Stepping into the Limelight

Stepping into the Limelight

Looking like wood nymphs, models wearing designs by Michaela Wong Xing Yi 18 AP prepare to step on to the runway.

On Saturday, May 19, 23 Apparel Design seniors showed their stuff at Collection 18, RISD’s annual fashion show. A diverse group of models—many of them RISD and Brown students—stepped on to the runway at Brown University’s Meehan Auditorium wearing eye-catching works of wearable art.

“Students were working right up to the wire this year,” says Department Head Lisa Z. Morgan. “Putting together such a large show was a bit intense, but in the end I think their dedication and unique vision really shined through.”

Looks by William Lathrop 18 AP feature fur and leather.

Faux fur played a role in many of the student collections, as did sheer overlays, wrapped dresses, sleek and sexy cigarette pants, and impossibly long sleeves. Some of the looks trend toward ready-to-wear, while others bring to life fantastical sea monsters and alien life forms straight out of sci-fI movies.

Chinese national Yufei Liu 18 AP kicked off the show with a fanciful collection reflecting on her country’s relentless urbanization, “exploring and subverting stereotypes” and elevating elements of design deemed unfashionable, such as puffer jackets, unfitted suits and plastic travel bags. Her aim, she explains, “is to reappropriate these materials into something new, modern and absurd.”

Erica Kim 18 AP also entered absurdist territory with pieces like Sofa Jacket that combine upholstery techniques with garment construction. And models wearing designs by Lou Rodgers 18 AP took to the runway in cool, modern looks seemingly created out of kitchen curtains and other home textiles.

Models wearing work by Fernando Flaquer 18 AP wait for the show to begin.

Fernando Flaquer 18 AP layered a neutral palette with loose, comfortable forms to create a vaguely military vibe intended to “protect the body against bias and prejudice.” His creative call to end oppression is echoed by Emelia Watson 18 AP, whose stunning African-inspired collection proclaims the potency of “Black magic, Black excellence and Black lives.”

Exterior pockets stood out in this year’s show, beautifully accenting looks created by Matthew Streepy 18 AP, who cites camping gear and workwear as inspirations, and Jack Sivan 18 AP, whose looks feature built-in paneers, burgundy velvet and woolen plaids reminiscent of autumn in New England. “My collection is inspired by red velvet cupcakes . . . reborn as over-saturated, over-dyed shadows of their past selves,” the designer notes.

Tailored suits by Jack Sivan 18 AP feature smart exterior pockets.

Manav Sriprakash 18 AP wowed the audience with shiny wraps, long skirts and unexpected print accents intended to “question the stereotypical notions of adornment.” And McKenzie Everett 18 AP found her groove with a breathtaking collection of feminine yet outdoorsy looks reminiscent of the Old West. Featuring ivory lace, frayed denim and reimagined embroidery, her designs “consider the history of the feminine, exploring womanhood through stories of women in history often untold.”

Wild designs by Maya Ortiz 18 AP were as difficult to wear as Everett’s were easy. Her models hit the runway barefoot in complicated wooden headpieces inspired by the designer’s understanding of Brujeria—or witchcraft—and how it has played into her family’s history. Wearing bronze body paint and elaborate woven hair extensions incorporating Catholic iconography, her models transported viewers away from the Brown skating rink and into an ancient Mayan temple.

Disclosure, a cohesive collection by Persephone Bennett 18 AP

Persephone Bennett 18 AP also explored personal history by creating “the perfect hyper-feminine symbols and then destroying them with my anger,” as she puts it. Her distinctive collection features feathers, confetti, chunky knits, beads and elaborately constructed trains that lend her models a stately elegance.

Designers take to the runway to end the show.

Keeping the otherworldly motif going, Michaela Wong Xing Yi 18 AP combined earthy colors, chunky shoes and repurposed seatbelts to outfit a family of wood nymphs, while Zehua Wu 18 AP presented layered, futuristic effects incorporating shiny riveted plastic, Rachel Wong 18 AP suggested interplanetary royalty inspired by 19th-century spirit photography and Jing Ge 18 AP brought otherworldly creatures to life (though Blob Monster #2 was too unwieldy for the runway so instead greeted audience members in the lobby before the show).

Looks by Jing Ge 18 AP call to mind undersea creatures.

In her role as department head, Morgan looks back with wonder and joy on the journey students undertook in the months leading up to the show. As they began conceiving of their collections in the fall, she asked them to use creative writing to further explore “the experiential motivations behind their looks. We revisited and fine-tuned the process in the spring semester,” she says, “connecting students more deeply to their emotions and intentions as designers and makers.”

Simone Solondz / photos by Jo Sittenfeld MFA 08 PH and Luciano Fileti

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