Cornell Fashion Collective features designers who create looks based on specific themes.

Michael Wenye Li / Sun Senior Photographer

Cornell Fashion Collective features designers who create looks based on specific themes.

March 5, 2019

From Sketch to Showcase, A Look Behind the Annual Cornell Fashion Collective Runway Show

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Cornell Fashion Collective’s annual fashion show is the club’s signature event, celebrating fashion, creativity and design. But behind the scenes, the fashion show represents the culmination of months of labor, from initial planning over the summer to last-minute finishes this week.

The show is one of the University’s most unique events: Cornell is the only of its peers to offer a formal fashion major and “the only Ivy that does a show like this,” said CFC vice president of public relations Eliana Rozinov ’20.

Hosting Cornell’s premier display of fashion talent is an arduous process that takes over seven months from booking the room to finishing the last show, according to CFC President Narhee Kim ’20. Behind the scenes, CFC designers at the fashion show start preparations far in advance.

CFC divides its designers into four levels based on number of years of experience designing for CFC. The organization’s 25 level one and two designers create one to two looks based on a specific theme. The 11 level three and four designers are expected to present an entire cohesive collection, according to Bao, who is charged with overseeing the design process.

That lengthy process begins in the fall semester, which is mostly dedicated to brainstorming and creative planning. Level one and two designers, in consultation with faculty advisor Prof. Jooyoung Shin, fiber science and apparel design, workshop a wide array of sketches and ideas before settling on a more definitive theme, Bao said.

Bao, a level four designer, has opted for a “more exaggerated experimental” theme that aims to be “a celebration of ‘craziness’ in contemporary female psyche.” To turn those often physically complicated ideas into a wearable reality, the designers kick into overdrive after winter break and “get really hectic” during the second semester, Kim said.

Level four designers, who are tasked with displaying at least eight to 11 looks, often must work far into the night in the weeks and months leading up to the show to finish producing their garments, according to Bao.

“We’ve been here [in the studio] every day since the semester started,” Bao said, noting that their work the last two weeks before the show regularly “goes into the a.m.’s.”

Previous shows have featured collections that cover a diverse range of styles and messages. Last year, one designer showcased “five costumes, with each look representing a stage of the human body,” that required 3D printing, custom embroidery and over 300 hours of labor to produce.

[Take a look back at last year’s Cornell Fashion Collective.]

The models who will don CFC’s work on the runway have gone through a similarly rigorous process of preparation. As every designer is looking for different and unique types of individuals — “you never know who needs a certain person for their specific collection,” Bao pointed out — a wide net is first cast in mid-October, when a model call advertises to people “all around campus.”

While selected models don’t have many commitments early on, they have much more to do in the spring semester: They must go to the studio three times for preliminary fitting, then at least another two times to be fitted to the final fabric, attend a model bootcamp as well as a number of rehearsals to make sure “they are comfortable walking in heels,” and attend a number of rehearsals.

“It takes… one and a half months to get the fit right with the models,” Bao explained.

The end result of the elaborate, couture endeavor is one of Cornell’s best-attended events: While the show regularly commands the attendance of thousands, last year it sold out, with over 3,100 spectators filling Barton Hall.

Besides the fashion show itself, CFC is hosting a week filled with fashion related events. CFC has collaborated with local eateries for fashion themed fare. Mandibiles is selling a “Coco Chanel Drink”, Chatty Cathy is selling a “Breakfast at Tiffany’s Bowl” and “Dior Body Good Smoothie”. CFC also invited guest speakers such as Joanne Kim, who works at Estee Lauder and Luna Lee, human rights activst.

“It’s basically our own little fashion week here in Ithaca,” Rozinov told The Sun.