Last Wednesday, several Brown and Rhode Island School of Design students travelled to New York to walk the runways at New York Fashion Week, modeling designs by 13 RISD graduates from the class of 2017, who had presented these designs as their culminating thesis projects in May.
The 13 graduates were selected from a pool of senior apparel majors by a panel that included department members and a number of guest critics, such as Kate Wallace, a design director at Club Monaco.
Many of the models were new to the world of runway walking. “The first time I ever modeled was last year when (Designer Coleen Chan) texted me like, ‘Are you interested?’” said Valerie Zhu ’17, a model for Chan’s collection.
Chan’s new collection was inspired by her mother’s journey from communist China. “The pieces that were (presented) earlier on were more structured and rigid. … As the collection progressed, by the end, it was more free-form … more organic looking,” Zhu said. “She used techniques on the clothes that were only available back in that time, so there were no zippers on anything. It’s all based on buttons and clasps.”
Showing designs at New York Fashion Week was “the best opportunity I could ask for,” said Taylor Goldenberg, another RISD graduate who presented her collection, Pink Champagne, in New York. Goldenberg named her collection Pink Champagne “because it’s a celebration and introspection of feminine dress,” as well as an exploration “between nostalgic and contemporary femininity,” she added. Pink Champagne explored notions of “femininity from the past and femininity in present day … and kind of (blended) the two to figure out my identity in the scope of feminine dress.”
Goldenberg said she derives inspiration from everyday objects and forms, basing her silhouettes off of the human body, such as using “the folds of skin to make folds in the fabric.” Her designs were hand-made over a period of two semesters, spending approximately three weeks per garment for a total of nine pieces. She described the collection as “a princess dress-up but for an adult woman.”
Maya Menefee ’18, a model in Goldenberg’s collection, described Goldenberg’s design as a mixture of streetwear and “otherworldly” art. “I was wearing a mix of … this poofy black top and this sheer dress that was semi-transparent and then underwear underneath,” she said.
Menefee estimated the venue was big enough to fit 600 people, with an audience consisting of a number of influential figures in the fashion world, including designer Zac Posen and model Coco Rocha.