Design students break the rules - but stylishly

Posted: April 25, 2003

With bright colors, sophisticated fabrics and creativity, the work of design students at Philadelphia University rivaled New York Fashion Week showstoppers Carolina Herrera and Betsey Johnson Tuesday night at the school's 13th annual senior fashion show.

The style extravaganza launched the spring season of student shows. Moore College of Art and Design will host its senior show at the Wyndham Franklin Plaza Hotel at 6 p.m. May 18.

Drexel University will present its student collections at the Mandell Theater on campus May 21 at 5 p.m. and May 22 at 5 and 8 p.m.

The Philadelphia University designers' use of reds, blues, purples, oranges, greens, plaids, gathers, and tucks made for a very pretty presentation. Plaid miniskirts and ultra-high boy-cut shorts revealed toned cheeks, but maintained modesty.

Students broke fashion rules with flair, showing ankle-length cargo skirts for men, quilted evening gowns, helmets, and thongs as outerwear - and drawing gasps and applause.

Collections included men's, women's and children's wear. The 230 outfits were a mix of romantic peasant, 1960s shift chic, and girly punk that some of the nation's best department stores have trouble assembling.

"This show is a culmination of all of the seniors' experiences," said Clara Henry, director of the university's fashion program. "It's so fabulous for these students to have their clothes highlighted in an elegant space."

This was the second year Philadelphia University students showed at the Academy of Music. Designers' autographs flashed behind models as they sashayed down a runway illuminated in soft pink light. Hair was slicked back into chic ponytails. Pink, green and teal eye shadow more than covered eyelids for added drama.

Amber Hasulak's adorable and very now ribbon-adorned black and white knee-length shifts launched the show's "Black and White" segment.

"I like Audrey Hepburn, classic and ladylike silhouettes," said Hasulak, who won honorable mention for her six-piece senior collection. "I like polka dots, and I like designing dresses with accessories. I'm pleased with how everything turned out."

A chic, stretchy ribbed minidress by Kiersten McManus and Julie Lotz's black and white swimwear, a flowing combination of spandex and netting, followed.

The "Tailored Look" showcase brought conservative styles in bold colors. Elizabeth Minett dressed her female models in pin-striped pants and cropped vests and jackets that had a distinctly manly feel to them.

Emily Beaudin used quilting to bring her simple skirts, tube dresses, and knee pants to very colorful life.

Jamie Garzella went out on a limb, dressing her male models in long-sleeved T's and ankle-length skirts. Her creativity earned her the National Association of Men's Sportswear Buyers Award of Excellence. Forward-thinking or not, we bet Philly men will be slow to catch on to these manly skirts.

"Funky Bondage Punk" was the most "out there" portion of the show. Season Dubois' halter shirts and tutus were very Betsey Johnson-ish. And while Cynthia Velencia's camouflage tutu dress wasn't wearable - not at all - it was kind of cool.

The pieces in "Earthy Nature" and "Sportswear" were sleek fashions with all the nips, tucks and embellishments that turned them from Gap regular to boutique chic.

By mixing denim with leather and chiffon, Larae Bryant added pizzazz to shorts, skirts and tops. Jen Cote opened the "Sportswear" portion with a very Donna Karan-like tan and cream striped sweater with a smocked cream skirt perfect for an early fall day at the office. Her collection won Neiman Marcus' Most Saleable Award.

Eighteen designers combined the flow of Latin, Japanese, Indian and Asian fashions with the sophisticated, tailored look of early America for the "Ethnic" showcase. Emily Schmick's strapless red dress with fringed bottom and patterned scarf and scarlet Diane von Furstenberg-style wrap were the most striking.

Twelve evening-wear pieces, inspired by everything from vampires to spring, ended the show. Minett's navy tube tops, wide-legged pants, and short dresses won her the Frank Agostino Evening Wear Award.

Senior Gianna Cosentino closed out the evening with a gray, three-piece "Tornado" collection that won Best of Show and Most Creative.

"I wanted the feel of the construction of a tornado to consume the wearer," said Cosentino, whose overflowing skirt topped with a long-sleeved, tight-fitted shirt was definitely Julia Roberts/red-carpet friendly.

"I like the drama," she said. "I'm just glad this is all over."

Contact staff writer Elizabeth Wellington at 215-854-2704 or ewellington@phillynews.com.

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