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Fresh Talent, Fresh Looks on the Runway at Annual Student Fashion Showcase


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Looks by University of Minnesota apparel student Julie Anderson at the 50th annual Apparel Design Fashion Show

Images Courtesy University of Minnesota College of Design

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Earlier this month, the University of Minnesota's College of Design hosted its 50th annual Apparel Design Fashion Show, a showcase of original fashion designs by 19 graduating students from the apparel design program. The fashion show provides an opportunity for students to show off their design skills and their own point of view. Some designers opted for wearable, retail-ready looks, incorporating spring 2018 trends such as sheer fabrics, pastels, fringe, and PVC material, while others took the chance to make a bold statement and offer memorable fashion moments.

Some statements were socially conscious ones. Several of the designers wore "Black Lives Matter" t-shirts while they presented their collections on the runway. Inclusivity was at the center of designer Wren Tilbury's plus-size collection of party-ready looks, and both Kelsey Lee and Qingkang Charlie Cao showed collections with a unisex vibe. In their bios, several designers mentioned the importance of the slow-fashion movement, sustainability, and representation for LGBTQ+ people in fashion.

Designer Quinessa Stibbons (who is pursuing a social justice minor and hopes to eventually explore socially conscious design) took social consciousness to the next level with her collection, "Not About Angels." Instead of a traditional runway, her collection was presented through a dance performance. According to her artist statement, the collection is intended as "a commentary on racial violence and the trauma it inflicts on black youth." 

That being said, here are some individual collections that stood out from the pack.

Designer: Caitlin Hartman

Caitlin Hartman wowed with a collection that struck a balance between structure and softness, and between artificial and organic. Her architectural silhouettes were tempered with gentle sloping curves, while what appeared to be real fauna added a natural touch to the collection. PVC detail combined with moss-covered shoulders—how's that for a bold shoulder?—while plant life decorated a cocoon-shaped top with cutout details that lent the look an airy, textured touch. Hartman's use of synthetic materials such as vinyl, neoprene, and mesh made a surprisingly beautiful combination with the fauna on display. It was conceptual and beautiful, and perhaps even wearable if some of the plant modifications were tempered. 


Designer: Qingkang Charlie Cao

Qingkang Charlie Cao, a recent immigrant to the United States, says in his artist statement that his collection was intended to be an inclusive statement for all kinds of identities found in society, not limited by gender, race, or nationality. While many designers tend to play it safe when presenting their senior collection, Cao went as far the opposite direction as one could with his collection of unconventional, gender-fluid separates inspired by the bright colors found in nature. Traces of nomadic and streetwear elements combined effortlessly with oversize rope ties to give the collection an avant-garde, high-fashion look. While the collection certainly isn't intended for a mainstream audience, the boldness in presentation and uniqueness of the silhouettes gave the collection real runway appeal. (Plus: The orange sweater is to die for.) 

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