Last Saturday’s Re-Fashioned event was, like all of the others I’ve been to, crowded and wonderful. Re-Fashioned is the runway show showcasing the work by University of Illinois School of Art + Design fashion students from both the fall 2022 and spring 2023 semesters.
Held in the Siebel Center for Design, Re-Fashioned was bigger than ever with 60ish different projects gracing the runway, a result of the development of the fashion concentration in the School of Art + Design. This runway show is no longer just one class’ projects, it’s four classes’ projects. And the design work is better and more sophisticated than ever. This is likely a result of an expanded and better supported program, which offers more classes and more instructors from whom to learn. Students are clearly more skilled than in years past because they have more opportunities to practice and hone these skills. While there has always been an interest in fashion and fashion design on the U of I campus, there are now more outlets, including the The Fashion Network RSO that organized Friday, May 5th’s Circular Fashion Expo (read our 2022 interview here).
I wasn’t able to attend last year’s Re-Fashioned, so when I scanned a QR code for the program, I was surprised that it was ten pages long; I remember when it was simply a folded sheet of paper. As the event name suggests, all projects are focused on repurposing found materials. The beauty of visual arts is that a single, unchanged prompt will elicit an exponential number of different projects. Each student is bringing their own experiences, aesthetics, interests, and skill set, which are all different from the next student’s. So even though there were many “Zero Waste,” “Future Fiction,” and “Nature Project” designs, nothing was even remotely similar.
This year’s runway show opened with a pre-show performance by Banafsheh, wearing a red and pink dress (Identity/Color project) with an extremely long train/fabric appendage designed by Natalia Espinel-Porras. Music accompanied Banafsheh’s dance across the west side of Siebel, down the ramp toward the east side of the building, and her descent into the basement level of the building. It was a slow and tension-building preamble to the higher energy, rapid walk of the forthcoming models.
What followed were dozens of incredible looks made from old billboards, vinyl wallpaper, t-shirts, recycled and donated fabric, and moss. The makeup and styling was incredible. Below you’ll find a handful of examples of these amazing fits. I was particularly struck by the levity and whimsy of the final project, a capstone collection of four brightly colored looks from Miranda Mottlowitz (image at the top of this article).
The Siebel Center on Saturday was packed, standing room only. Every single model, and by extension, the outfit’s designer(s), received cheers and whoops of delight from the audience. At the end of the event, when all of the models came out and lined the runways, the room was deafening. At the risk of exposing my tender heart, I found this particular moment to be profoundly moving. Friends, family, loved ones, professors, grandparents, and random people like myself showed up to this event to celebrate the creative work of these students. It was really hopeful and beautiful. I can’t wait until next year’s event.
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