In 2018, 17 freshmen in the fashion design program stepped into the Nancy Cantor Warehouse for the first time. They didn’t yet know that they would spend every waking moment of their senior year here.
Professor Kirsten Schoonmaker said every student in the fashion design program comes to Syracuse University with a passion and a creative vision. It is the job of every professor the students interact with at the School of Design to help support and give them the tools to bring this vision to life.
On Friday, friends, family, faculty and staff packed the seventh floor of the Warehouse to see what every senior had spent countless hours producing.
The students were tasked with designing, illustrating and physically constructing a six-piece collection over the course of the 2021-22 school year. The senior fashion show allows students to showcase their work in a professional manner, close to industry standards.
Each of the students’ participating in the fashion show had collections with a unique style and backstory. While a number of them drew inspiration from their personal experiences or family, some were influenced by history, literature or music when creating their pieces.
One senior, Calla Kremidas, used designs she drew when she was 6 and 7 years old as the inspiration for her collection. Her mom had held on to her childhood sketchbooks after all these years and suggested to Kremidas that she take a look at them again when she started her senior year.
“Looking back through (the sketchbooks), I saw that I could really turn it into something real now and make it so that it matches who I am today, and all that I’ve learned over the past 15 years or so,” Kremidas said.
She used custom printed fabric, laser-cut leather and hand-crafted macrame to bring her childhood sketches to life and create a collection with a childlike whimsical feeling.
Similar to Kremidas, Emily Goldberg drew inspiration from a single phrase her mother told her growing up.
“She would always say ‘Things always get better,’” Goldberg said. “She would make me repeat that after her as many times as it took me to start believing it.”
She combined the attitude her mother instilled in her with a time period that she felt embodied optimism for the future, and ended up with a 1960s space age surrealism-themed collection. By mixing many bright colors, structures and organic shapes with the 1960s fashion of mini dresses and high turtlenecks, Goldberg used clothing to communicate the value of optimism.
Although some of the designers thought of their family when thinking about ideas for their collection, others took a different route and found inspiration in different elements of their lives.
Yianni Biniaris combined his love of nature and rock music to create a collection of sustainable pieces made entirely from biodegradable materials. Biniaris sourced some of his fabrics from his grandmother’s village in Cyprus to help tell the “off the grid” part of his collection’s story.
To convey a combination of the “love, sex, drugs” grungy feel of rock and roll, French classical music, lavender fields and an “off the grid” natural aspect, Biniaris used raw edges and burned pieces paired with lace and fresh flowers.
Another senior, Jordan Lipkind, drew inspiration from the Italian Renaissance for her collection. She said she wanted to take the classical style of the Renaissance and combine it with what could be considered the modern renaissance — the period the world is going through today, with things like the internet and space travel.
“When I was traveling abroad in London, I was sort of thinking about the future, and I was a little nervous about graduating, especially in such weird times,” Lipkind said. “So I wanted to do something coming of age-ish.”
Lipkind used the modern technology of artificial intelligence image generation to create her own fabric for her collection, which she combined with jewel tones and Renaissance-style silhouettes.
After spending hours upon hours on these pieces, the seniors had mixed emotions about the show and how it represents an end to an era.
“I can’t even imagine not being here every day of my life,” Goldberg said. “We’ve literally been here every day for the whole semester, staying up late, not getting any sleep, only thinking about (the collections) and nothing else.”
Goldberg said thinking about being done with everything feels surreal. Many of the seniors would spend, on average, eight hours every day of the school week at the Warehouse working on their pieces. Not having to worry about it anymore and being able to move onto the next project — something that once might have seemed like it would never happen — is now becoming a reality.
“It’s the first time I feel like all of us feel really accomplished,” Cassie Araujo said. “It really shows who we are as designers.”
Being able to showcase their work not only in the sense of who they are as designers, but sharing it with their loved ones and seeing their work being worn by an actual person was a dream come true for some of the students.
“I’m excited for actual models to be wearing our stuff, because in other classes, we look at it on a dress form, talk about it, and then never see it again,” Lipkind said.
Despite all of the excitement floating through the air at the Warehouse the day of the show, there was also a bittersweetness looming nearby. The seniors had been together for four years and have been through everything, including a pandemic, with each other by their sides.
“We’ve been together since 2018 and after (Friday), it’s like, ‘What’s next?’ Everyone’s going to go their separate ways and do their own thing, and it’s going to be crazy,” Goldberg said. “On Friday, I’m going to be obviously overwhelmed with happiness and relief that it is over, but I’m also going to feel sad.”
Senior Isaac Haseltine described the time he has spent at SU as having flown by, however, with graduation right around the corner, students are still having a hard time coming to terms that everything is almost over.
“It’ll really hit when I walk out of this building for the last time, knowing I’ll never come back,” Haseltine said. “I’ll probably shed a few tears in the parking lot before I go.”
The small size of the program allows students and professors to develop relationships on a more intimate level than larger programs. Fashion design professors program at the School of Design see these students learn and shape who they are through SU.
“You sort of predict in the beginning who’s going to do what, and I’m 100% of the time wrong,” said Todd Conover, professor of the senior collection course.
He said it is always exciting to see where they are going to go and what direction appeals to them as they develop as designers. There are things like what they will put themselves out there for that he can never predict.
At some fashion schools, students will have professors their freshman year for their beginning sewing class and then never see them again. Schoonmaker said SU and the School of Design is fortunate to not be that way.
Schoonmaker, an assistant teaching professor at SU, teaches some of the early construction classes first year students are required to take. She also acted as the backstage coordinator during this year’s senior show.
“I feel privileged that we get to be as continuously supportive and involved with the students throughout their time (in the program),” Schoonmaker said. “I’m just very, very, very proud.”
After hours of hard work, sleepless nights and countless sewing injuries, the 17 seniors in the Fashion Design Program class of 2022 got to show off their talent. As the seniors took to the runway with their models at the end of the show, members of the audience rose to their feet to give a standing ovation. They had officially reached the beginning of the end of their time at SU.
Published on April 25, 2022 at 3:09 am