Fashion Students Hit the Runway Before Graduation

More often than not in recent months, college and universities were in the news, due to student protests, encampments and in some instances on-campus arrests.

Despite that upheaval, a more routine occasion — the annual student fashion show — continued as it has for years on end for some learning institutions like Pratt Institute and The New School’s Parsons School of Design. Newcomers to what they expect to become an annual tradition were Istituto Marangoni Miami and the first Group Ivy League show. The latter featured designs from students at two of the Ivy League schools — Brown and Yale universities, as well as two non-Ivy League schools — Parsons School of Design and Rhode Island School of Design — but, hey, it was a start.

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A few enterprising students pitched WWD directly like Parsons BFA Fashion Design’s Parker Zinn whose senior thesis collection bid homage to her hometown of Chapel Hill, N.C. She hatched her designs from her tiny New York City apartment, dyeing and beading items by hand. Hundreds of hours were spent on “The Long, Delirious, Burning Blue” collection, which featured such UNC basketball-inspired accents as beaded argyle basketball shorts. Like thousands of others, her aim is to create something that doesn’t exist.

Here, WWD checked with school representatives about their takeaways.

Academy of Art University

This year’s lineup: Sixteen designers including two textile ones and a jewelry designer participated and more than 1,200 people attended the two shows. Keeping with the “Uncharted Territories” theme, many of the student collections incorporated new materials, gender-neutral styles and new takes on modernism, dance wear, and traditional tailoring.

Academy of Art
A runway look from Ethan Brown at the Academy of Art.

Honorees: Through the Old Navy x Academy of Art University CLO Competition, Wood-Bloindy Mathurin won the Old Navy CLO3D design contest, which included a $5,000 prize that was presented by Sarah Holme, head of design and product development at Old Navy/Gap Inc.

The show opener for the Academy of Art University 2024 Spring Fashion Show opening look by Joey LeDoux.
The show opener for the Academy of Art University 2024 Spring Fashion Show opening look by Joey LeDoux.

Done for the first time: Students from fashion illustration classes were live-sketching the models as they walked the runway walk. Those sketches will be featured in a show this fall in the Academy of Art’s five art galleries.

Key collections: Three BFA Fashion Design students Haydée Quesedo, Jagmehak Mandhan and Joey LeDoux and MFA Fashion Design student Nadine Waack.

Special guests or performances: British fashion designer Matty Bovan was awarded an honorary doctorate at the show for his work in sustainability and textiles. Calvin Klein’s Ulrich Grimm, Google ATAP’s Jenna Drumright, Arts Thread cofounder Alex Brownless, fashion illustrator Helen Bullock, Tory Burch’s Daniel Reynolds, Gap Inc.’s Simon O’Mahony and former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown were among the attendees.

Fashion Institute of Technology

This year’s lineup: “The Future of Fashion Runway Show” highlighted the work of 73 students from the outgoing class of FIT’s Fashion Design BFA program. Attendees at the Macy’s-presented event at the Glasshouse in New York City on May 8 took in 82 designs. That was a jump compared to the first show in 1946. At that time, following a commencement ceremony for 64 students, a fashion show featured some student designs for nightgowns, resort wear, winter sports, millinery, dresses, suits and coats. Then New York governor Thomas Dewey, New York City mayor William O’Dwyer and David Dubinsky, president of the International Ladies’ Garment Worers’ Union were on hand to voice their support of the next generation.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 08: A model walks the runway wearing during the the FIT Annual Awards Gala and the FIT Future of Fashion Runway Show, presented by Macy's at The Glasshouse on May 08, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)
A dress by Keyue Chen on the runway, during FIT’s May 8 event.

Honorees: Fifteen students received recognition as Critic Award winners — Keyue Chen for Special Occasion; Ryan Depaolo for Intimate Apparel; Chloe Franzen for Sportswear; Madeline Hausner for Sportswear; Sofie Hultbom for Special Occasion; Namwoo Kim for Sportswear; Everette Landers for Sportswear; Hayden Mullikin for Sportswear; Mai Nanao for Knitwear; Sunghye Park for Sportswear; Yilei Qian for Knitwear; Kea Oudom Seng for Special Occasion, and Stephanie She for Children’s Wear. In addition, Irene Alexandra Cubides was the Macy’s X Bar III capsule collection winner and Grace Cooper was the Macy’s Bold Representation: Empowered Design award winner.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 08: A model walks the runway wearing Madeline Hausner during the the FIT Annual Awards Gala and the FIT Future of Fashion Runway Show, presented by Macy's at The Glasshouse on May 08, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)
A model walks the runway wearing Madeline Hausner during FIT’s “Future of Fashion Runway Show.”

Key collections: The show featured thesis collections from class members of the class of 2024’s thesis designs in five areas — Childrenswear, Intimate Apparel, Knitwear, Special Occasion, and Sportswear.

Special guests: Norma Kamali, Kenneth Cole, Rebecca Hessel Cohen, Jordan Roth, Tamron Hall, the Brooklyn Museum’s Matthew Yokobosky, Amber Valetta, Carolyn Murphy, Estée Lauder’s Jane Hertzmark Hudis, Francisco Costa, Mara Hoffman, Victor Glemaud, and Brandon Blackwood.

Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising/FIDM

How it began: The first FIDM Debut Runway show featured the work of eight students and was held in 1980 at the California Mart’s Fashion Theatre in downtown Los Angeles.

This year’s lineup: This time around the creations of 21 Advanced Fashion Design students were presented before an audience of 300-plus guests at the Cooper Design Space. Typically, 10 to 12 students are accepted each year, but an abundance of enthusiastic and talented applicants boosted enrollment this year. Guests included Los Angeles-based designers, stylists, industry partners, students, alumni and faculty. With a theme of “Denouement,” the show was also livestreamed on YouTube. Fashion Design co-chairs Nick Verreos and David Paul served as the show’s creative directors of the show.

Designs by Joanne Yeung, an Advanced Fashion Design Graduate featured in the annual FIDM DEBUT Show, presented by the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising. The show was filmed at the Cooper Design Space, in Los Angeles, CA on March 29, 2024 (Photo: Alex J. Berliner/ABImages)
Designs by Joanne Yeung at the FIDM show.

Honorees: Ronald Harris Jr., Cam Wilson and Ashot Markosyan finished first through third for the TCL NXT in Fashion program and were awarded cash prizes. In addition, the Solstiss Academy gave credits for Solstiss lace to Tiana Nguyen Mai, Bella Jean Conner and Kevin Sayari. Mai’s winning designs will also be showcased in a special exhibition at the Lace & Embroidery Museum in Caudry, France.

Designs by Ash, an Advanced Fashion Design Graduate featured in the annual FIDM DEBUT Show, presented by the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising. The show was filmed at the Cooper Design Space, in Los Angeles, CA on March 29, 2024 (Photo: Alex J. Berliner/ABImages)
Designs by Ash at the FIDM show.

Key collections: MarkosyansOracles,” which featured meticulous detailing and craftsmanship, including laser-cut metal embellishments, hand-beading, custom-stamped coin embellishments, and tailored silhouettes. Harris’ “The Big Fish Theory” blended outdoor functionality and urban style and used neon, 3M reflective fabrics, custom knits, and selvedge denim and other accents. Morgan Labouré’s “Heritage” incorporated custom-made tartan wool fabric from Scotland and handmade masks by her twin sister, blending traditional motifs with contemporary design. Joanne Yeung’s “Equilibrium,” which combined mixed fabrics, melded together organza, knits, and chiffon.

Special guests: “Dress My Tour” judge and seven-time Emmy award winner for costume design Marina Toybina, cofounder of Cross Colours and Black Design Collective TJ Walker, “Project Runway” finalist Candice Cuoco, designer Kevan Hall, former “Next in Fashion” contestant Godoy and Trinidad3 Jeans’ Trinidad Garcia, Solstiss’ USA’ s president Francois Damide.

Otis College of Art and Design

This year’s lineup: This time around there were 100 looks on the runway, with a handful of junior and senior class students designing more than one look, and a few instances in which students paired up. Approximately 1,000 guests attended the May 10 event to check out how some junior and senior class members interpreted “The Art of Duality” theme.

Runway looks by Kexin Li for the Marcus Clayton mentor project at Otis.
Runway looks by Kexin Li for the Marcus Clayton mentor project at Otis.

Honorees: The “2024 Designer of the Year award” was given to senior Zhiyou Pan. Unlike other schools, Otis’ fashion design program does not have the majority of its students design individual collections, but pairs them up with mentors from fashion companies. All of the mentor projects are sponsored projects. J.Crew, for example, was one this year and three designers from the company worked with 12 students, who each created a look inspired by the design direction that celebrates J.Crew’s 40th anniversary. Each mentor also recognized the top student designer from their mentor project. One exception was the designer Marcus Clayton,  who had the students that he mentored each create their own look.

A design by Jessica Chen and Manfei Zhao for the Activision/Blizzard mentor project at Otis.

Other key mentors: Amiri’s Mike Amiri didn’t just participate, but he and his design director Jack Burns worked with a dozen students. Katherine Ross, who spearheads the Wear LACMA project at LACMA, and serves on Otis’ board of governors, also acted as a mentor. The bridal brand Maggie Sottero’s chief executive officer and creative director Kelly Midgley (an Otis alum) and lead designer Edric Woo led a project that involved upcycling discontinued gowns to create a sustainable bridal collection. Maggie Sottero will feature select pieces from the project in an upcoming private show in the company’s home city of Salt Lake City, where they will launch the spring 2025 collections. Separately, the Solstiss-sponsored Activision/Blizzard collection featured evening looks inspired by the “Angels and Demons” of Activision/Blizzard Entertainment’s Diablo franchise. With the working world in mind, Otis has a track record for post-graduation employment. Approximately, 86 percent of graduates land assistant fashion designer posts within three months of picking up their diplomas, according to an Otis spokesperson.

Istituto Marangoni Miami

This year’s lineup: The first annual Istituto Marangoni Miami fashion show was held May 16 at the Palm Court in the Miami Design District, where 20 students showing their latest work and more than 1,000 people turned up for the outdoor event. The school’s fashion design students collaborated with fashion styling students. The show’s “Metamorfosi” theme is meant to signal not only such personal journeys but also Miami’s maturation as a hub for design and creativity.

A runway look at the IMM fashion show.
Designs by Paloma Racca at the Istituto Marangoni Miami show.

Key collections: Mario Braghieri, program leader for the fashion design program at IMM, said that all of the work was “worthy of a fashion show of this caliber,” but the standout collections were Camila Balleste, Ilayda Polat, Chenqi Jang, Sofia Lemann, and Anabel Montiel.

A Jancarlos Cruz-designed ensemble at IMM.

Special performances: Six dancers were choreographed by Natasha Tsakos and surprised guests before the fashion show began, by performing as if they were radiant butterflies.

The First Group Ivy League Show

This year’s lineup: A bit of a misnomer, this inaugural event showcased the work of students from Brown and Yale universities as well as Parsons School of Design and the Rhode Island School of Design. Divided into two parts and more than a month apart, the first show, “Brown Fashion Week,” was held at Davol Square in Providence on March 15. The second installment, “Revival,” was staged at the Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking on Yale’s New Haven, Conn., campus on April 20. There were featured looks from 35 students at Brown and Yale, as well as ones from RISD and Parsons. More than 700 people checked out the 120 looks that were in line with the “University Diversity” theme.

Ivy League Show
Backstage at the Ivy League Runway show.

Special performances: There was a dance performance by Irving Morris and Natalie Leung that was choreographed by Goha Alzhanova. Organizers enlisted the Coco Rocha Model Camp to advise the models about navigating the catwalk.

Standout collections: Yale’s Zack Reich created an entirely 3D-printed collection. RISD’s Sue Sima merged natural elements with those of the artificial and mechanical realms. Brown’s Joshua Koolik designed layered ensembles that the model peeled off on the runway. Parsons’ Victoria Soares drew inspiration from her Portuguese/Azorean heritage and paid homage with slower production methods like local sourcing and homemade textiles.

Parsons School of Design

This year’s lineup: “Synergies: BFA Fashion Runway Show 2024” was staged at Hall des Lumieres in New York City on May 20. Each graduating student could showcase one look on a model to celebrate the class and discover new talent. That meant the backstage area was buzzing with approximately 400 creative talents. Out front, attendees caught 218 looks on the runway in the industry show. There was also a rehearsal show for friends and family. The program’s director Marie Genevieve Cyr, associate director of partnerships Mariana Vidal-Escabi and associate director of curriculum John Bauernfeind handled curation.

Ajai Kasim's finale performance in a self-made design at the Parsons show.
Ajai Kasim’s finale performance in a self-made design at the Parsons show.

Standout collections: With 275 graduates, and four BFA pathways — Collection, Materiality, Fashion Product and Systems — key collections included Diego McElroy Sein, Yulu Hou, Adam Wormhoudt, Bay Chaitrakulthong Wirithnun, Sharon Nicole, Ajai Kasim and Leo Qian. Twelve students were selected to present their collections on the runway at the 2024 Parsons Benefit Gala, an annual fundraising event.

Designs (top left to right) by Yulu Hou, Ajai Kasim and Diego McElroy Sein, and (bottom left to right) Adam Wormhoudt, Sharon Nichole and Bay Chaitrakulthong Wirithnun at the Parsons show.

First-time experiences: It was a historic moment for the BFA Fashion, marking the biggest show ever produced for the program. One of the BFA fashion design graduates Ajai Kasim, who is also a music artist, modeled his own look and gave a surprise performance that opened the finale.

Special guests: Curator Thierry-Maxime Loriot, gallerist Hannah Traore, digital strategist Jiajia Fei, actor Blake Abbie, the New York City Ballet’s Gilbert Bolden, and fashion designer Zaldy were on hand.

Pratt Institute

How it began: The first fashion show was said to have been held in 1899 to spotlight the work of costume design students, who were enrolled at that time in what was Pratt’s department of domestic art.

Work by Malek Rasmussen at the Pratt show.

This year’s lineup: Twenty students took part in the show at Powerhouse Arts in Gowanus, Brooklyn, and more than 350 guests turned out to see what they had created. Titled “The Show,” the Pratt fashion show encompassed such themes as eco-consciousness and inclusive sizing.

Honorees: Emilio Pompetti, BFA Fashion ’24, won the 2024 Christopher Hunte “On Point” Award, an annual $10,000 prize that is given to a graduating designer.

Key collections: Along with Pompetti’s work, some of the other notable designs came from Brendan Sheerin, Malek Rasmussen and Shayna Block.

Special guests: The event celebrated Marni’s creative director Francesco Risso, who accepted the Pratt Fashion Visionary Award virtually from Vogue’s Mark Holgate. Executives from Marni and The Brave Group were in the crowd.

Rhode Island School of Design

How it began: Professor emerita Lorraine Howes began the tradition in the early 1970s. The runway show has since been held at the Providence Performing Arts Center, RISD’s Fleet Library at RISD and Brown University’s Meehan Auditorium among other locales.

Runway styles by Kailin Hartley, Sue Sima, Ace Yin, Gene Suh and Anya Nordstrom at RISD.

This year’s lineup: Thirteen graduating seniors presented their work during two shows on May 24 that were held at the WaterFire Arts Center. No official theme was in order, but some students strode to liberate themselves from traditional frameworks, and others questioned and/or embraced technology and alternate universes. The bulk of the work was subtly tinged with the political.

Standout collections: Henry Hawk will represent RISD’s Apparel Design department at the Supima Design Competition during this fall’s New York Fashion Week. The Sept. 7 runway show will be livestreamed. Through a partnership with International Flavors & Fragrances, five seniors were tapped to develop fragrances that encompass the spirit of their collections.

At the RISD show, looks from Yiyi Wang, Fiona Frohnapfel, Sofia Zhuk-Vasilyeva, Henry Hawk and Abraham Hsu.

Firsts: The WaterFire Arts Center was a new location, and the runway production was amped up professionally including hair and makeup, music and graphic design.

Key collections: Yiyi Wang, Sofia Zhuk-Vasilyeva, Ace Yin and Kailin Hartley for having developed cohesive artistic visions in their work.

Savannah College of Art & Design

How it began: For nearly three decades, the SCAD fashion show has been one of the university’s largest signature events and a must-see showcase event for students, special guests of the university, and industry leaders.

SCAD Savannah – Spring 2024 – Fashion Show – Runway Coverage – SCAD Museum of Art, Courtyard – Photography Courtesy of SCAD
A runway look from Ellie Byrd at SCAD Savannah.

This year’s lineup: For the 2024 SCAD Fashion show on May 17, a record number of 60 SCAD student designers were featured on the runway, which highlighted 180 looks and welcomed 480 guests. This year 33 student collaborators from other School of Fashion programs including accessory design, fibers, jewelry design and sneaker design pitched in. As a sign of the show’s scope, there were 103 SCAD student models, 52 student dressers, a 12-person style team and a 26-person beauty team backstage.

Honorees: Aurora James, founder and creative director of luxury accessories brand Brother Vellies, vice chair of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) and founder of the Fifteen Percent Pledge received the university’s Andre Leon Talley Award for her leadership and global advocacy within the industry. SCAD45 Alumni Awards were given to photographer and Now Open cofounder An Le, and Julian Robaire, director of Chanel’s VIP atelier.

SCAD Savannah – Spring 2024 – Fashion Show – Runway Coverage – SCAD Museum of Art, Courtyard – Photography Courtesy of SCAD
A runway look by Peter Shonda was featured at the SCAD Savannah show.

Firsts: SCAD Fashion 2024 also premiered the university’s fashion film, “Déjà Rêvé,” which was directed by SCAD alum Paris Mumpower. Starring Rainey Qualley, “Déjà Rêvé featured imaginative garments, accessories, jewelry, and sneakers from 70-plus SCAD School of Fashion students.

Key collections: Alexa Wexler, Peter Shonoda, Ellie Byrd, Chuck Ryan and Eileen Barry.

Special guests: Along with Qualley, James and Le, SCAD president and founder Paula Wallace and fashion dean Dirk Standen welcomed such notables as Kelly Ripa, model Coco Rocha, designer Patrick Robinson, Neiman Marcus’ Bruce Pask and stylist Zerina Akers.

Washington University in St. Louis

How it began: The WashU Fashion Design Show dates back to 1929, when Irving L. Sorger, a merchandise manager for the St. Louis department story Kline’s, wanted to find out what types of clothing appealed to high schoolers and collegians. To get a better idea, he checked out the students’ designs and was so impressed that he organized a fashion show for local manufacturers at Kline’s. Select designs went into production, the junior’s market debuted and fueled the city’s garment district.

2024-04-27--During the 95th annual 2024 Fashion Design Show in Holmes Lounge on the campus of Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.
A gown from Maxine Roeder’s “Featherplight” collection at the WashU show.

This year’s line-up: Three hundred people had reserved tickets for this year’s WashU show, which had a theme of “Connections.” However, a demonstration on campus prompted university officials to nix in-person guests and livestream the show on YouTube and Instagram instead.

Honorees: Ella Dassin won the Dominic Michael Silver Scissors Award, Maxine Roeder picked up both the Neiman Marcus St. Louis store-sponsored Most Marketable Collection Award and for the Stars Design Group Award, Vivian Nguyen received the Silver Ripper Award, Indigo Amunategui was honored with the Riverbend Textiles Sustainable Design Leadership Award,  Maggie Maichel was honored with the Lillie Elise Willemsen Award and Yanna Hansen received the Fashion Citizenship Award.

2024-04-27--During the 95th annual 2024 Fashion Design Show in Holmes Lounge on the campus of Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.
A look from Ella Dassin’s “Lifelines” collection at the 95th annual WashU fashion show.

Key collections: Dassin’s “Lifelines,” Roeder’s “Featherplight,” Michael Hunziker’s “Fighter” and Josie Zimmerman’s “Nostalgia.”

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