By Morgan Smith
I was presented with the opportunity to attend my first Virginia Commonwealth University fashion show that was put on by its fashion department. VCU’s fashion shows are very well known and are typically held at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. However, the department did a switcharoo on us and held it at the Main Street Train Station Train Shed. They could not have picked a better location, I tell you. I know some of you may be thinking “ew a train station, seriously”; the Main Street Station is a very contemporary and elegant train station in my opinion. It is very clean and beautiful in there. The venue was complete with purple, yellow, and blue lights shining on guests, a reception area with finger foods for mingling and networking, and a “VCU Arts and Fashion” photo backdrop with a red carpet for selfies and full body photos (you know, I had to get some flicks for the gram). The scenery was topped off by the casual passing of trains in and out of the station. Even better, the venue completely blocked off outside noise and the sounds of the trains could not be heard over the music and festivities inside. Now let’s proceed and discuss the show.
A piece from the “dresses” category
Getting into my absolute favorite part of the show, the speaker directed the attention of the audience to the tv screens all around the room. The TVs were showing VCU Qatar’s senior students collections. The first designs to appear on the screen were created by Maryam Al-Bouanin and she was showcasing her children’s wear…with actual kid models and they were beyond adorable. As soon as the kids came on the screen, the audience screamed “aww” in unison. Some walking fast, some walking slow, some stopping at the runway but running away because they were shy, and some striking cute poses at the end of the runway to show their superstar personalities. Pieces included frilly dresses, one pieces, matching two pieces, and hoodies in neutral colors. The other designers from Qatar were by the names of Maryam Al-Majid, Fatima Al-Kuwari, and Johana Nasreen, offering pants, dresses, and skirts adorned with either tied-in bows or gold medallion-like patterns.
Al-Bouanin’s kidswear screening from Qatar
Coming back to America, Richmond’s VCU senior design students offered very dynamic and game-changing pieces. I honestly could not believe that STUDENTS made these pieces. I felt like I was watching well-established designers like Jacobs or Wang present their pieces to us. After all, they were students before the fame as well. But let’s get into a few of my favorite senior designers:
Mo McGraw, with my personal favorite piece: her patchwork cropped jacket
Phyllis Sackey-Solomon: serving “Ma’am, yes Ma’am” looks with her military/cadet inspired pieces
Maya Cross: the details of her garments were a favorite of mine as they incorporated yarns and strips of fabrics collected together one side of the article of clothing
Jingyu Zhu, giving me those rich colored satin feels with her airy jumpsuits and cardigans. Am I in Greece?
Tahmari Tupponce, ruffling up our feathers with her tucked ruffle pieces, truly amazing stitch-work here
Nica Mendoza: her garments were very creative in its aspects of having masks, wraps, rips, and tears with patterns peeking from underneath
Jalie Gonzalez: giving me the Volturi from Twilight vibes (Twilight fans will understand this) as models walked the runway carrying red roses in black and white garments
Christi Owen: who closed the show with her show-stopping floor length blue fur coat and also won the Ida and Manuel Perez Award this year.
Other designers included Nara Batsuuri, Anna Carlson, Yujin Chen, Paloma Correal, Conner Karlen, Chongwon Lee, Karis Lee, Julia Robertson, and Kathy Schraf whom all did excellent jobs as well with their modern, innovative, and original pieces of work. As the designers walked out at the end of the show, I noticed that each of their lines was a true reflection of them. In meaning, I could see their personalities through their work. For example, Paloma Correal walked out hand-in-hand with models wearing her pieces, smiling from ear to ear and waving to the crowd. Her pieces included spring/summer dresses with fun details such as beads, pleats, and slits revealing the color orange underneath. The bright spring color, orange, and white and the fun designs illustrated her happy and fun personality to me. These are just the impressions that I received, I’m no psychologist. All in all, you could basically see a piece of them in their designs which made created a perfect closing to the show.
The models also did excellent jobs of strutting their stuff down the long zig-zagging runway, specifically Mariea Webb who modeled for several designers. She possessed such a fierce look, perfect posture, and the most graceful and elegant walk.
Mariea in designs by Nara Batsurri who received the Critic’s Choice Award
VCU really put on such an amazing show, if I must say so myself. I was very pleased with the show in its entirety. From the moment I walked in, I was greeted with smiling faces from the wonderful fashion department student ushers who were so helpful with seating and showing me around. The show had wonderful pieces that were constructed to perfection in my eyes. Not a stitch out of place. The senior designers really put their all and best into these pieces I saw tonight, so I must give the biggest congratulations to them and a thank you for gracing us with such outstanding talent, creativity, and craftsmanship. They had the audience members ready to buy their pieces off of the runway. They definitely almost gave me a Oprah moment: “You can take my coins, you can take my coins, you all can take my coins!” Overall, this was a great first front row experience and I am looking forward to next year’s show to be blown away by the venue and new senior fashion designers!