority of the designers in the show, she will be graduating in June, and said that she definitely is going to design the top of her mortar board for the ceremony. She hopes to get a buying position with a company like Urban Outfitters’ Anthropologie in the future.
She said of entering the job market: “It’s exciting and terrifying at the same time.”
Tickets are $20 for general admission and $5 for standing room. They are available for purchase in Milam Hall Room 224 and at the event. Attendees are asked to dress in cocktail attire.