by Jahna Peloquin
Student work." The phrase conjures images of eye-searing fabrics, and thread-hanging, bumpy-seamed garments. It's a Project Runway designer's worst fear to hear from the mouth of Tim Gunn. But student fashion shows provide an important role, acting as an incubator, training ground and workshop for tomorrow's top designers. Even the most talented designers were once students, after all.
And it seems as if more local talent comes out of St. Catherine University in St. Paul than any other school of its relatively small size. Designers now on the tips of the local fashion elitist's tongues - Amanda Christine, Maritza Ramirez, and Jenny Carle, to name a few - have graduated from St. Kate's. But these designers were once students, and each had their share of faux pas and snafus when their senior collections hit the runway. As with most student shows, it's clear who has talent, drive, vision and skill - and who is just trying to hurriedly finish their degrees. With this in mind, we're taking a closer look at some of the more promising designers from last weekend's annual senior show, Katwalk: Altered Appearance, and offering some constructive criticism to these fledgling designers.
St. Kate's juniors started off the show with their mini collections - and in fact, some showed more inspiration and talent than some of the seniors' lines. Of the juniors, Caitlin Gottschalk showed the strongest point of view, with flowy white dresses and jumpers, with styling straight off of a Victorian beach in summertime.
Consisting of fresh whites and ivory with pops of rose and burgundy, the frilly dresses and jumpers were on-trend and wearable, and the lovely styling gave it a whimsical feel. Though the construction was a little spotty in places and the men's sailor look was a complete misstep, Caitlin proved herself as one to watch.
Abby Hansen, a junior, showed a small line of cotton vintage-inspired sleepwear, comprising dresses, tops, shorts and robe-like jackets. The little lace-trimmed cami and shorts in particular were adorable, but it's hard to gauge the talent of a designer whose premier collection consists entirely of sleepwear. Hopefully next time she'll show us some ready-to-wear.
Next up was Mary Ehlers. Though her line was fairly one-note - using bright white and aqua blue in each look - the one-shouldered dress shone most brightly.
Another junior, Jenn Bratvold, intrigued with her on-trend pieces (hooded jackets, jumpers and mini dresses) that incorporated some interesting details. Jackets are known to be an ambitious challenge for a new designer, and Jenn pulled this one off quite well. (Though the fit was off on the jumper.) The accordion pleated details were also a nice touch, taking a basic silhouette into more highly designed territory.
Next it was time for the seniors to show their fruits of their labors. Ariel Bock presented an intriguing collection, "Shades of Gray," that hit the runway twice - the second time, showing the transitional qualities hidden in each garment. A satin dress with a chiffon skirt (pictured above) cleverly changed shape with a change of a clasp, and then came off completely, transforming into a minidress. The construction in the piece was among the strongest and most well-executed of the night. But another satin gown suffered from a problem challenging many designers throughout the show - that being cheap-looking, super-shiny stretch satin. It's pretty near impossible to get the seams to lay flat and not bunch, as loyal viewers of Project Runway will attest. Overall, the presentation was definitely eye-catching, though the transitional qualities made some of the garments appear overworked. Though Ariel could use little editing, it's clear she has the goods to shine.
With her cohesive collection of printed, cutout minidresses and separates, Anna Taney was truly the star of the night. She really succeeded when combining eclectic prints and solids with cutout shapes and intertwined strap details.
This color-blocked look made a particularly bold statement on the runway, and kudos to Anna for making the cutout trend so de rigeur her own.
The finale of the night came courtesy of Emilee Kuznar. The lush, floral print of the above look, consisting of a corseted top and skirt, was adorable, and the way she pleated the fabric of the skirt to contrast with the top showed great attention to detail.
But you would hardly know this look was in the same collection. The white flimsy fabric looks like a swarm of moths, and hits at the weirdest places on the model, adding heft to her butt and hips.
But this powder blue, pleated chiffon dress was simply a dream as it glided down the runway. If there was one piece I would want to take straight off the runway, it would be this. Yet again, it seems as if this piece is from an entirely different collection than the two previous looks.
[Look by Emilee Kuznar]But here we are back to a bright floral print. I love how the print is similar to that of the first look, but different - and the patio length and styling is spot on. With a little more attention to the overall look and feel of the collection, Emilee will have a very bright future ahead of her.
This is another look that confuses me. The reappearance of the chiffon baby blue is welcome and the silhouette is classic and elegant, but it's inexplicably paired with solid black. It's as if two completely different dresses (from two different collections, even) were merged into unholy union.
Regardless of the criticisms, be sure to keep your eyes on this crop. You'll probably be seeing some of them in local boutiques and fashion shows sooner than you think.
Click here for more images from the show by Stacy Schwartz
Jahna Peloquin is the Fashion Editor for l'etoile magazine and a freelance writer and stylist based out of Minneapolis. All photos by Stacy Schwartz (except very top image by Cody Lidtke).