October 05, 2007

Fashion design students claim major honors

by Christi Mathis

designer final

Caption follows story

CARBONDALE, Ill. – A "well-kept secret" for Southern Illinois University Carbondale is most definitely a secret no more, thanks to a quartet of talented young fashion design and merchandising students, said Laura K. Kidd, fashion design associate professor. After a recent major competition and show, fashion aficionados from the Midwest and beyond know that SIUC boasts a fashion design program and a very successful one at that.

Just earning spots in the Emerging Young Designer of the Year Fashion Competition and Show in St. Charles, Mo., on Sept. 21 was a huge honor for Emily Harris, Erica Hollinshead Stead, Rina Park and Feng "Vicky" Li, all seniors majoring in fashion design and merchandising.

Kidd admits she was just hoping to hear one of her students announced as a top three finisher in one of the five categories. Instead, the SIUC quartet claimed first place in eveningwear, art to wear, daywear and the President's Prize for Best in Show.

The feat is "really impressive," particularly since many of the competitors were from art and design schools, Kidd said. In fact, she noted that SIUC is one of few universities nationally and the only public institution in the state offering majors in fashion design and also in merchandising.

University or college juniors and seniors from 21 states were eligible to enter the competition. Two dozen contestants, representing 13 colleges, managed to make it through the lengthy selection process that included submitting technical boards, pictures, sketches and more.

"Just to get in was incredible," Harris said. "They only selected 15 entries per category."

"I was just hoping somebody would come home with something," Kidd said. "It was so exciting I was jumping. We were all very, very pleased. This is only the second time SIUC has ever gone to this competition and it was the first time these girls ever produced an original garment, custom fit to their models. For them to do so well is wonderful."

"We pretty much swept the competition," Harris said. "It was kind of surprising but it really reflects well on the program and us."

"When we saw the other designs, we thought we had a good chance of doing okay but we were pleasantly surprised we did this well," added Hollinshead Stead.

Harris, daughter of Mark and Denise Jordan, captured first place in daywear with a silk charmeuse blouson empire waist print top with puff sleeves topping a striped pencil skirt. The print and feel of the fabric inspired the Peoria native in creating her original design. She plans to seek a position in the New York fashion industry after graduating.

Hollinshead Stead, of Dieterich, found a faint bit of inspiration in British designer Alexander McQueen's work when she crafted a classic gold duppioni silk pleated bubble skirt dress featuring interior tulle support.

"Basically, it has a tutu in it," she said with a smile. But, no one will mistake the elegant eveningwear first prizewinner for a ballerina's dance apparel. The daughter of John and Ann Hollinshead, Holinshead Stead hopes to work somewhere in the fashion industry as her goal is "to design, live somewhere interesting and travel" after earning her diploma at SIUC.

Her fellow designers were quick to offer praise for Park's multi-hued dress, saying most entries in the "Art to Wear" category are barely wearable, comprised of soda can tabs or other items formed into apparel but definitely not something you'd be comfortable wearing out to dinner or shopping. Park, of Seoul, South Korea, started with plain white cotton but what she got looks nothing like plain.

"Everything is circles," she said. For hours, the daughter of Guang-Ju Park and Hye-Suk Park drew circles and applied die in shades of blue, yellow and green. She made countless gathers to create the halter dress with delicate hand-wound yarn appliqués and jewels gracing its bodice. Park said she was initially a business and art major in South Korea and her fashion design incorporates those elements with her fashion passion.

"You can really wear it, there's nothing uncomfortable on it," Harris said. Indeed, models wore each creation during the competition's runway show.

Park is weighing the possibilities of attending graduate school in New York or creating an Internet fashion merchandising business when she graduates. A daywear garment Park created also made it into the competition.

Feng "Vicky" Li, of Fuzhou, China, earned the President's Prize for Best in Show with a flirty black satin, high-waist sequined dress with white chiffon underlay. Li's creation is intricately pleated and her vision of how it would look when the model donned it to strut down the runway guided her in making it. Runway appeal is the criteria for the best-in-show award. The daughter of Xiujin Lin and Huiguang Li, Li plans to seek a fashion career in Chicago initially with hopes of moving on to California or New York.

"These students really did a great job of representing SIU both with their designs and their great personalities," Kidd said.

Instructors for the students are: Cathryn M. Studak, assistant professor in fashion merchandising; Jane E. Workman, professor and program representative; and instructor Robin Robinson. Kidd and Studak accompanied them to the competition and show.

"This is a well-earned accomplishment for our students and reflects very positively on SIUC," said Terry A. Owens, director of the School of Architecture, home to the fashion design and merchandising program within the College of Applied Sciences and Arts.

As contest winners, the students claimed "some really nice prizes" each valued at thousands of dollars, Kidd said. "These students not only won, but won big!"

"It was like Christmas!" Harris proclaimed, as she and her classmates told of winning extensive and expensive thread collections, the latest embroidery, sewing and serge machines and more.

"If I want underwear with ducks on it, I can make it now," Hollinshead Stead said with a giggle as she related the many things her new computerized sewing and embroidery machine can do.

Hollinshead Stead, Harris, Li and Park, along with a half dozen of their classmates, will demonstrate their award-winning style at a pair of upcoming events too. They'll share their Valentine visions in red at the Delta Sigma Theta American Heart Association Fashion Show fundraiser in February and each will present a minimum of eight original fashion designs at their senior show in April.


Award-winning young designers — Four senior fashion design and merchandising students from Southern Illinois University Carbondale claimed top prizes recently at the Emerging Young Designer of the Year fashion competition and show at St. Charles, Mo. Shown with their prize-winning designs are, from left: Rina Park, first in art to wear; Erica Hollinshead Stead, first in eveningwear; Emily Harris, first in daywear; and Feng "Vicky" Li, President's Prize for Best in Show.

Photo by Russell Bailey