Student Fashion Showcases: Project Runway, College Edition

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As the school year draws to a close, many college seniors are finishing up their final projects, such as a capstone program or a research thesis.

For three young women, this last hurrah translates into a body of work much more visually appealing than a paper or a class—a collection of clothes.

“I became interested in fashion design in high school and found joy in creating,” North Carolina State University senior Keely Cansler said. “I aim to create an experience for the viewer and evoke some type of emotion with every line that I develop.”

Cansler recently designed a collection for NC State’s annual Art to Wear Show themed around the five stages of grief: isolation/denial, bargaining, anger, depression and acceptance. The line is dedicated to her best friend, Anna Nicole McCaslin, who died seven years ago.

“All the work and time that went into this previous line was for her, and I wanted every detail to be perfect,” Cansler said. “It was much more therapeutic than I had expected and brought me to complete acceptance with her death.”

Cansler is an Anni Albers scholar, which means she will receive a dual degree from the College of Textiles and the College of Design within NC State. This summer, she will be an intern on the fashion production team at Proenza Schouler in Manhattan, N.Y. To see more of Keely Cansler, check out her blog.

Colorado State University senior Kristen Ulbert’s vibrant senior collection, made up of five spandex swimsuits and two cover-ups, is the exact opposite of Cansler’s introspective line.

“Since I was a little girl, I have been fascinated with color and making a statement!” Ulbert said. “I think you have to be willing to take chances with design.”

Her collection, shown at CSU’s Senior Apparel Design Show, “Fash n’ Fresh,” at the end of March, won the award for Best Target Market, which Ulbert credits to her Jessica Howard internship in New York last summer.

“I think my internship helped me focus my creativity to a particular customer and make my sales plan realistic,” Ulbert said.

For CSU’s annual Recycled Fashion Show on April 28, Ulbert hand-knitted a scarf from recycled plastic grocery bags (see photo) and also participated in the “Dress for Less” portion of the show, where she was required to modify a thrift-store outfit sold for less than $30.

Right now, Ulbert is in the process of applying for jobs but plans to spend some time in her hometown in the Chicago suburbs before entering the professional world. Someday, she hopes to design swimwear in California. To see more of Kristen Ulbert, check our her website.

Though her latest fashion show took place in February, Michigan State University senior Leigh Gervasi has kept busy, spending three months creating a dress made not of fabric, but of books.

“I love everything about books. The way they smell, wear out as I thumb the pages, and stack neatly on my bookshelf, like little trophies,” Gervasi said. “With this gown, I wanted to pay homage to the beauty of books and the experience of getting lost in a great story.”

The bodice of the dress is made of hard book covers and recycled cardboard hinges, while the waistband consists of woven book jackets and the skirt is made of the actual book pages. The dress is one of 15 made out of recycled materials that will be featured in the re:Dress exhibit in the MSU Museum’s Heritage Gallery (from April 17) until July 1.

“I find, as a designer, that it is sometimes very difficult to get the idea you have in your head out into a tangible garment,” Gervasi said. “Needless to say I was ecstatic when it turned out even cooler than I had imagined.”

In the future, Gervasi hopes to design costumes for movies and television, and is considering moving to New York in the fall.

“The beauty of the fashion industry is that there are so many different niches and markets,” Gervasi said. “I have full confidence that I will find a career that will make me excited to get out of bed in the morning!”

Senior > English and Studio Art > University of Virginia

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