Diana Vreeland, former editor-in-chief of Vo g u e once said, “Fashion is part of the daily air and it changes all the time, with all the events. You can even see the approaching of a revolution in clothes. You can see and feel everything in clothes.”
This idea is cultivated and reinforced by the Fashion for Life show, put on annually by senior students registered for the CTD 450 Advanced Apparel Design course at The University of Alabama.
All proceeds from the fashion show are donated to a worthy cause. This past year, the earnings went toward metastatic breast cancer awareness and research.
“Each year, the senior students nominate a charity for money raised from Fashion for Life, and it’s different each year,” said Brian Taylor, professor in the Department of Clothing, Textiles and Interior Design and overseerof the show. “This year, one of our students was personally affected by metastatic breast cancer – her mothers diagnosed.This student nominated the cause and the senior students voted on it being the charity for Fashion for Life .”
When he first began teaching at UA, Taylor required seniors to create a collection that represented their design philosophy. It wasn’t until his second year in 2009 he kick-started the Fashion for Life as a chance for students to professionally showcase their designs to a larger audience.
Originally, the show was held at the Old Train Station in downtown Tuscaloosa, currently known as the restaurant 301 Bistro. Since then, the show has grown in size and impact, and is now held in the Ferguson Center ballroom to accommodate the backstage and audience.
The student designers of the show are responsible for creating three or more complete outfits to showcase their collection, and prepare models to display their work. The preparation is extensive and requires an acute attention to detail.
“Prepping for the show was crazy, just to get all your models ready, hair—makeup, making sure everyone had their shoes, right undergarments—it’s a lot,” said Effie Guenther, a UA student who participated in this past show in 2017. “My models were all amazing though, as well as my professors in the Apparel Design department over in Doster Hall. I feel so blessed having had them guide me through prepping through the show. I most definitely couldn’t have done it without them.”
The show is an opportunity for design students to present their hard work and design philosophy to family, friends and younger students pursuing a future in design. Though the prep-work seems relatively intense, the result proves highly rewarding.
“Watching my garments walk down the runway was so exhilarating,” said senior apparel design major and Honors student Amanda Eidson. “My whole family was there, and a lot of my friends, so it was really special to showcase my work off. It honestly was a very surreal and emotional moment for me. So much time and effort went into my collection, and to see it all walk together was amazing.”
Fashion for Life is an exemplary way for students to prepare for a professional future in fashion. The responsibilities students face help develop the skill sets necessary to succeed in the fashion industry. Designers further develop their creativity, time management, sewing skills, communication skills, and attention to detail, among numerous other necessary artistic abilities.
As a result, many of the designers in the show have big plans for their future. Guenther, for example, aspires to move to New York City and work for a design company, where she’ll continue to design everyday attire and party-wear, incorporating 3D modified shoes.
“Part of my goal as a designer to increase model diversity, including race, gender and size,” Guenther said. “The fashion industry is also one of the most wasteful industries in the world, so I hope to get to a point where I can influence environmentally friendly practices.”
The beauty of the show is that every designer creates a collection that is completely extraordinary and different from one another. As a result, the designs seem to rightfully reflect the values and personality of the designer.
Designer Amanda Eidson took her collection in a personal and poetic direction, basing her design concept off the personality and character of her best friend, Elizabeth Cheek, who passed away in 2016. From “Elizabethan” Collection. Photo by: Eric Gray Photography Designs by Effie Guenther. Photo by: Effie Guenther “I wanted to honor her and bring her spirit to life through my clothes,” Eidson said. “She was so bright, bubbly and feminine, with a contagious laugh. My clothes directly reflected her in that they were girly, sophisticated and made you want to go out and show the world who you were and what you were wearing. The name of my collection is ‘Elizabethan.’”
As such an expressive form of art, the impression that one’s designs have are different for everyone and connect on an individual level. The fashion industry is an intimidating one, but that doesn’t dictate the path many artists like those of Taylor, Guenther and Eidson choose.
“Expose yourself to the wide variety of brands, designers and the history of fashion,” Taylor said. “Familiarize yourself with the technical part of fashion – garment construction, fit, pattern making, illustration and learn your fabrics.”
Participating and even simply viewing events like Fashion for Life can be a pivotal moment for a growing designer, proving to reflect just one of UA’s many opportunities to gain valuable experience.