Look no further than the Cornell Fashion Collective’s executive board to lead a runway operation which successfully celebrates the creations of young designers. From its grand runway, to the widescreen projections, to the meticulously designed programs provided to attendants, the fashion show never fails to be professionally executed. While last year’s event held a noticeable political undertone, this year’s show proved to be a night free of antics and one loaded with surprises. Collections sparkled and the audience roared. Student designers wore their boldness, literally, on their sleeves. The pieces fully embodied what making a fashion statement should be: an outfit encouraging reflection over the past, while also building a dialogue about the importance of the individual in relation to their clothes.

The bright lights dimmed to welcome Level Three designer Eliza Lesser’s ’20 body of work, “Construct”. Models walked down the stage in black and white tones with a splash of light-washed denim. The attire was form-fitting. It reminded one of high-end activewear and the selections of a popular fast fashion clothing line. Some of the looks incorporated stylish jackets into the outfits. You’d be remiss if you did not feel the urge to scroll Forever 21’s or H&M’s catalog in hopes of snagging something similar. Lesser was followed by fellow Level Three student Hansika Iyer’s ’19 “Scrap”. Music from Swan Lake swirled the airwaves as spectators watched models become ballerinas in Iyer’s dance inspired collection. The ballet music was fiercely interrupted by a remix of Kanye West’s “Gold Digger”, bringing a fun change of pace to the catwalk. The presentation meant witnessing empowered, angelic women own the space. Soon after, Stephanie Laginestra’s ’20 “Elements” brought forth avant-garde elegance. Her dresses and jumpsuits had distinct patterns and the textures were playful. One dress had a silhouette reminiscent of large flower petals ranging in size, almost as if the model was blossoming out of the piece. The audience was then transitioned into “To the Moon”, an intergalactic showcase from the minds of Caley Drooff, Shoshana Swell, and Amrit Kwatra. Models carried themselves like robotic machines, sporting metallic makeup and glowing garments. Next, Katherine Williams’s ’20 “Ensemble” was quite the musical masterpiece. A new air of sophistication leapt off the cloaks and gowns Williams layered with musical notes.

The Level Three portion of the show closed out with “My Forever Sunshine” by Julia DeNey ’20. Made in honor of DeNey’s late best friend, Katherine Schlegel. Her work overwhelmed the crowd with joy. Their love and friendship was captured the moment that the first young girl nearly skipped down the runway.

(Katherine Schlegel, courtesy of Julia DeNey)

The audience was in awe. Their hearts were stolen. When asked about the experience of using child models, DeNey shared, “I wanted this to be a fun time for them that filled them with confidence, so I let them pick their poses and walked them through what it would be like many times. Many of the girls knew each other so creating enthusiasm backstage was easy- I let them play and run around until they were begging me to let them get dressed and start the show!”

(courtesy of Julia DeNey)

The fabrics were vibrant with pinks, oranges, and yellows, with a floral touch. The children looked like posies hand-picked from DeNey’s garden. “I chose natural dyes to create the abstract sunflower prints and then got bright colors that enhanced the fabrics I had dyed,” said DeNey. “I chose design elements that emulated flowers and reminded me of summer vacations that I took with and had future plans with to go on with my friend. Those are the images that filled my mood board and inspired all the pieces.”

Prior to the introduction of Level Four participants, Level One and Two designers presented their work as a group. Level One students each presented one uniquely tailored piece. The theme was “Aphroditus” which explored gender roles and more specifically, “the harm that has existed, the changes that are occurring, and the liberation that is coming to us in the impending future.” For instance, one male model paraded around in a heavenly gown with majestic wings. Level Two’s showcase had a broader range in substance, as the focus was on “times where cultures and art flourished.” Students stuck to this main idea as reinventions of classical fashion staples from across the globe were essential to the ready-to-wear displayed. A handful of models wore capes, while some appeared to be dressed as flappers. A variety of cultures and eras came to fruition when Level Two had control of the narrative.

Senior Margaux Neborak ’19 led the series of Level Four collections with an incredibly impressive set of bridal gowns, “My Key (To The Heart)”. Each piece was rich with personality and detail from beading, to the placement of gemstones, to the combination of fabrics. She presented contenders for the new, classic bride of today. One could feel a maturity and depth  behind the delicate veils adorning some of the models. Commenting on her last on-campus show, Neborak said “As a Level 4 designer, I enjoyed the challenge to create an eight-look bridal gown collection which included designing, fabricating, creating the pattern, sewing, fitting the many layered gowns to my models, and then embellishing and appliquéing them.” In terms of what comes next for the gifted student post-graduation, she “aspire[s] to work for a bridal and evening wear designer in Manhattan.”

(courtesy of Margaux Neborak)

Another standout was “From Here” crafted by Mia Campolo ’19. Her silhouettes aspired to “redefine what it means to dress like a feminist.” The wardrobe was full of adventure, sexuality, and vulnerability. “The best thing about being a level four designer is the complete creativity. I was able to combine purchased woven fabrics with knitwear I created with the FSAD department’s Shima Seki knit machine,” said Campolo. Her artistic abilities really shined. It was intriguing to see how Campolo managed to bring professional attire, casual wear, and cocktail party styles into one single look.

(courtesy of Mia Campolo)

The final collections were “Visions” by Cassidy Lewis ’19, “Full Circle” by Regina Mun ’19 and Joyce Bao’s ’19 “Follies, Sensory, Fairies and Witches.” “Visions” was indeed a fantasy with models in jewel crowns and clothes fit perfectly for goddesses. “Full Circle” challenged ideas of western wear with a blend of cowboy and fishing hats, and boots and flip-flops from recycled materials. Lastly, Bao left the crowd to consider society’s impressions of women. Big, blonde wigs- Barbie doll aesthetics- and puffy tulle skirts were all striking visuals to digest. They struck a chord, because they forced viewers to ponder why such a collection seemed so familiar yet convicting all at once.

Fashion is an industry that is ever-evolving along with society and these designers are clearly in touch with the direction that they hope to see fashion take on in the future. What will be the next fashion empire to conquer our closets worldwide? Which new collection is destined to debut on Vogue? Who is the next Karl Lagerfeld or Vera Wang? Only time will truly tell, yet after attending the Cornell Fashion Collective’s 35th Annual Runway Show, one could easily bet that the next sensations to transform our wardrobes could very well be some of Cornell’s own rising talents.