Selin Wins Superlatives from Supima
Last week newly minted graduates Morgan Selin 13 AP and Hannah Soukup 13 AP – two innovative apparel designers on the rise – found themselves in the thick of one of the most anticipated (and glamorous) events for anyone involved in the fashion industry: Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. Invited to participate in the Supima Design Competition, an established runway show held annually at New York’s Lincoln Center, each designer debuted her own capsule collection of elegant evening wear as a panel of celebrity judges charged with selecting the most promising designs.
After weathering the enormous pressure of preparing for the high-stakes runway show, something fortuitous happened that Thursday afternoon: Selin suddenly learned she had won the grand prize, which comes with $10,000 to help launch her career. “I wish everyone could have won,” Selin says. “There was so much hard work that went into these collections. We all really pushed the boundaries.”
In the months leading up to the competition, the designers handmade their looks using unprocessed pima cotton fabrics: denim, twill, corduroy, sheeting and jersey. To give her gowns’ bodices the look of “frosted cement,” Selin experimented with foiling techniques. She also spent many hours hand-dying the cotton fabrics by mixing blue dye packets in her tub.
“Though it was quite a lot of work to transform those original yards of white cotton into fully colored and embellished gowns, I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it,” Selin says. “The competition guidelines provided for a unique opportunity to work equally in depth with the textile aspect of the collection as well the design and garment construction.”
Of course, in addition to the enjoyable aspects of developing new work for the show, Selin admits that the behind-the-scenes preparation was far from seamless. In the white tents that function as a backstage area outside Lincoln Center, makeup artists flitted about in a flurry of final preparations, searching for the perfect product for making models’ hair and faces look runway-ready. In the midst of the frenzy, Selin did her best to pause and take mental inventory of her shimmering apparel while fielding questions from stage managers. Appearing to be satisfied with the final results, she calmly moved to an adjacent tent to help models slip into their garments.
Meanwhile, Soukup was busy instructing an assistant to steam press a floor-length cape coated in liquid latex and tufted with translucent thread. As she worked, reporters from international style publications peppered her with questions about her nude and light-green haute couturier pieces, which were originally inspired by human cellular structures. Once it made its runway debut a short time later, her spacey, structured collection drew audible gasps from the audience.
“This is absolutely huge,” says Associate Professor Donna Gustavsen 70 AP, a longtime faculty member who acted as a mentor to the students throughout the design process. “The opportunity to showcase their own vision at New York Fashion Week is in itself an almost unreal opportunity. [These new graduates] are seeing firsthand what it’s like to work in this industry – which requires them to work through an incredible amount of stress generated by tight deadlines. They should be feeling a marvelous sense of accomplishment right now.”
As the last fashion photographer packed up their heavy field cameras, Gustavsen and an exhausted but happy group of RISD faculty and friends moved to the rooftop of the neighboring Empire Hotel. Associate Professor Meg DeCubellis 83 AP – a talented RISD instructor who has been the director of the competition for the last three years – was also in attendance. There, the fashion insiders popped champagne and talked about Selin’s plans for the future. The cheery blond admitted she’d immediately like to work for influential fashion houses while continuing to tinker with her own projects. And in a few short years, she’d like to launch her own line – which will include edgy leather designs she perfected in the process of working on her RISD senior thesis collection.
“I will certainly miss working on the Supima project,” notes Selin. “But I am bursting with new ideas and designs for collections that I'll soon create. It was great fun.”
– Abigail Crocker
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