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Review: RISD’s Collection 2011 Fashion Show

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


There are RISD Collections, and then there are Collections.

For the hundreds of fashion lovers of all ages who filled Veteran's Memorial Auditorium this weekend for two showings of the Apparel Department's showcase of its student talent, this was one of those years that leaves one astonished at the depth and power of the designers currently in the studios of the country's famed department.

In short, it was one of the best shows in years in terms of sheer talent and execution, from a full team of assured and promising sophomores and juniors to ready-for-runway seniors.

Sophomore Standouts

As is the tradition at Collection, sophomores compete in two challenges. Re-Innovative Design requires them to explore the properties of recycled materials other than fabric while creating a wearable piece. Print Design Project asks that they create a garment that makes "optimal use" of a printed fabric designed by a RISD Textiles student.

Often in Collections, both these challenges can create work that is charming for the eccentricity of the challenge itself, but not this year. Hannah Soukup stole both shows, first with her delightful rendering of Anna Ewing's print in Orange Orchard, and then breathtakingly with Cadenza, a couture-esque dress that combined piano wire and sheets of music in gorgeous silhouette (above). Morgan Selin

harnessed what seemed like kilometers' worth of bicycle tubes to turn Schwinn into a full-bodied dress that would rock an MTV Awards as well as the Vets runway. Further credit to Courtney Mitchell's sexy Warrior Princess that put brass buckles to creative use, and Nelle Horsley's remarkable Barn Swallow, a dreamy gown made from hundreds of recovered feathers. Anna Corey's Garden Gown, utilizing the romantic florals of Kaitlyn Wheatley-Kichline, cast a modern romantic sensibility. What a class. What promise for full-blown collections in two years.

Juniors Ascendant

RISD's class of 2012 steps up to two technical challenges in the junior year: Knitwear Design and a Tailoring Project. This is where the rubber really meets the fashion road, as creativity can be defeated by lack of technical attack. Not this year.

Gorgeous, creative knitwear dominated the show, and one of the showiest displays was for men. Zev Schwartz wrapped two preening fops in clubtastic, opulent colors in Limelight (left) and then played supersized in tailoring with Dick Tracy, an enormous yellow jacket that made David Byrne's Big Suit from Stop Making Sense look, well, not so big. Alexa Silva's Industrial Knit Revolution brought cheers for its peekaboo intricacy.

Seniors Triumphant

What a group. Whether creating cocktail attire for this year's themed challenge or building their Senior Thesis collections, the assured professionalism of these young designers dominated the show. Standouts among standouts: Sarah Richards' Extra Verte brought the house down with a large ensemble of prints that had been digitally rendered from natural forms, combined with machine knit fabric by senior Arman Negahban, to gorgeous, thoroughly modern effect. Antoinette Ticzon's Escapism brought incredible color sense and whimsy, while Hye Min Kang's Fissure used concrete as its inspiration for a men's line anchored by strong knit tops. Avery Reed's collection of costumes for an imagined production of Shakespeare's The Tempest was pure, assured romance. Emma Walsh's Child's Play utilized the fun of one large piece (as in dress up), but with style and sexiness. And Linzi Kofsky and Susannah Hallagan nailed the Cocktail challenge with their Gimlet and Cubist Cosmo offerings, respectively.

The show closed this year with a pageant the likes of which the Vets stage hasn't seen for years, if ever. Motapo (right), a looming, surreal procession of intricate, breathtaking costumed creatures inspired by Japanese moth-culture (think Mothra), executed with Vegas-meets-Manga splendor by the deeply creative Eric Dinges, brought the house down. And rightly so.

Normally, one wonders what a show this incredible can offer as an encore, but with the stable of sophomores and juniors on display this year, Collection 2012 offers nothing but promise.


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