Smile Politely

Art and Design students make it work: Reflecting on this year’s Re-Fashioned show

Three images of runway models from ReFashioned 2024. L-R: A person wearing a mini dress made of rainbow, shiny plastic pieces; three women pose, with the woman on the left wearing a black crop top, a black skirt, and a silver sleeve; the middle woman wearing a shiny silver crop top and skirt; the woman on the right wearing a strapless black dress with silver bangles on her wrists. On the right: a woman wears a dress made of paper maps and poses with her hands lifted to her right.
Jessica Hammie

One of Smile Politely’s favorite events of the year, the University of Illinois’ School of Art & Design students sparkled at last Saturday’s Re-Fashioned 2024. And once again, the unique assignments sparked the creativity of these student designers.

A black man models a yellow outfit. The shirt is a yellow crop top, the pants are yellow denim shorts with big, knit legs. He wears a blond wig and a sun hat. His arms are lifted and hands are behind his head.
Jessica Hammie

For plenty of background, including an interview with Susan Becker, one of Art & Design’s professors, you can read what the creatives at Smile Politely have said in previous years about the event here and here and here. Short version: inherited from the “make it work” tradition of Bravo’s Project Runway, students are given an inspired prompt that asks them to creatively use found or recycled materials to deliver a fashion look. And they deliver year after year, which is a wonderful testament to the visionary work of the faculty involved, including Becker and Chiara Vincenzi.

Three woman walk the runway at ReFashioned. They are all wearing different versions of a black dress with mesh skirts. The woman in the middle wears a dress with red details.
Jessica Hammie

The images speak for themselves. Huge thanks to our effervescent Editor-in-Chief, Jessica Hammie for the photos this year because, honestly, it’s difficult to describe the inventive work the students produce year after year. You have to see it to get it. And you definitely have to be there to experience the music, the excitement, and the vibe furnished by the Siebel Center for Design.

Two models pose at ReFashioned 2024. A man and a woman wear off-white and cream colored fabrics. She has a crown on her head and lifts her right arm up in a pose. He wears a top with fringe and tassels, has futuristic makeup on his face, and poses in a lateral lean to his left.
Jessica Hammie

First, the music. U of I professor in graphic design and genius DJ, Stacey Robinson set the stage with a smashing mix of musical styles and tempo. A fashion show without music would look as ridiculous as the music-less ballet scene in Amadeus. Half the fun is watching the models cavort down the runway in lockstep with the beat. The runway at the Siebel is a brilliant use of the ramps in the center of the building. It’s an absolutely fabulous use of space, sound, and movement.

Two models, one Black woman in glasses on the left, and a Brown man on the right. They wear monochromatic outfits in different shades of green. The woman wears a hood and long cape / train, and the man wears pants and a coat.
Jessica Hammie

Second, the excitement. People were packed on two floors of the Siebel Center. The ramps wind through the space creating movement in the space itself. With audiences on the main floor and downstairs, the place was packed. Parents and grandparents, friends, siblings, and others just drawn to fashion enjoyed every look and prance the designers and models put together. 

The crowd at ReFashioned 2024 watch the models line up on the "runway" at the end of the show.
Jessica Hammie

And third, the vibe. The vibe of the show is produced by the resourceful assignments students respond to in their classes. The “history mix” assignment asked students to research a current fashion trend and blend it with something from the first half of the 20th century. Another assignment included using donated fabric or clothing to create a mini-collection of at least two looks. They were to imagine and research a society living in North America 100 to 500 years in the future and design looks that communicate that culture. 

Perhaps some of the most surprising and creative looks responded to the “woven emotion” assignment. Students were to create wearable textiles that enhance and amplify the emotional impact of their woven creations. One of which featured a flamboyant yellow two piece outfit (pictured at the top of this article) with a woven heart on the front and almost macrame-looking detail on the pants. I hope the emotion the designer was going for was utter joy because that’s what the piece and the model inspired in me. 

The evening goes by too quickly and leaves audiences applauding for more. The event is a delight for the senses and an enchanting way to wrap up a spring semester. 

Arts Editor at Smile Politely

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