The Austin Chronicle

After a Fashion

By Stephen MacMillan Moser, May 4, 2001, Columns

THE BIG SHOW A few weeks ago I was asked to be on the judges' panel for the senior fashion design projects at UT. What an honor! It is the first time outsiders had been asked to judge the projects, and the University Co-op donated $2,400 in prize money. The panel, selected by students, consisted of George Mitchell, president of the University Co-op; Patti Hoffpauir, owner of The Garden Room; Nancy S. Garrison, president of Scarborough's; Gail Chovan of the Designers' Guild of Austin; and myself. Mitchell presented the awards last Thursday night at the UT Fashion Group's Fashion Spectacular. It was pretty fun to pull up and see the sign outside the Erwin Center announcing the show stating "Named Best Annual Fashion Event by The Austin Chronicle." Three hours later, I remembered exactly why. Of all the regular major fashion shows in Austin, this is the largest one, and is all original design from new designers. Faculty advisor Eve Nicols does a fabulous job of pulling together this huge show (160 outfits on models styled by Maximum FX, with make-up supplied by 5S Skincare and Mindcare).

In addition to a large group of other designers from the Fashion Group, 10 seniors showed their Portfolio Collections. Ninfa DeLeon, an award winner in last year's show, presented a cotton chintz collection, with her usual flair for asymmetry in comfortable, modern, and sleek styles. Kristen Turner was among the most technically proficient of the graduates; her pleated-and-tucked group was expertly done, and extremely original. Amanda Garrett turned out, in my estimation, the most cohesive collection of all, in a well-designed group of retro-punk schoolgirl chic, not the most original, but an excellent grouping, and well made. Later, her Rei Kawakubo-ish denim bustle-dress won Best Contemporary design. Lisa Roebuck did a sizable group of youthful separates that made for a fun presentation. Kathryn Morris definitely deserved honorable mention for her collection -- gorgeous and glamorous duchess satin evening pieces with a distinct Claude Montana feel to them. Her Roberto Capucci-ish red-and-purple Oscar dress won Best Eveningwear. Patty Yoon was also a very close runner-up with a collection of dreamy, semi-medieval-inspired pieces that were strikingly contemporary, and lovely on the catwalk. Bert Markwardt wins my personal award for Most Development. I roundly criticized his junior collection last year, but overall, this year was a spectacular improvement. He showed a deft understanding behind the theory of decontructionism, with the most avant-garde styling of any graduate. Marco Gonzales' styles are beautiful, but he suffers from the same curse all local designers do: the lack of fine fabrics. But his group of three lace and charmeuse evening dresses was technically lovely, and fabulous on the runway. Nina Denny did charming and breezy, bright-colored evening styles in Indian cotton with beaded detailing. Carin Lynch won Best Collection with her group of three evening coats and dresses in gorgeous upholstery fabrics that gave the group a rich, period feel. Her shapes were extremely stylish and she exhibited the best eye for luxury. These and all the other original designs offered an amazing kaleidoscope of approaches -- and for the sheer number of entries from the students, I don't know why it's necessary to include segments of relatively dull and uninteresting off-the-rack menswear. Why dilute the impact of the spectacular presentation of original design? Unless a student is designing menswear, it simply isn't necessary to have guys in the show at all. It's a fashion show: It's okay if there are more girls than boys. At the end of the evening, Mitchell announced that the Co-op would be underwriting the cost of the show next year to the tune of $25,000. That, my friends, is music to ears of the entire fashion scene. The UT program is one of three design programs in the nation featured in a special on the Style Channel. With that kind of coverage, and that kind of money, perhaps we will soon be able to keep some of the graduates here in Austin, and able to find viable work in their chosen profession.

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