Packing peanuts, trash bags, and Q-tips are generally not thought of as “fashionable”. However, they do make a prominent appearance on the runway at the Annual Design X fashion show. Design X features garments made in the Problem Solving class by fashion design junior and senior students. In this class, students receive very open and abstract starting points, as well as time, budget, and material constraints. Usually, there is a $20 or less limit for budget, and generally, looks contain little to no fabric. For other projects, students practice sustainable thinking and create a “zero-waste” look from only recycled and re-purposed garments. These constraints require students to think outside the box to create something visually striking, but that also still fills the requirement of a body covering.
Problem solving assignment briefs are very vague. One brief instructs students to visit either the zoo or the aquarium and find a fish or animal to serve as their inspiration. Other projects send students to the thrift store with $20 budgets and instruct them to look for garments to deconstruct and re-purpose. A more challenging project brief gives students certain words and descriptors that the student must then use as inspiration. For example, a student brief for this project may be “yellow, asymmetrical, quiet, with an emphasis on the torso”. Inspired by these words, the student then finds an image of yellow flowers with asymmetrical petals that serve as a further source of inspiration for them.
Typically, students have 3-4 weeks to complete one of these projects. Often, trial and error play a big role in constructing these looks. When working with unconventional materials, it is not always obvious how they will behave when wrapped around the body. Some popular things featured at this year’s Design X show included trash bags, yarn, shower curtains, bubble wrap, beans, and pasta. Although some of these looks appear again in the annual spring fashion show, they make more of an impact at Design X. Here, all the looks shown nod to more avant-garde styling and may feature more dramatic hair and makeup.
Student participation plays a huge part in putting on Design X. FIA, the Fashion Industry Association student club on campus, organizes the event with the help of fashion design faculty. Students from all majors can volunteer to help with the show, signing up to be backstage dressers or models. On the day of the event, student designers oversee the dressing of their models and assist with hair and makeup. The fashion show occurs on campus during a campus-wide free period and there is no charge for admission. This allows students across campus to attend in support of their friends.
This year, over 50 student designed looks walked the runway. Emceeing the event was Jay McCarroll, winner of season 1 Project Runway and former students and faculty member. Representatives from ABC Philadelphia’s Action New Team provided local coverage of the event. With Downs Auditorium just about packed full, Design X fashion show proves to be a fan-fav
orite event for another year.