RALEIGH — Ten years later, Art to Wear still has the power to awe.
N.C. State University students took to the runway Tuesday night in an inspired show that celebrated a decade of fashion design mixed with fantasy and bold statements about society.
The show, which started in 2002 with just a handful of students teaming up to show off what they'd created in a fibers studio, has become one of the largest fashion shows of its kind in the state.
If there was a common theme among the 13 student collections, it was a sense of darkness. Two collections focused on the color gray, one interpreted the stages of grief, another was inspired by the Apocalypse and one showed how light moves in darkness.
Veronica Tibbitts, a senior Anni Albers scholar (a dual degree program between the College of Design and the College of Textiles), was among the show stealers with her "sattire" collection that took reuse and recycle, a common Art to Wear theme over the years, to new heights by mocking today's "throw-away" mentality.
Her standout piece was a mermaid gown and matching headdress crafted from recycled industrial air filters that made a dramatic entrance as it scraped along the runway. Her nod to throw-away electronics perhaps made the biggest statement. Tibbitts embellished chic party dress with coiled electronic cords and an iPad running a loop of static attached to the bust.
"The focus of that dress is energy consumption," Tibbitts said.
Naomi White, a junior studying fashion and textile management¸ stood out with her "Grandma's Attic" collection, a huge departure from traditional Art to Wear ready-to-wear fashion where pieces often show off skin as well as design. White revisited vintage silhouettes, including high-collar, buttoned-up blouses, ribbon-tied dresses and knee-length pantaloons, all looks she called an "under-appreciated aesthetic."
The collection was refreshingly playful and surprisingly appealing because of White's clever pairings of fabric textures, bold colors and proportions. And despite White's best efforts not to give off an air of sexiness, the looks were flirty in a modern granny sort of way, many of which had elements of commercial appeal similar to that of kooky designer Betsey Johnson.
Two collections stood out for their mass market potential. Carlee Fowler, a senior studying fashion development and product management, used digital printing among other tricks to create her pieces. Standouts included a dress made of fabric with a monarch butterfly pattern and a sage green mini cocktail dress with an asymmetric collar and a ruffle cascading down the back with a neon green light coiled through it.
Sarah Hazel Cannon, a freshman Anni Albers Scholar, is one to watch for in future Art to Wear shows. Her well-crafted "Evolution of Gray" collection covered the transition of shades of gray mixed with light and color throughout the day. Among the most stunning was a simple gray party dress that included delicate hand cut-out flowers, accentuated by a bright yellow underlay.
Danica Dewell's models demonstrated the theatric power of pairing light and movement through various types of dance - ballet, jazz and ballroom - while wearing fiber optic "garments."
Other notable work included a mini cape half covered in pennies (sent down the runway with other penny-covered pieces to Kanye West's "Gold Digger") by sophomore Anni Albers Scholar Rebecca Walker. Senior Katelyn Sexton, who also was the show's co-director, went daring, using recycled rubber tubes to create an oversize and layered roped necklace that doubled as a skimpy top.
Lindsay Gilliam, a senior studying environmental design in architecture, schooled the audience on everything that could be done with a gray T-shirt: woven and knotted, bunched up in pieces and tied at the shoulders, draped like ropes. "I embraced the crude nature and raw nature of the material," she said.
A highlight of the evening was a documentary looking at the past 10 years of Art to Wear, from its humble beginnings at the pit outside Kamphoefner Hall to its current location at Reynolds Coliseum.
"For me, the most memorable part is watching the students grow and develop," said Vita Plume, an associate professor of Art and Design who was instrumental in starting the show 10 years ago. "It doesn't really matter to me what comes out on the stage. The reason I continue to do it is so that I can see how amazing it is for the students."