Seniors and graduate students from the Drexel University Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design’s fashion design program brought glitz and glamour to the 2018 Drexel Fashion Show as they flaunted their custom collections June 2.
The annual event took place at the corporate offices of Urban Outfitters in the Navy Yard for the 10th year in a row. The venue offered a wide space for participating fashion design students to display their fashion concept illustrations along the building walls along with the opportunity for a red carpet photoshoot. The show consisted of two runway showcases: one at 4 p.m. and another at 8 p.m. Both shows entertained a crowd of about 1,500 people. Among the attendees was President John A. Fry, Polo Ralph Lauren executive Gail Onorato and fashion director of H by Halston Cameron Silver, who was also the fashion show’s honored guest.
The first half of the show featured garments pieced together by second- and third-year undergraduate students as well as first-year graduate students — experimental clothing, lingerie, swimwear, sportswear, eveningwear and children’s wear. Some of the participating senior and graduate designers also contributed pieces to the opening collection.
Afterwards, 34 senior and graduate students brought their creative style to life on the catwalk, with fashion sets inspired by the 1980s Miami Vice era, the metamorphosis of the butterfly, Rocky Horror Picture Show and the Japanese craft of Origami. Each collection included three to six pieces.
Fashion design senior Kylie Stetler, in particular, pointed to 19th century freak show circuses as the primary source of inspiration for her unusual, visually striking collection. All three of her pieces included features that restrict the movement of the wearer and the functionality of the piece. One garment, called “the cage dress,” was an off-white see-through dress that trapped the model’s torso from neck to mid-thighs. Another piece, which Stetler referred to as “the tent skirt,” floated over the wearer’s lower body using a similar technique as the cage dress.
“I wanted to make something that wasn’t wearable,” Stetler said. “I used metal boning — the wires used in corsets — to create the illusion. And there was a lot of physics and architecture involved.”
Meanwhile, Kate Haley, another fashion design senior who was also a pitcher for Drexel’s softball team, showcased her bridal collection titled “Ophelia.” Her set pulled its inspiration from the romanticism of the 1930s Midwest and the Dust Bowl. Haley utilized vintage techniques to create her pieces, including drenching her fabrics in coffee to create the rustic, beige color of the dresses, among other practices.
“I did a lot of lace appliques,” she said. “All my fabric is natural fabric fills cottons. I don’t use any polyesters, because [they didn’t] have polyesters in the 1930s. [My dresses are] hand-finished.”
The creation of each unique collection was a yearlong process for the fashion design students. For the fall and winter terms, they sketched out and planned their designs. Then, they spent the spring term creating their pieces for the show. For Stetler and Haley, who worked on their pieces in the same studio space on the fourth floor of the URBN Center, the execution of their pieces involved long nights and multiple all-nighters.
Participating senior and graduate students were eligible for 20 awards at the fashion show — from “Most Saleable Collection” to “Most Creative Collection” to “Best in Show.”
Westphal College dean Allen Sabinson, who is set to become the longest serving dean following the conclusion of Donna M. Murasko’s role as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, enjoyed the creative and eclectic collections exhibited in the show, and admired the efforts of the Westphal students.
“The fashion show is the most glamorous event at Drexel, and I’m always astounded by the students’ creations and hard work,” said Sabinson, who has served as Westphal College dean for 13 years. “The quality across the board utterly impressed me.”
Students from multiple departments collaborated to put on a glittering fashion show. Design and merchandising students did the event planning and promotion beforehand, while also working behind the scenes during the show, including directing runway traffic for the models. They were also responsible for creating Drexel’s colorful fashion magazine, which was distributed at the show. Music industry students provided the catwalk music that kept the vibe lively for audience members.
Design and merchandising senior Alyssa Schuetz, who was a model coordinator for the show, found her role in this year’s fashion show to be a fruitful experience.
“My favorite part throughout this process was being able to work with everyone,” she said. “Working with our faculty, the fashion designers, the model agencies, and the models … it’s a very elevated event to be working for because it’s extremely professional, [and] the models we bring in are all from agencies.”