Fashion & Flash

A Valentino-inspired evening gown by Tara Phelan, modeled by senior Liz Walworth. Photo by Joe Angeles.

Sam Fox School presents 81st Annual Fashion Design Show

Posted by Liam Otten, The Record April 19, 2010

"A runway show is the highest level at which fashion can perform," says Robin Verhage-Abrams, associate professor in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts.

Next month, 13 students from the Sam Fox School — home to the nation's oldest four-year fashion design program — will rise to that challenge with the school’s 81st Annual Fashion Design Show.

Titled Fashion & Flash, the fully choreographed, Paris-style extravaganza will begin at 8 p.m. Saturday, May 1, in the University's Holmes Lounge. Tickets are $65 for general seating, or $50 for students with a valid student ID. Tickets are available through the Edison Theatre Box Office, 314.935.6543, though a limited number also will be available at the door. (In addition, special reserved seating is available, beginning at $150, with proceeds going to support the fashion program.)

Holmes Lounge is located in Ridgely Hall, on the western side of Brookings Quadrangle, near the intersection of Hoyt and Brookings Drives. A reception will precede the show, at 7 p.m., under the Ridgely portico. Doors will open at 7:30 p.m.

For more information, call (314) 935-6500 or click here.


Verhage-Abrams points out that Fashion & Flash is both a glamorous celebration — filled with lights, music, drama, and gorgeous hand-made clothes — and a capstone event in the training of young designers.

"It's important that students experience the entire range of design activities," she explains, "from researching and illustrating an initial idea, to thinking it through three-dimensionally and creating it on a dress form, to fitting it, presenting it in the classroom, and finally seeing it on the runway.

"An illustration or critique allows designers to begin strategizing about how a garment might appeal to a customer in a shopping setting," Verhage-Abrams adds. "But the runway is a different dimension entirely. You see how other people actually respond. It forces you to become a lot more objective about your work. You discover whether the clothes stand or fall on their own merits."

In all, Fashion & Flash will feature approximately three-dozen models wearing scores of outfits created by the program's seven seniors and six juniors. All clothing is selected by a jury of University faculty and local design professionals. This year's line-up will range from traditional suits, skirts and sportswear to opera coats inspired by designers of the 1950s and dress groups inspired by the work of fashion icon Valentino Garavani (b. 1932). Other inspirations will range from modern eclectic (Mariam Ahmad), Indian culture (Tessa Braun) and New England prep culture (Jun Nakamura) to retro beachwear (Tara Phelan), exotic jungle (Hillary Smith), the Go Green movement (Lauren Vassallo) and Grecian architecture (Camilla White).

In a new development, the show also will highlight a handful of garments created as part of Sustainable Textile Design, a special interdisciplinary seminar cosponsored by the University's Skandalaris Center for Entrepreneurial Studies.

"There's a myth that organic cotton is a sustainable textile, but it requires so much water that it really isn't," explains Verhage-Abrams, who teaches the course. In contrast, "hemp and bamboo don't require much water, don't require pesticides and actually replenish the soil." Meanwhile new cotton alternatives such as Tencel are made in closed-loop systems that retain, reprocess, and reuse fluid from the initial production. "It's pretty revolutionary, and the most sustainable method we have right now."

Finally, in what has become a tradition for the show, Fashion & Flash will conclude with a single contemporary wedding gown, selected this year by alumnus Cristina Espinosa (BFA01), a freelance designer at Calvin Klein Better Sportswear. The winning gown, by senior Camilla White, pairs a sleek yet romantic top of silk charmeuse and appliqué with an elegant skirt of silk organza and tulle.

"It's all about the magic of true love," explains White, who began constructing the dress last November. "It is about the beauty of romance."


Fashion & Flash is chaired by alumna Susan Block (BFA76) and is designed and coordinated by alumna Kristy Daum (BFA01) and Sana Shucart, with assistance from Laura Daum.

Stylists are led by Dominic Bertani of the Dominic Michael Salon, who has done the models hair for the past 18 years. The models' makeup will be done by Shiseido Cosmetics, led by Shelia Molina, while shoes are provided by Brown Shoe Company Inc. Lighting, audio and runway tech is by Trent Joyce of Technical Productions. DJ is Doug Curtis of Clockwork Productions. Program design is by alumna and adjunct lecturer Claire Thomas-Morgan (BFA08).

Outstanding student designers receive a variety of scholarships, cash prizes, and awards. The Dominic Michael Silver Scissors Designer of the Year Award is presented to one outstanding senior at the end of the evening. Block sponsors the Silver Ripper Award, presented to one outstanding junior.


The Fashion Design Show dates back to 1929, when Irving L. Sorger — the merchandise manager for Kline's, a tony St. Louis department store — visited the University's recently established Dress Design Program, as it was then known.

Sorger was hoping to get a better sense of what young women wanted to wear and, impressed by the students' work, organized a showing for local garment manufacturers. Ultimately eight dresses were selected for production and, with sales surpassing all expectations, juniors' fashions soon became a staple of the city's garment industry.

Alumni of the fashion program include celebrated designers such as Paula Varsalona, Carolyn Roehm, Vicki Van Osdol, Kristin Twenhafel Morse, and Ellie Broady. Recent graduates work for many of the industry's major fashion houses and clothing retailers, including Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, Christian Dior, Chado Ralph Rucci, Nanette Lepore, Lane Bryant, J. Crew, Target, and Kohl's.

Below: A contemporary wedding dress by Camilla White, modeled by
sophomore Michaela Kupfer. Photo by Jennifer Silverberg.