The Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis is home to the nation’s oldest four-year fashion design program.
At 7 p.m. Sunday, March 30, the Sam Fox School will present its 79th Annual Fashion Design Show — a fully choreographed, Paris-style extravaganza — as the concluding event for Saint Louis Fashion Week.
The hour-long show takes place downtown at the Lumière Place Casino & Hotels, 999 2nd Ave., which is the site of several runway shows throughout the week. Tickets are $65 for general seating and $35 for standing-room-only. Tickets are available through the Edison Theatre Box Office, (314) 935-6543, and all MetroTix outlets, (800) 534-1111. A limited number of tickets will be available at the door.
A special VIP reception will immediately precede the show, at 6 p.m. Tickets are $150. Proceeds will support scholarships in the fashion program.
Chaired by alumna Susan Block (BFA’76), the Fashion Design Show will feature dozens of outfits created by the program’s 11 senior and 11 juniors. The show will begin with ball gowns inspired by Cristobal Balenciaga (1885-1972), a Spanish designer whose spare, elegantly chic apparel exerted a strong influence over mid-20th-century fashion. Next up are “class-action” suits and daytime dress groups, the latter created as part of a larger merchandizing research project.
“The dress group project addresses the ‘real life’ fashion design issues of a fashion career,” says associate professor Jeigh Singleton, who has directed the fashion program since 1987. “Customer profiles, geographic locales, current socioeconomic trends and fashion trends play equally important roles in the development of a wearable, believable product.”
The show continues with tailored coats inspired by shoes from the collection of the Missouri History Museum, followed by dramatic cloaks and evening dresses, in which silhouette is defined by movement.
“Draping in fashion design requires spontaneity, recognition and activity,” Singleton notes. “It is a spiritual realm where creativity thrives, and also a domain of endless struggle for perfection, expression and accomplishment.”
As in past years, the show will conclude with a single wedding gown. This year’s gown, by graduate student Katie Trout, is a bias-cut silk dress that fuses contemporary design with traditional forms inspired by Chicago’s 1882 Elite bluebook.
In addition to designing and sewing garments, students have developed choreography for the runway segments and recently organized a call for models that was attended by representatives from several local agencies. During the show they will work backstage with the technical crew and with stylists such as Dominic Bertani of the Dominic Michael Salon, who has done the models hair for the past 16 years
“The Fashion Show is a great learning experience,” Singleton points out. “Students run almost every aspect of the show. There’s a real sense of ownership.”
FASHION DESIGN AT WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY
The Fashion Design Show dates back to 1929, when Irving L. Sorger — the merchandise manager for Kline’s, a tony St. Louis department store — visited the university’s recently established Dress Design Program, as it was then known.
Sorger was hoping to get a better sense of what young women wanted to wear and, impressed by the students’ work, organized a showing for local garment manufacturers. From that show eight dresses were selected for production and, with sales surpassing all expectations, juniors’ fashions soon became a staple of the city’s garment industry.
Though St. Louis is no longer a manufacturing center, alumni of the fashion program include celebrated designers such as Paula Varsalona, Carolyn Roehm, Vicki Van Osdol, Kristin Twenhafel Morse and Ellie Broady. Recent graduates work for many of the industry’s major fashion houses and clothing retailers, including Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, Christian Dior, Nanette Lepore, Lane Bryant, J. Crew, Target and Kohl’s.
SAINT LOUIS FASHION WEEK
Saint Louis Fashion Week, which takes place March 24-30, was launched last August by Alive magazine, which continues to coordinate events. It joins a series of recently established fashion weeks — including one San Francisco, begun in 2004, and one in Phoenix, begun in 2005 — intended to showcase both national and local designers while also benefiting local businesses. In all, the week will include more than a dozen of events, ranging from parties and runway shows to a citywide fashion sale featuring special discounts for fashion enthusiasts.
“Saint Louis Fashion Week has become an amazing community partnership between some of St. Louis’ most prominent corporations, cultural institutions and visionary leaders,” says Attilio D’Agostino, editor-in-chief of Alive, who also serves as the week’s executive producer.
“It’s a remarkable collaboration of over 40 St. Louis-based businesses — from boutiques, modeling agencies and creative firms to restaurants and nightlife hotspots — coming together to create a destination for the world’s top designers to touch their Midwest fans and customers, and a showcase for the best up-and-coming designers to launch their careers.”
For more information about Saint Louis Fashion Week, visit www.saintlouisfashionweek.com.
WHO: Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis
WHAT: The 79th Annual Fashion Design Show
WHEN: 7 p.m. Sunday, March 30.
WHERE: Lumière Place Casino & Hotels, 999 2nd Ave.
TICKETS: $65 general seating, $35 standing-room-only. Available through the Edison Theatre Box Office, (314) 935-6543, and through all MetroTix outlets, (800) 534-1111.
INFORMATION: (314) 935-6543