During the past few weeks, as fashion houses and designers have shown collections in New York, Paris, Milan and London during Fashion Week, many have explored issues involving women’s rights, inclusivity and the LGBTQ+ movement. From Burberry highlighting the pride flag to Balenciaga having men and women walk together on the runway, and Chanel’s new line called Leave Me Alone, consumers were shown how designers interpret important issues. On March 10th, the CFC highlighted the collections of undergraduate students across majors allowing them to make messages and further their skills. At its core, Cornell Fashion Collective seems to act as a microcosm of the larger fashion world right now — using high quality craftsmanship to speak to social movements and to reflect on images in nature.
The CFC show designates designers into four tiers, each corresponding to the students year. Tier 4 seniors design the most pieces.
The 34th CFC show successfully finished last Saturday on March 10th. It was the first sold out show in the clubs history. But the best thing about the show is that through the venue, students could explore opportunities in the arts, technology and fashion design to convey their ideas and philosophies, and to challenge social norms.
Many students talked about the importance of sustainability in our world today.
David Wild ’18 opened the show with a theatrical collection titled “Who Are We?” which featured models wearing clothing inspired by, in the words of Wild, “the disparity of power” especially between customers and clients. His collection aimed to create oversized uniforms which unify people. In an interview with The Sun before the show, he informed us that “in one color everything blends together.” Further, he said that “everything was put in mud” as a way to creatively go against the trend of throwing away clothes that get ruined and add to the growth of a wasteful society.
Later in the show, junior designer Mary Louise DuBose’s collection explored the human body. Her collection “Dermis” consisted of five costumes, with each look representing a stage of the human body: “The first look being human skin, and then it progresses all the way to skeleton system, with 3D printing, beading and embroidery.” The second look, for example, is pants with a red cape behind. “She has the skin ripping in the red cape. It’s supposed to be blood pouring out,” DuBose explained to us in an interview. DuBose also used different kinds of materials and techniques to convey her idea: “I use beading in the entire collection, that represents blood vessels and veins in the circulatory system. Then it’s the muscular system, and the finale is everything together.”
Underneath the exploration of the human body, DuBose wants to convey that “everyone is the same under the flesh.” Her model selection, therefore, also tries to explore different kinds of body shapes: “I didn’t want to have traditional models — very tall and incredibly thin. I have a range of models — different heights and ethnicities . . . the ethnicity is important to me because of the skin component, anybody can be the first look, the exterior. And the subtopic is that everybody is the same under the flesh.” In addition to being creative with clothes, DuBose also focuses on the practical component of clothing. “I pay attention to the shapes and make sure that clothes are wearable. There’s a sub-section in fashion design called wearable arts. I love wearable Arts and I want to work in wearable arts. I want to bring it to the practical and realistic world, where it is wearable.”
Despite the amazing concept, to actually bring out the idea visually to the audience, DuBose had lots of difficulties. When I asked her what was the most difficult thing when making this collection, she said, “3D printing. Also, this collection was done by hand. I started over winter break to make sure I could get it done. The embroidery, the beading, the 3D printing — that all has to be done separately.” DuBose did the entire collection by herself and ended up spending 300 hours on it, and her hard work showed in the collection.
In interviews with Julia DeNey ’20, Lia Cernauskas ’20 and Stephanie Laginestra ’20, each talked about how they convey their inspirations through fashion design. For DeNey, her inspiration comes from plant life and the desert. “I created texture from fabric. I did a lot of hand smocking.” Both Laginestra and Cernauskas, on the other hand, took inspiration from sand. “My inspiration comes from sand dunes and the movements of sand. I used very intense and strong shapes, very exaggerated shapes to replicate the shape of sand.” Said Laginestra. And for Cernauskas: “I also got inspirations from sand dunes and the structure of sand. I made my clothes [with] more flowy shapes combined with structured . . . giving contrast to the sand concept itself.”
As sophomores, DeNey, Cernauskas and Laginestra are still in the process of exploring their potential careers. Julia seems to have a vision that she wants to do children’s clothes. So for this year CFC, she had her four-year-old cousin be one of her models. The audience received the little girl with warm cheering and clapping.
Tier four designer, Lily Xi Li ’18, flipped gender roles and ideas of femininity and masculinity on their head. Xi Li stated that with her collection titled Pea-Sainte she hoped to “blur the line between femininity and masculinity [so] men have access to experiment on what womenswear looks like.” Her loungewear brand, which includes many uses of corsets, is set to launch post-graduation in both Hong Kong and New York City. One of the most interesting parts of her collection was the actions taken by the models as they reached the end of the runway: two of the male models that were wearing corsets made a dramatic gesture of placing the corset higher as if to cover something up. This movement is a typically feminine motion and Xi Li was able to make a gendered statement. Her attention to detail was noticeable as was the streamlined sense of the collection. Most clothes were monochromatic colors including greys and beiges, which allowed her commentary on gender to shine.
Senior Olivia Friedman’s collection titled “Transparence Feminique” featured models wearing lingerie under transparent clothes fashioned with structures typically associated with business wear. Friedman stated that her collection aims at showing how to express femininity in a supposed man’s world. She was inspired by events that are happening currently, such as breaking silence about sexual violence and being able to embrace femininity. She saw this years Fashion Week designers (including Balenciaga and Vaquera) were more focused on pop culture which she attempted to “incorporate into her collection” as well. One of her looks included a masculine blazer-esque transparent outer garment and a beautiful, lacy, lingerie set which helped solidify her message. She also showcased the versatility of the fiber science and fashion design as she is poised to move to Chicago post grad to work for McMaster-Carr in a role with digital design and software development. Friedman hopes to combine her fashion interests and her interests in software, in the future.
Emelia Black ‘18 said that with her collection titled “Sea Ephemeral” she aimed to “show how waste can be used to make beautiful garments so it is both aesthetic and textile.” Black speaks directly to issues of sustainability in her construction of her designs. Her looks included a very interesting mermaid-esque outfit seemingly made out of cans and other scraps. Her collection had adages to mermaids and scales at points which was whimsical, but her use of her platform to engage ideas of sustainability in fashion was inspiring. She committed to her vision and executed it using a variety of looks which varied in color and style, all still carrying the theme and message of Black’s line with each turn of the models on the runway.
Level one designer Marlee Weill ’21 wanted her looks to show her interest “in playing with the fundamental aspects of what clothes should be and can be.” Weill commented that Cornell has shown her “how broad design is and how design can be pulled from anywhere — even academics.” Her collection was playful and unique, such as an extraterrestrial look, which included a model with silver hair and makeup in a silver dress with sheen that was very unique.
Other level one designer, Grace Rickert ’21, spoke about how this limited number of looks was beneficial since “I just knew I always wanted to do something that was like a koi pond motif in dress form, [to follow the second tier theme of surrealism] I had the fish swimming off the dress and on to her. It was just one of those things I had thought of for a long time so this was kinda my chance.” She also said an eco-conscious mindset is important to her designs, as she has been influenced not only by her courses at Cornell, but by her upbring in the greater Los Angeles area.
Although all of the designers in the show displayed impressive work, one collection seemed to stand on its own. Third level designer Grace Lawson’s ’18 collection Doyenne, which, as Lawson said in a statement for the sun, was “inspired by 1950s silhouettes” and consisted of mainly formal evening-wear, was beautiful and garnished a warm reception from the crowd. Not only were the designs of each piece moving, but the modeling of the utmost quality. Models performed difficult transitions, including the turning of a skirt into a cape that took the crowds breath away, flawlessly. Her eye for combining practicality with elegance is second to none, and the Sun eagerly awaits her level four collection.
The show was as interesting and expressive as the clothes themselves. Designers were clearly attempting to make statements, though some were more obvious than others. These attempts raise the questions of what is the best way to express controversial opinions and how do they affect one’s fellow designers and the integrity of the show. We loved seeing the imagery and the creativity from using waste to showcasing the human body. From billowing evening gowns to reused bottles, each collection was unique and beautiful.
Ashley Davila is a junior in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Jiangxue Ning is a research assistant in the College of Human Ecology. She can be reached at email@example.com. Peter Buonanno is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org