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Art2Wear fashion show at NC State blends nostalgia, technology

Danielle Macnamara uses a steam gun to remove wrinkles from Emory Cooley’s dress as they prepare for the Art2Wear Fashion Show on Friday, April 17, 2015 at N.C. State University in Raleigh, N.C.
Danielle Macnamara uses a steam gun to remove wrinkles from Emory Cooley’s dress as they prepare for the Art2Wear Fashion Show on Friday, April 17, 2015 at N.C. State University in Raleigh, N.C. rwillett@newsobserver.com

In its 14-year run, N.C. State’s annual Art2Wear fashion show has provoked a range of audience response. But Friday night’s event may have introduced something new: a syrupy sweet Awwww!

That’s what you hear when adorableness – embodied by a nattily dressed little boy holding hands with an equally charming little girl – hits the runway.

It was a lovely moment in a strong showing by students from the university’s College of Design and College of Textiles. The show, held in a ballroom in the Talley Student Union, excelled in production values and artistry.

Art2Wear is powered by student effort, from the lighting to the video shorts that introduce each collection. The juried show has become a bucket list-style goal for many in the colleges.

This year’s co-director and senior Bianca Harris modeled in the show last year. “I just think it’s a magical event,” she said. “It’s a great way for people to see how hard students work at N.C. State.”

She credits faculty advisers Justin LeBlanc, of “Project Runway” fame, and former student Katherine Diuguid, both of whom once showed in Art2Wear, for always taking designers’ needs into consideration.

This year, the theme was “Tell Us A Story,” and the nine selected student designers embraced it with ideas inspired by literature, technology, nostalgia and dreams.

Childhood stories

Senior Morgan Cox went to the stories of her childhood, taking her inspiration from her days acting out “The Secret Garden” and the characters created by author Beatrix Potter in her backyard. Cox’s children’s collection paired knitted and crocheted pieces, and prints made from natural dyes to create the lighthearted, whimsical feel of a garden and of innocence. There was a cape of crocheted roses stitched together offering texture over a contrasting print cotton dress. A neutral knitted vest interwoven with glimmering threads and pastel colors topped a smocked coral top and printed bloomers accessorized with knit leggings. The girls wore floral crowns.

“I could see that translating (to the real world),” said Katie Gahr, a first-time attendee, of Cox’s looks. “And the kids being in the show, that could create a new day for them.”

Rachel Bridge mined her childhood, too. Her adult pieces featured prints in hues of purple, mint and goldenrod printed on fabric made by Durham-based textile marketplace Spoonflower, a show sponsor. Models wore messy pigtails.

Marina Pappas’ sunny collection used denim – some from premium workshop Raleigh Denim – and laser-cut typography to evoke, as she said, the idea of “being free to express yourself shamelessly and boldly.” Bright pink peep toe wedge shoes and bright yellow desert boots punctuated her joyous statement pieces.

Bethany Faulkner used typography in a much different way. She took pages from books bought from Italian street vendors while studying abroad last year and transformed them into dresses. A fitted faux leather blazer covered a skirt of pages; a belt of laser-cut letters accented a dress – a nod to the classic leather-bound book. The final dress with a skirt nearly as wide as the runway was topped with a gold backless breastplate of letters.

Gold ran through Jamie Morrison’s fashionable telling of the story of King Midas. Models were gilt with gold leaf and wore taffeta skirts that appeared to float. A standout piece had skirts of painted cotton over layers of silk crepe de chine and chiffon with an embellishment made from hot-glued ice cream salt.

Emma Ptak told another story, that of Icarus, with an edgy collection of organza, chiffon, silk jersey and aluminum. Sara Ellis Clark referenced Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” with a polished and casually elegant collection that exuded confidence. There were shearling leather jeans and tops, and dresses of raw silk, felted alpaca and hand-woven cotton.

Lisa Hoang sent gray-haired models down the runway in fabrics imprinted with motherboard patterns and dresses adorned with rubber computer cords. Georgia Hobbs explored the changing nature of dreams with dresses that converted with a quick yank from modest structure day dresses to funkier, looser pieces.

Returning NCSU graduates and Art2Wear designers Sarah Cannon and Sydney Smith opened the event with the lines they showed at Charleston Fashion Week in the Emerging Designers competition. Cannon’s Hazel Cole line, designed with her sister Rachel, who is also a State alumnae, featured interpretations of their family plaid in shades of black, white and gray. Fur and silk mixed with plaid made for a luxurious but clean classicism. The line won the people’s choice award at the South Carolina show. Smith’s collection explored the textures of the Edwardian era yet had a tough 1970s vibe. A wool sweater topped hunter green leather culottes. The same emerald pony-hair hide became a come-hither mermaid gown.

It all made for a stellar night. Lisa Brown, a Raleigh native who majored in clothing and design at Southern University in Baton Rouge, was there, and her daughter was a model in the show. “We used to put on shows but it was nothing like this!” Brown said. “They really did a great job.”

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