Four designers. Six looks. Four weeks. One competition.

Emily Inverso

Kent Fashion Design students compete in runway production

The Art of Fashion challenges student fashion designers to a unique runway production. Making its first appearance in early October, the show revealed a theme to participating designers — The Art of Contrast.

“Our idea is ‘Organic versus Mechanized,’” said Sean Rice, sophomore fashion design major. “Sheer, light fabrics next to harsher, more structured pieces.”

Rice, with group member Mike Pennick, junior fashion design major, won Beaux Arts Ball’s best design team last year. The show was replaced with The Art of Fashion, but the group retained its extensive demands for modern, distinctive creations.

Kendall Loftus and Deanna First, two more designers, joined Pennick and Rice for a group collaboration this year. The four faced an over-caffeinated, sleep-deprived, empty-wallet trek toward the semester’s biggest design competition.

The early decisions

Oct. 12

The designers agreed that, typically, they choose models as a blank canvas and then design garments for their bodies. While they chose five models long before anything else, the group realized it was one girl short.

“We try to help the designers in any way we can,” said Monika Lange, vice president of Fashion Student Organization, the group putting on the show. “We want them to have as much freedom as possible to choose their inspirations and models, but we also hold model calls in case any of the designers need more girls.”

Rice and Pennick were at those calls. Yet, before anyone walked, they scanned the room, chose a girl and claimed her for their line.

Oct. 15

Keeping their theme in mind, the four then planned how to incorporate organic and mechanic details into each look. Soft, sheer organza fabric bore stark contrasts to heavier leathers and zippers. The team separated so each member could sketch his or her designs, and reconvened nearly a week later to compare.

“Well the good thing is, (the sketches) are done,” Pennick said. “And they pretty much all fit perfectly together. So, now what can we improve?”

From this point, planning became a jumbled endeavor, a constant stage of construction and destruction in sync with the changing moods and thoughts of each designer. A trim here, two zippers there, an accidental tear of the test fabric when it didn’t quite fit the model as expected. It was a stage never truly completed until the team was 10 minutes late to early judging.

The sacrifices we make

In balancing an extra design competition with continuing homework and classes, the designers faced a constant battle of give and take. They perfected the motions, compromised with life, cut corners where possible and became nearly robotic in routine.

Throughout October

Lives that originally included eating, sleeping, showering, designing and socializing quickly forced socializing to fall by the way.

“I feel a little disconnected from the group,” First said. “I worked ahead, so while they’re working on their pieces now, I’m not always there. I still give my input on all the pieces, though.”

Sleep was the next to go. If at all, it began near 3 a.m. for the few hours before the designers’ morning classes. Coffee, an already present supplement, became a constant accessory to their daily ensembles. When its effects wore off, though, mere exhaustive rest became inevitable.

“Well, last night was Halloween,” Rice said. “I sat on my couch, watched ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’ and ate everything in my whole house. That was all I did. Sleep was more important because I’ll have to stay up the next few days straight, basically.”

Continual design projects became an even more creative undertaking than initially planned. To finish their class assignments and work on designs for The Art of Fashion, the group members found ways to combine the two.

“Last year, I didn’t manage my time effectively, so I didn’t get my school work done,” Pennick said. “This year, because the show is happening the same time as a project for my class, I’m making the pants I’ll use for the show in my patternmaking class.”

While showering and eating remained essential in the designers’ lives, it could have appeared that showering had become a lax area as well. After dying their sheer fabric for a dark blue, nearly black effect, Rice and Pennick’s hands retained the same color for nearly four days. They said it was the least of their worries.

Oct. 28

Much more pressing was their dwindling fabric supply along with equally diminishing bank accounts. While attempting to buy more of Pennick’s metallic fabric so Loftus could make her pants, the group realized Jo-Ann Fabrics had no more. They were forced to work an entirely new fabric into their designs.

“I don’t know what to do at all,” Pennick said. “We want a metallic looking pant, but everything left looks cheap. This sucks.”

Crunch Time

To ensure all the designs are complete and to give the competition’s judges time for deliberation, the designers were required to finish their garments by Tuesday. Beginning at 6:00 p.m., judges watched an early showing of The Art of Fashion.

“We have two judges so the decisions are unbiased,” said Andrea Colella, president of Fashion Student Organization. “Typically they look for creativity of designs and the category it’s under, and then we also have award categories for the models, individual designers and a group designers.”

With the deadline of an early garment judging looming over the designers’ heads, an ultimate marathon began Monday evening.

Nov. 1

7:30 p.m. – Loftus, Rice and Pennick arrive at the workroom in Rockwell Hall. Filled with other students working both on class and competition designs, the group could hardly find a space to spread their fabric.

9:10 p.m. – The whirring of sewing machines is still present among nervous banter from the critiques and compliments of fellow designers. Loftus stitches panels on her pants, while Pennick surges straps for his top.

10:02 p.m. – “So judging is tomorrow around five,” Loftus says with worry. “I still have to finish these pants and then make a top, so I’ll probably be here forever. I’m really nervous things aren’t going to turn out the way I want them to.”

11:50 p.m. – Rice begins the pants for his male model while adoring his recently finished female look, a sheer top paired with tights and a leather jacket. Nearby, Pennick takes his first 5-hour Energy shot.

Nov. 2

1:04 a.m. – To pass the time and stay awake, Loftus finishes her pants while watching online episodes of “Gossip Girl.”

2:40 a.m. – “I’m really tired right now,” Pennick says. “I don’t know what time it is, but I have to finish this pant, my other pair of pants and make two tops. So, yeah, real stoked about that.”

4:00 a.m. – Realizing they had, yet again, run out of fabric, Rice and Pennick go home to dye more sheer fabric. Without it, they cannot finish their tops.

8:00 a.m. – With garments mostly complete, Rice and Pennick make a trip to Wal-Mart for last-minute necessities like hairspray and pasties.

“God, our models are so hot,” Rice says. “Why do they have to have morals?”

“Our tops are completely sheer, Sean,” Pennick responds.

“You’re right,” Rice says. “We’ll get pasties.”

After paying for their items, the two go home to take a break and to do last minute stitching.

5:00 p.m. – The four designers dress their models in Rockwell Hall while crafting impromptu headpieces from metal rings and wire mesh.

6:00 p.m. – Early judging begins. The designers sit together anxiously, looking on at the creations of other students and their own pieces that, at this point, are complete. No more alterations. No more tweaks. The only changes being made are the minds of the judges who silently evaluate a month of labor in a matter of minutes.

7:45 p.m. – While packing stray bits of fabric, Rice, Pennick, Loftus and First compliment the creations of other designers. They appreciate the ideas and quality of other students’ work, yet remain confident in their own.

With the next two days to recover, the group looks forward to hearing the judges’ decision Friday night.

“God,” Pennick said. “I just really hope we win.”

You can contact Emily Inverso at [email protected].