by Daniela Perez & Paddy Ghaemi
It’s 11:53 PM on April 17th; Tuesday is about to turn into Wednesday. Students at the University of Texas at Austin students are about to turn in to sleep. And simultaneously, spectacular fabrics are being turned into finalized garments. The sound of sewing machines and tired laughter flow through the second floor of Mary E. Gearing Hall as designers work to finish their collections for Dimension, the name of this year’s fashion show.
Jessica Teran, a senior Textiles and Apparel Design major, is one of them. Teran is also the Director of Outer Public Relations for the University Fashion Group, the group in charge of putting together the fashion show. Besides working on her pieces, she has dedicated countless hours to reaching out to local business to publicize the event.
Tonight, Teran is putting some final touches on her pieces. She’s laughing off nerves as she talks about showing her pieces to a panel of local fashion professionals on the Thursday before Dimension. Industry professionals go over each individual designer’s collections based on criteria and pick the winners based on different categories. They’ll announce the winners at the end of the fashion show.
Nervous would be an understatement.
Teran walks through some of her collection. “I’m making menswear,” she says, “a lot of neutral colors. It’s post-apocalyptic inspired, so it’s utilitarian.”
We ended the tour with her sustainable activewear. The seniors were asked to reuse materials from previously worn garments and sew them together.
“I used all recycled girls jeans, size zero,” she started. “It took me four pairs of jeans, one pair of trousers and a skirt. I had to dye them all the same color, use sandpaper to create a destruction pattern and to fray them. The shirt is made out of a dress, a skirt, a button up…” She started laughing, “It’s a lot. It’s very tedious work, I wanna make sure everything is perfect.”
We asked her how long it took her to make it.
She laughed again, “Way too long.”
Behind the Scenes of UT’s Fashion Show
The University Fashion Group will be presenting the 2018 Textiles and Apparel senior designs. This fashion show, like all things UT, has a rich history and much success in its storyline. It hasn’t been around as long as the university, but since its humble beginnings more than 40 years ago, it has definitely grown.
When Eve Nicols, the former fashion show director, was given the position of director, the students only had 10 dollars in their fashion show fund. Her mission was to fundraise and find sponsors. Eventually, the fashion show grew from the Union to the Lone Star room in the Frank Erwin Center.
The success of the show was apparent; the Lone Star room exceed capacity, and some show-goers had to watch the show through a live stream from the lobby. Because of this, the Frank Erwin Center insisted that they move the fashion show into the arena 17 years ago.
Saturday, April 21st was a calmer day in Gearing Hall. The quiet, relaxed environment made it perfect for head set designer, Austin Chevier, and assistant set designer, Javier Uriegas, to build their set. They were working on Dimension’s stage with some heavy duty material.
“We are using chicken wire —” Chevier began before being interrupted by Uriegas.
“Don’t call it that,” Uriegas laughed, “Call it by the other name.”
“Oh, right. Wire Mesh. It makes it sound fancier,” they both laughed.
Chevier, a senior design major, also has his collection in the show. He and Uriegas use an easel to try and soften the wire mesh. This moment made us think of something Jessica had said Tuesday night: “A lot of us who are designers this year are also involved in [setting up] the show, we have a lot of say in how we want it to look: models, stage design, etc. It’s not like we’re putting it into the hands of someone else who plans events. We do it all together. It’s just a lot of work.”
Chevier had the same sentiment as Teran when talking about their process; they had been working on ideas for the set since the fall semester. They went through five prototypes before deciding on their final design.
Finally, they decided on a fan-like shape that culminated in the center of both panels. They were crimping the fabric to create the shape and wanted to create an explosion in the middle.
“We originally wanted a free-flowing design,” Chevier said, “But wire mesh was more difficult than we thought. Both of us are design majors, so we treated it like fabric.”
“Which was a big mistake,” Uriegas added.
Funding the Fashion Show
With the changes in venue to the Frank Erwin Arena came challenges: they needed bigger sponsors to advertise their event in order to increase the audience. They had bake sales and leaflets passed out to help raise money for the event, and they worked hard to get sponsors. They also had a lot of support from the local community who helped them find models and such. Today with sponsors like The University Cooperative Society, they are able to work with a professional modeling agency to create a better quality show. Now, they have more experienced models alongside student-casted models, giving the show both elements of professionalism and opportunity.
In 2017, they had 5,000 live audience members and 40,000+ viewers across the United States thanks to Longhorn Network for airing on TV. This makes it the largest student fashion show in the nation.
A Title with Meaning
Every year, the senior design class chooses a name for the fashion show. Synthesis and Elements are names used in the past.
“The show is supposed to be a representation of what everyone in the graduating class is,” Jessica Teran said.
This year, 29 students threw around names they felt would best showcase their skills. Teran laughed with a fellow designer when reflecting on this moment: “There were all kinds of stuff like photosynthesis and metamorphosis, and I was just like, ‘Why?’” They cracked up.
Finally, they settled on Dimension as an accurate representation of the class versatility. With over 140 designs, Teran stated that many designs are based on abstract expressionism, such as Van Gogh. They are also showing off their dimensionality as designers through their collections.
Ockhee Bego, the current fashion show director, has been running the fashion show for 16 years now. When asked what to expect from Dimension, Bego said, “This will be the first time senior designers were given the task of creating sustainable fashion designs. They were asked to recycle previously worn ‘fast fashion’ garments — pieces from trends that only last for a single season — into new pieces of active wear clothing.”
These versatile designs will be unparalleled accomplishments and a strong facet of Dimension and the designers’ future careers.
At the end of the show, the judges from last Thursday’s panel will announce the winners for the following categories: Most Innovative Collection, Most Marketable Collection, Best Technical Collection, Best Evening Wear, Best Bridal Gown, Best Sustainable Activewear and Best Overall Collection.
A Designer’s Journey to Her Final show
Arden Frank, a Junior TXA Design Major, was also spending her Tuesday night in Gearing Hall. Her curriculum allowed her to be in Dimension this year even though she’s a junior. She opted not to participate in the fashion show next year, as she will be figuring out what comes next for her professionally during her senior year.
Her designs have required a long, challenging commitment but a satisfying one. “I definitely think making sure you’re putting in all the hours is what’s challenging because if you don’t you’re not going to produce something that’s worth showing or something you’re proud of. So that’s how I kept myself motivated. This is a once and a lifetime opportunity,” Frank said.
Frank never imagined herself being a part of the show. As a freshman, she watched the senior designers create collections while she sewed her very first garment. Now, she has six pieces ready for the runway this Thursday.
“It’s a really strong visual representation of all the work and growth I’ve experienced these past three years. I’m not the best or great by any means, but to say that I put a collection down the runaway is cool,” she says.
Her collection is based on the ying-yang, specifically the dichotomy between the characteristics of black and white in the context of a woman. “[A woman] can embody both sides of the ying-yang, and these qualities can come together so they can create one cohesive thing,” Frank says.
One of her designs is made from houndstooth fabric which she bought in Paris last summer while taking a draping class. She never thought she would use it, but it turned out to be one of her favorite pieces of her collection.
Her favorite piece is a top that came from a design she ended up scratching. Frank hopes to sell this piece, as well as all of her others after the fashion show. She tells us, “People ask me, ‘Why would you sell it? You made that!’ But, why would you make clothing for people not to wear them?”
“But, why would you make clothing for people not to wear them?”
– Arden Frank
For those of you who want more, there will be a pre-show exhibit in the Lone Star room of the Frank Erwin Center at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday. There you can get a close-up look at “World of Textiles and Apparel.” The exhibition will feature the students’ designs and research projects. It will also include the entries for the SoHE Director Design Challenge. The junior designers were challenged to create an outfit that could be worn day to night. Attendees will get to vote on their favorite look; the top ten will walk the runway, and three lucky winners will be announced at the show.
The University Fashion Group will also be hosting an after party with Urban Outfitters on Saturday, April, 28th from 7-9 p.m. The UT Senior Designers will be there as well as live music from Courduroi. Check out their facebook event here. •
Daniela Perez is freshman Journalism major from Boca Raton, Florida. This is Daniela’s first semester writing for Spark Magazine. Daniela hopes to return to her home country, Venezuela, to report on their current crisis. But for now, she enjoys petting mini-dachshunds, eating Cabo Bob’s and complaining about how Austin has no beach.
Paddy Ghaemi is a sophomore English major from Houston, Texas. This is her first semester writing for Spark’s blog. In her spare time, she enjoys going to the gym, exploring Austin’s coffee and food scene, or just Netflixing the night away.