Arts & Culture

Designers plant SEED of innovation

By
Staff Writer

Paris. Milan. New York. Providence? With StyleWeek Providence, setting up runways for the fourth time Jan. 22–28, it may not be long before this college town becomes a fashion destination.

StyleWeek came together with the mission of designing “a successful model of a Northeast fashion event that directly and economically impacts (its) designers, sponsors, partners and vendors,” according to the project’s website. Events included designer and accessory showcases, cocktail parties with industry insiders and the SEED fashion show.

The SEED show, a competition at the Biltmore hotel on Tuesday, featured pieces created by students at local colleges and universities. This format allowed “multiple creative minds to come together for one show,” said Jennifer Showstead, director of designer management and acquisition for StyleWeek Providence.

The show hoped to reign in and support emerging talent, emphasizing the future of design by having students consider innovation in either their materials or designs. 

“We told the students to think outside the box. You can use traditional fabrics, but try something new with it,” Showstead said.

After receiving hundreds of design submissions in the form of sketches, Showstead and her assistant Cassandra Duguay chose 16 pieces to showcase, including two designs from Brown students — one each from Austin Snyder ’13 and Caitrin Watson ’13. These 16 designs walked the runway for five judges from the fashion industry, each designer keen on winning the prize of $500, an installation at the next StyleWeek and two months of representation from StyleWeek PR.

The pieces varied in both style and interpretation of the “innovation” theme. Some more original designs were made out of materials including garbage bags, newspapers and Capri Sun pouches. The winning design, created by Kwong Hui Yee of the Massachusetts College of Art, featured a ballerina-inspired skirt made out of hand-dyed mop heads, a waist of clothespins and a top of hair elastics that took the designer a week to braid.

A trip to Bosnia last summer inspired Snyder to make a loose black knit gown with a high neck and cape-like long sleeves. Details of raffia — a straw-like material — and different weaves of knit added a finished and textural element to the dress. Part of a three-piece collection in which each piece represents one ethnic group in the Bosnian conflict — the Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks — this particular piece represents the Bosniaks.

“I got to travel all around the country and see how affected the country still is by the war,” Snyder said. “That’s really what the collection is about. It’s about the shroud of sadness that still is encompassing Bosnia.”

This heaviness is reflected in the black in Snyder’s piece as well as the downward movement created by the hanging raffia and many layers.

Since coming to Brown, Snyder, a Visual Arts concentrator, has integrated himself with the Rhode Island School of Design’s design program and plans on following the fashion design route after graduation.

Watson’s design was also knitwear, a difficult medium to work with, especially considering the many weaves and textures she used. Her off-white design featured a modified mermaid skirt with panels of knitted loops and a matching, voluminous bolero.

“The idea of this young tribal princess who lived in the north” inspired Watson to make the winter wedding dress, she said. Watson, who considers herself an eco-designer, also drew inspiration from nature, particularly geysers, the full moon and snowy woodland landscapes.

“I wanted to capture the power and drama of nature,” she wrote in an email to The Herald. The many organic textures reflect varying natural landscapes.

Watson, who is concentrating in Environmental Studies at Brown and Apparel Design at RISD, tries to use what she learns at Brown about the environmental impacts of apparel production and implement it into her designs at RISD, she wrote. 

The knitwear aspect of both of the designs impressed Showstead.

“I love anything hand-knitted because I know how much time and effort goes into it — I was just amazed,” she said.

Although a Brown student did not win, the show itself provided an exciting experience. “The runway, the lights, the attendees. It’s an amazing opportunity for them,” Showstead said.