Fashion students display outfits in final show

Amy Cooknick

One Kent State student is taking her first final Wednesday and she cannot wait.

But this isn’t a typical final for Ayrinne Lewis, freshman fashion design major. Instead of hitting the books, Lewis is hitting the runway for the Project Rockwell Fashion Show, held by freshmen in the School of Fashion Design and Merchandising.

The show is the final project for the fashion visuals students and offers a chance for them to showcase everything they have learned over the semester to their friends and family.

Each class competing in Project Rockwell was assigned a specific decade with which to work. Outfits are inspired by fashion of the 1930s through 1960s, and by ancient Egyptian and futuristic themes.

Lewis’ fashion visual class will be displaying its ‘50s-inspired creations tonight. She said the decade challenged her because it wasn’t one she knew much about going into the competition.

“The only thing I really knew was, like, poodle skirts and ‘I Love Lucy’ kind of stuff,” Lewis said. “So yeah, I really had to research. I mean, those kind of clothes aren’t really my style, so it was hard to find something that I appreciated and that I would be proud of while, you know, bringing in the ‘50s era.”

This year, a total of 120 students are participating in the show.

Fashion design professor Vince Quevedo created Project Rockwell in 1995 as a showcase for his freshmen students he worried weren’t being properly recognized for their talents.

“Because the school is internationally known as one of America’s top fashion schools, it seemed to me that all the attention was going to our upper division students,” Quevedo said.

So Quevedo suggested Project Rockwell as a way for freshmen to critique each other’s work. The idea was so popular among his students, that they asked family and friends to come and view the outfits as well. The response was so overwhelmingly positive that it was repeated the next year, then the next, until 1998 when Quevedo left Kent State. The show picked up again in 2008 when Quevedo returned to the school.

Even though Project Rockwell brings together everything the students have learned since the beginning of the semester, they only had about three weeks to design their outfits and find models to display them.

The outfits combine thrift store finds with original garments made by the students. No student was allowed to spend more than $20 on his or her total thrift store purchases. Everything else had to be stitched, glued, sewed and stapled together by hand using the basics learned in the fashion visuals class.

“A challenge for some of the students is to create and construct a garment that will withstand two shows,” Quevedo said. “This project is challenging for most students because they have to work within strict parameters and cost. They are finding that they can’t just design whatever they want. They are almost always being controlled by outside forces they cannot control, something most, if not all, designers face in the work world.”

Cleveland fashion experts who are travelling to Kent specifically for the show and at their own expense will judge the young designers.

The first place winner will receive a brand new sewing machine.

“Apparently it’s a pretty nice one,” Lewis said. “So it would be a great prize.”

Lewis hopes to win the coveted machine with the outfit she completed late last week after an all-nighter. Although students have class time to work on their outfits for the show, Lewis had difficulty putting down her project before it was finished.

With the last stitch in place, Lewis found she still had more work to do. She posted a message to Facebook announcing that she needed a model to wear her outfit in the show, and got a response within a few days.

Part of the criteria for participants is that they find a model to show their outfit and do the hair, makeup and accessorizing for that model.

“It’s not very hard because we’ve learned everything,” Lewis said. “If you’re in fashion design, you’re also taking your workroom techniques class, which is teaching us how to sew, and it all just kind of correlates and you can figure it out really easy.”

In addition to the models who will be working the runway this evening, Project Rockwell hopes to attract an audience by selling student-made T-shirts at the show and by featuring performances by an illusionist and several impersonators. These performers have also volunteered to model student outfits. This way, Quevedo and Lewis hope to attract students who are not so fashion forward by offering a variety of entertainment.

“Nobody’s outfits are alike at all either,” Lewis said. “Even our class that’s all doing ‘50s. None of them are alike. I think even if you weren’t really into fashion, it would be fun to watch because the clothes aren’t necessarily going to be practical, they could be crazy and unique.”

For Lewis, fashion design wasn’t something she connected with early on. She stumbled across the idea in her junior year of high school, while taking a career quiz in a college magazine.

The quiz suggested fashion design after Lewis scored high in the artistic and creative categories, and after some research into the field, Lewis decided to give it a try.

Now Lewis feels a strong connection with her major. She gets inspiration for her designs from watching fashion shows on TV and going to the mall to see what people are buying. Even walking around campus and checking out everyone’s outfits inspires her. She pulls a lot of ideas from nature and the way colors and forms go together in the environment.

“Everything gives me inspiration,” Lewis said. “It just depends where I am and what I’m doing.”

Right now, Lewis plans to go into women’s shoe design after she graduates. Her ultimate goal is to create her own company and hopefully branch out into a chain of stores.

She said that Project Rockwell will help to make up her mind on whether she wants to make fashion shows a regular part of her future career.

“I think it’ll depend on what this fashion show is like,” Lewis said. “I’ve never been a part of one, so I know it gets crazy and hectic, but I mean, I don’t know if it’s for me. I guess we’ll find out.”

Lewis is part of the last group of students who will get to find out through Project Rockwell. Due to the cost and effort that goes into putting Project Rockwell together, this will be the last year for the show.

Contact Amy Cooknick at [email protected].