A critical day for future fashion

Couture du jour
By STACY HUGGINS  |  May 18, 2007
Kay Unger
Providence recently played host to some of New York’s hottest fashion designers at the RISD Auditorium when a panel of fashion industry faces, both fresh and well-established, chose the student designs that will grace the runway at Collection 2007 on Saturday, May 19 at the VMA Arts & Cultural Center. Zac Posen, the young designer who draped Gwyneth Paltrow for this year’s Oscars, was among those lending a shrewd eye to the RISD Apparel Design Department’s year-end critique.
“There is some great talent here, today,” said Kay Unger, another of the esteemed critics who heads her own thriving label. “My seamstresses could not have done what these kids can do.” Posen and Unger served as guest critics on the Bravo Television series Project Runway. As in the final scene of the reality show, models lined up before the panel as the young designers prepared for scrutiny.
For seniors, the RISD Fashion Show is a chance to present their thesis collection before many head to New York to assist at prestigious design houses or become entrepreneurs themselves. Audience members on Saturday will get a glimpse of the design process of this year’s graduating class through a short documentary film before seeing the chosen pieces glide down the runway.
The spring critique, the last of several held throughout the year, is meant to guide a student’s collection into a cohesive expression of their skill. With the purpose of the RISD critique being education, and not competition, plenty of encouragement came with the criticism.
“You have a great future in costume design,” said Posen, admiring a student’s hand-stitched feather bolero. Posen, 26, whose good looks and charm helped pilot his fame, was slightly less charming when pointing out the hasty, unfinished hem of a dress or the lack of attention paid to detail in a menswear line. “If the collection is luxe,” he said, “the sleeves should be finished.” 
“I think he’s being too hard on you,” said Aaron Dickson, another guest juror, who designs for Vera Wang. Dickson showed understanding for the unfinished hem — it was only five years ago that she had to meet the same strictly enforced deadlines before her graduation from RISD.
After hours of instruction in draping, knitting, and pattern-making, plus endless nights of sewing, more than 80 students defended their design choices by explaining the concepts behind their work.  Inspired by aquarium gardens, a student said the movement of the layered ruffle on her dress was purposely designed to mimic the movement and texture of sea anemones. Another student touted her collection as: “Eco-tourism and adventure sports with a ’60s beachwear design.” Reflecting fashion’s constant state of change, the RISD program strongly encourages creativity, not consumerism.
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