Kent State grad launches fashion brand using student models

Morgan Jupina

Stephen “Suede” Baum, “Project Runway” contestant and Kent State alumnus, launched his new SUEDEsays line Saturday afternoon in Rockwell Hall Auditorium.

The event included 15 Kent State fashion students as models for Suede’s newest patterns and designs and was hosted by Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores and Simplicity Creative Group. Show times were scheduled for 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., but two extra shows took place at 1:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. to accommodate an overflow of fans.

Suede said launching his new line at Kent State was a very emotional experience.

“I celebrated such a monumental occasion in my career and my life,” Suede said. “To have this giant launch of Jo-Ann stores, have all these new patterns and be able to send an entire collection down the runway that at one time I could only show a few pieces, was amazing. It was overwhelming for me in a very good way. I cried when I walked in.”

Brittany Dibenedetto, freshman fashion merchandising major, said she was most excited to see Suede’s unique style.

“I loved the different textures and all the patterns and colors he used. It was interesting to see how he put all the garments together,” Dibenedetto said. “I’m happy I went.”

Sarah Knapp, junior fashion merchandising major and public relations officer for Kent’s Fashion Student Organization, modeled in the show. Knapp said she wore Suede’s floor-length purple halter gown, made of a cutout fabric with a mesh underlay. Knapp said the models arrived at the fashion school at 10 a.m. for hair and makeup and had a rehearsal at 11 a.m.

Knapp said she really appreciated the opportunity to work so closely with Suede.

“For him to have the option to host his show anywhere and to pick Kent and to use student models without experience was really cool,” Knapp said. “It shows how much he really appreciates Kent and what it gave him.”

Knapp would like to work in public relations for fashion. She said the show was a great learning experience.

“I possibly want to do event planning, such as fashion shows,” Knapp said. “Between meeting with Suede and speaking with the event coordinator from Jo-Ann Fabric, I’ve learned a few things about how to put together such a large show.”

Cassie Dulworth, junior fashion merchandising major, was in charge of hair and makeup for the show. She said she loves hair and makeup and tries to sign up for fashion shows at Kent for more experience.

“I would love to work for a big beauty company as a vendor and travel,” Dulworth said. “I want to teach people how to use some of the amazing products on the market to look great and be confident everyday.”

Dulworth said because Suede is so fun, she wanted that vibe to show on all of the girls during the show.

“He’s so positive all the time, and he really taught me how to have fun with everything,” Dulworth said. “Even when things weren’t quite perfect, he was saying, ‘Work it! Be fierce!’ — which is a great thing to remember.”

Knapp said participating in the fashion show made her realize how great Kent’s fashion program is.

“I was inspired by Suede and how he graduated from Kent,” Knapp said. “To see how far he’s come really does show how beneficial the fashion program at Kent is.”

Dibenedetto said the show made her think about what she wants to do after graduation.

“It made me think about what positive direction I want to start putting myself in,” Dibenedetto said. “Also, it made me realize that if Suede could accomplish so much being a Kent State graduate, then I definitely could too.”

Dan Cox, special occasion fabric buyer at Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores, said the SUEDEsays brand is the first step to re-imagining the store. He said Suede’s new line was a perfect fit for Jo-Ann Stores, Inc.

“Because of his “Project Runway” exposure, my customers would know what to expect of the SUEDEsays brand in terms of quality, trendy styles that are a little bit quarky, and value,” Cox said.

Cox said 24 fabrics from the SUEDEsays brand are now available in stores and online at

Kathleen Cannata, an account manager for Simplicity Creative Group, said she worked with Suede for two days behind the scenes.

“It’s amazing to see all the new ideas and trends as they go to the market,” Cannata said. “Suede has been an inspiration to work with.”

Suede said fashion students should follow a few words of advice to lead them to success.

“Believe in your dreams and be true to yourself. Explore and soak up as much as you can,” Suede said. “Don’t ever stop learning.”

Contact Morgan Jupina at [email protected].