News and Events

Lights, Camera, Collection

Lights, Camera, Collection

Earlier this week in the Apparel Design department’s fifth-floor studio, Caitrin Watson 13 AP paused to size up her senior thesis work – a luxurious collection of meticulously tailored knitwear.

Earlier this week in the Apparel Design department’s fifth-floor studio, Caitrin Watson 13 AP paused to size up her senior thesis work – a luxurious collection of meticulously tailored knitwear. Taking a slow sip of coffee, she ran her hand over the merino wool and organic hemp that make her collection eco-friendly.

“It's a little crazy in here,” Watson says while gesturing to the rows of wooden tables littered with scissors, half-open garment bags, sewing machine parts and strips of colored twine. “We've got some work to do before our pieces are runway-ready.”

For the past month and more, sophomores, juniors and seniors in the Apparel Design department have been sewing up a storm to ensure their designs are perfectly tailored in time for Collection 2013, the annual runway show that takes to the stage this Saturday at the Rhode Island Convention Center. Each year Apparel Design students share their best work with a regional public eager to get a look at the latest trends emanating from RISD studios.

“The show is our time to show off the designs we’ve been sewing, cutting and tailoring for over a year,” Watson explains. “It's going to be an exhilarating night for all of us.”

Last weekend guest critics who have been working with students since the fall – Neil Gilks, senior projects manager at CFDA, Tess Giberson 96 AP, Professor Emeritus Lorraine Howes and Christopher Barnard, fashion editor at V& VMan Magazine – offered some final feedback on the forward-thinking designs and selected the most exciting and well-executed garments for the popular runway show. Tommy Hilfiger, the founder of Tommy Hilfiger USA, also gave students critical feedback throughout the year. “The final review was definitely nerve-wracking,” explains Watson. “It really was like a scene from Project Runway. Luckily, all six of my looks made the cut.”

Audience members who attend Collection 2013 can expect to see an interesting mélange of styles. For instance, Nelle Horsley 13 AP designed and made Seascape, a colorful collection that includes lightweight jersey dresses, breezy skorts, asymmetrical tops – and even a mesh bodysuit that incorporates leather strips. Many of the pieces are made from digital prints depicting waves, mountains and ocean barnacles.

“Most of my designs are based on sketches that I made while enjoying nature,” notes Horsley. “When you look at some of my pieces close up, you can see outlines of hills and beach rocks.”

Austin Snyder, a Brown student who has taken Apparel Design courses at RISD for the past three years, was moved by a dark chapter in maritime history – the 1915 sinking of the RMS Lusitania, a British ocean liner that was torpedoed by a German U-boat off the coast of Ireland. The collection of striking women’s wear is aptly titled 18 Minutes, the same amount of time it took for the ship to sink.

“Each of my looks was originally inspired by a person who perished on the boat,” notes Snyder. “I’m interested in stories of conflict that reflect the human condition.”

The collection features thick cardigans, floor-length coats and versatile sweaters that are silky to the touch. “It’s a luxury lifestyle collection,” explains Snyder. “It’s made for a woman of any age, whether she is 25 or 55 years old.”

In the midst of designing, RISD students also search to find models to wear their creations down the runway. According to Watson, a dual-degree student who also attends Brown, the hunt for suitable candidates can be challenging and the designers often end up eyeing the same models, which can lead to lots of complications backstage.

“I found all my models by camping out in the Brown University cafeteria,” says Watson with a laugh. “I ended up recruiting members from the crew team who are close to six feet tall.”

Those models and dozens of others will share in the controlled chaos behind the curtain on Saturday, Watson says. As student designers are scrambling to make sure each of their models is lined up in the correct order, make-up professionals and hairdressers are busy primping and perfecting the look right up to the moment when each model steps out on stage.

By then, the apparel designers will be more than ready. “We’ve all been working toward this day for over a year,” notes Watson. “I can't wait for my clothes to be seen underneath those bright stage lights. The energy at Collection is going to be through the roof!”

–Abigail Crocker

Tickets to Collection 2013 are available right up to showtime at the Dunkin' Donuts Center Box Office and

Related stories

Stepping into the Limelight

Fanciful and well-crafted looks by Apparel Design seniors wowed the crowd at the runway show known as Collection 18.