College takes runway in local fashion competition


Courtesy Francis Son

Alumnus Alexander Knox won the Chicago Fashion Foundation’s annual fashion competition last year while he was a student. This year, eight Columbia students will compete.

By Lauren Kostiuk

Following months of preparation, eight Columbia students will participate in Chicago Fashion Foundation’s 8th Annual Fashion Design Competition and Fashion Show.

Fourteen fashion students from across the city, including Columbia fashion studies seniors Anna Ramirez, Kelcie McCurdy, Lisa Nahhas, Nicole Dieshnbourg and Yesenia Villarreal, and juniors Delvin McCray and Hannah Linder, will go head-to-head April 2 at the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St., where they will compete for scholarships and the title of “Future of Chicago Fashion 2015 Winner.”

The event will include a fashion show featuring works from the competitors, prominent Chicago fashion designers and previous winners, including 2014 fashion studies alumnus Alexander Knox, who competed in the 13th season of Lifetime’s “Project Runway” and now interns for Marc Jacobs.

The show’s theme, “A City Within A City,” requires designers to create a piece inspired by the history and architecture of Chicago’s Merchandise Mart, said Lauren Hutchison, president of the Chicago Fashion Foundation, in an email.

“Students will gain insight into the details that go into participating in a runway show with several designers and working with models, hair and makeup teams and producers,” Hutchison said in the email. “The runway presentation will be on a grander scale this year.”

To enter, students submitted a presentation board and an essay describing their designs, Hutchison said in the email.

Finalists were then chosen to present their Merchandise Mart-inspired looks on the runway.

At the time of press, Aaron Myers, a senior fashion design major was the only finalist presenting menswear. He said his designs were inspired by the rigid configuration and ornate interior of the Merchandise Mart, 222 W. Merchandise Mart Plaza.

“I really like the concept and theory behind my designs the most,” Myers said. “Mostly because as a designer, I really want to push that clothing is not just about the fabric. There is a message and a story behind it.”

Myers said he began working on his design in November. 

“I’m a little stressed out, but that’s ok because it’s fun,” Myers said. “That’s the beauty of competition. It pushes you to another level besides just doing schoolwork and being active in the community.”

After press time, Myers withdrew from the competition and will not be competing. 

McCray said he spent more than 100 hours hand-embroidering a full-length gown for the competition.

“It was a big challenge; a lot of things I did were for the first time,” McCray said.

McCray said he was inspired by the metal gray and rusty blue colors of the Merchandise Mart’s exterior. He researched the history of the building to find texture and structural elements to incorporate into his designs.

“It’s exciting, but I want to see it come full circle,” McCray said.

Looks are judged by a panel of industry professionals. The first place winner will win a $5,000 scholarship and the second and third place winners will receive scholarships of $1,000 and $500, respectively.

Winners will be chosen based on overall execution of the design as well as craftsmanship, attention to detail and fabric selection, Hutchison said in the email.

In addition to the student designer competition, the foundation will present the second annual Future of Chicago Fashion 2015 Student Business Competition. Students must focus on a business proposal detailing a new product or plan in the fashion industry. The winner will be announced during the event.

“I hope that the students are able to learn from the experience and the process of having your designs walk down a [professional] runway,” Hutchison said in the email. “There is a lot to gain from participating in a design competition.”