In 1929, student designers from Washington University in St. Louis staged a fashion show at Kline’s department store, a prominent local retailer. Afterwards, manufacturers in the city’s booming garment district secured eight dresses for commercial production. The category of junior fashion — and the yearly tradition of highlighting work by WashU designers — was born.
“The fashion design program has a rich intellectual history and an ongoing commitment to innovation,” said program coordinator Mary Ruppert-Stroescu, associate professor in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts.
“Today our students continue to explore major questions facing the profession, from cutting-edge technology to interdisciplinary collaboration to the critical importance of environmental sustainability,” Ruppert-Stroescu said. “Clothing should be functional and aesthetically pleasing, but it also embodies values.”
At 3 p.m. Sunday, April 14, the Sam Fox School will present its 90th Annual Fashion Design Show in Anheuser-Busch Hall’s Crowder Courtyard. The event will feature dozens of models wearing scores of looks created outfits created by fashion design students, as well as collaborations with students from communication design, occupational therapy, and biomedical engineering.
Highlights will range from the seniors’ capstone collections — each a fully coordinated collection targeting a particular market and customer demographic — to fashion kimonos; upcycled garments and garments for adults with Cerebral Palsy, designed in collaboration with Washington University School of Medicine’s Program in Occupational Therapy and the Adult Cerebral Palsy Clinic.
Fluid and structured
This year’s capstone collections include “Gentle Women” by Xushuhe Katherine Zhao. Inspired by childhood memories of trying on clothes in her parents’ closet, the collection combines classic British fabrics — houndstooth and glen plaid wool— with details drawn from the traditional, form-fitting Cheongsam gown.
“While the masculine side of the collection explores intricate designs of oversized suiting structures, the feminine side is inspired by 1930s Old Shanghai pin up-girl posters and integrates pearls, floral prints, and mandarin collars,” Zhao said. The result is “a combination of sophistication and eccentricity, and a controversy between fluid and structured silhouettes.”
Childhood memories also inform Regina Sterge’s collection, “Of the Earth.” “When I was a little girl, my mother set up a personal garden for me,” Sterge said. “I could choose what I wanted to grow there — a mix of vibrant flowers and fresh vegetables.” Her silk eveningwear features hand-painted fabrics filled with floral allusions. Forget-Me-Nots and Daylilies mix with Peonies and Gardenias.
Other senior collections include Samantha Gordon’s “Belle Époque,” which combines natural fabrics and the cinching corsets, high necklines and long sleeves of the Victorian and Edwardian eras to explore issues of confinement. In “Solforce,” Brynne Swearingen uses a bright palette and casual silhouettes to capture the warmth and movement of the sun, “one of the few things that remains constant in a continually changing world.”
Organizers and co-sponsors
Outstanding student designers receive a variety of scholarships, cash prizes and awards. The Dominic Michael Silver Scissors Designer of the Year Award is presented to the senior who has holistically shown compelling creativity and exceptional skill in fashion design concept and execution. Saks Fifth Avenue recognizes the senior whose work is most marketable; work by the recipient will be displayed at the Plaza Frontenac location May 3-19.
Alumna Susan Sanders Block of The Designing Block sponsors the Silver Ripper Award, which is presented to the junior who has shown the most determination and growth. The new Riverbend Textiles Sustainable Design Leadership Award will recognize the student who promotes sustainable clothing design through active leadership and original fashion design work.
The Fashion Design Show is free and open to the public but space is limited; for inquiries about remaining tickets, contact email@example.com. Doors will open at 2:30 p.m. A meet-and-greet with the designers will immediately follow the show, at 4 p.m.
Anheuser-Busch Hall is located on Snow Way Drive, near the intersection of Throop Drive and Forest Park Parkway. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.