Fashion students design Botanical Garden inspired pieces

Photo courtesy of Delinda Starks.

Photo courtesy of Delinda Starks.

Kelsey Drumm

Kent State fashion design students crafted elegant floral dresses for a competition inspired by Cleveland Botanical Garden’s “Orchid Mania” exhibit. 

Kevin Wolfgang, TechStyleLAB manager and outreach program manager for fashion design and merchandising, said the Fashion School sent an email over winter break to see if students had interest in the Cleveland Botanical Garden design competition. 

The students then auditioned and provided five sketches and portfolios of what they wanted to present for the design competition, Wolfgang said.

Fashion design professors then hand-selected 10 upperclassmen from those who auditioned. They include fashion design seniors Calvin Brant, Claire Ellen Eberts, Camille Proctor, Samantha Skowronsky, Amanda Swain, Anastasia White and Xiolong Zhao, and juniors De’Linda Starks, Abby Steger and Camille Winslow.

“The faculty know the skills of the students because they get more face time with them, so the fashion design professors know which students to use (for the competition) and which students are not ready (to compete) yet,” Wolfgang said.

The fashion students studied photos of displayed flowers from the Orchid Mania exhibit before they began the process, Proctor said. They completed their masterpieces in the Kent State Fashion School TechStyleLAB located on the third floor of Rockwell Hall. 

The TechStyleLAB offers digital output devices, including a wide format digital textile printer and digital embroidery machines, Wolfgang said.

“I thought it would be a really great experience because I’ve never entered any design competitions, so this is my first,” Proctor said. “I’m getting exposure for myself, and the TechStyleLAB gets exposure as well. Ultimately, I’m having fun and learning along the way.”

Using the textile lab and budget of $250, Proctor said the participants laser-cut fabric, digitally printed designs, hand-sewed flowers and thought creatively.

“I thought of really great fabric that’s breathable and comfortable if you’re going on vacation,” Proctor said about her thought process for the project. “I played with fabric and also looked at orchids and their silhouette. Then I tried to translate the orchid to a comfortable garment.”

White said she wanted to replicate the shape of an orchid for her work. 

“So, I created an underdress with one panel of print, and then I added an orchid-shape covering,” White said. “Then, I designed the graphic print of orchids.”

Wolfgang said the fashion design students sketched on paper, actually created garments with full artistic control and received very little oversight with their ideas. 

These orchid-inspired creations are one of many design sets the juniors will complete before graduating. All fashion design students graduate with a portfolio of their work to show potential employers, Wolfgang said.

“The students who do well don’t think of it as a competition necessarily, but as an opportunity to use the materials to make something of their own and to show it to a pretty large audience without having a lot of restrictions on them,” Wolfgang said about how participants benefit from the Cleveland Botanical Garden design competition. “What’s neat about this competition is it’s a very free design process, and we try to make it as easy on the students as possible.”

The collaboration between the Kent State Fashion School and the Cleveland Botanical Garden gives students wonderful exposure, and it also creates a connection between Kent State and the city of Cleveland itself, Wolfgang said.

“When President Lester Lefton was here, he was really encouraging Kent State to be more involved in Cleveland,” Wolfgang said while explaining why the university collaborated with the Cleveland Botanical Garden. “The trick to that is there are a lot of Cleveland universities, and a lot of people tend to donate to those schools. Dr. Lefton wanted Kent State to have more of a presence in Cleveland.”

The Cleveland Botanical Garden will display the floral attire from Feb. 21 to March 7 during regular garden hours. Guests will vote for their favorite garments in the categories of “Best Use of Inspiration,” “Best Fabric Design” and “Best in Show” during the two weeks prior to the Fashion Meets the Botanicals reception.

The Kent State University Museum will host the Fashion Meets the Botanicals reception on March 7 from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Cleveland Botanical Garden where the winners will be recognized. The reception provides an opportunity for individuals to view models wearing the students’ creations in comparison with the actual Orchid Mania exhibit, Proctor said.

The Fashion School will then display the garments as compensation for letting students use the TechStyleLAB equipment without charge.

Call 330-672-0300 for Fashion Meets the Botanicals reservations by March 3. Tickets cost $30 per person.

Contact Kelsey Drumm at [email protected].