Apparel design students welcome in-person critique to start their final year

Two students discuss the fashion design sketches on the wall near them.
Greg Nixon (left) shares his design ideas with classmate Susan Wilson (right).

Every fall in Colorado State University’s Design and Merchandising program, which was recently ranked as the top fashion program in the Southwest United States, the senior Apparel Design and Production capstone class brings together everything that apparel design students have learned from their time at Colorado State University in one culminating experience.

In the class, seniors work on their capstone collection, which begins with a concept, aesthetic, and a thorough understanding of the target market, and eventually incorporates all the technical elements of illustration, pattern design, development, and construction. Seniors present their final design products at the spring Department of Design and Merchandising Fashion Show, a community-sponsored event scheduled for May 6 showcasing the seniors’ work.

Last week, seniors shared the fashion illustrations for their designs with instructors and students from around the university in a design critique. Critique involves sharing sketches, explaining the concept and research for the line, and then receiving critical feedback or additional guidance from peers and advisers. The students take this feedback into account as they decide on the final three looks they will carry through to completion for the Fashion Show. Senior capstone instructor Kevin Kissell mentors the students through this process.

“Critique from peers in and out of the fashion industry is really important,” said Kissell. “Each student’s story—the look and feel of their collection, their intended target consumer, all has to be relevant and understood, otherwise it wouldn’t sell.”

Each student’s designs are deeply rooted in their own areas of interest. Here is a preview of just some of the work that will be created for the Fashion Show this year.

Colorado’s outdoor sports provide inspiration

Greg Nixon, a long-time skier, acknowledges his love of the sport as his motivation for his line of technical ski and snowboard apparel. His designs are inspired by functionality, safety, and sustainability and feature modern lines and bold color-blocking. Nixon acknowledges climate change also puts his target customer at risk. “There were a record number of avalanches last year,” he said, so his innovative jackets incorporate bright colors for visibility as well as pockets and storage for all the equipment needed to survive an avalanche.

Design to address accessibility

Design should address the needs of the consumer and fill holes in the market. Susan Wilson understands this need. Her designs focus on accessibility, comfort, and confidence for an underserved population. She designs for middle-aged women with mobility issues, women in wheelchairs, as well as women with sensitivity issues. She addresses these needs with asymmetrical designs, additional garment ease, magnetic closures, and comfortable fabrics.

Two students talk with fashion sketches up on the wall behind them
Susan Wilson (left) shares her design line with a visiting student.

Science and technology come together in high-end glamor

Designer Hayley Nuss combines science and technology in her high-end garments. She has captured the image of an alcoholic beverage under a microscope and used that abstract image as the foundation for her own textile designs. The Nancy Richardson Design Center houses the technology to print these designs on the digital textile printer available in the Proto-Lab. She pulls bright colors from that image to complete the collection and create the “put together” appearance she strives for in her designs.

Students hold up sewing notions to compare to fabric samples pinned by fashion sketches.
Senior Hayley Nuss listens to feedback on her textile designs and fabric selection.

What’s next for these seniors

Seniors will now spend their time implementing edits and design changes from the critique while finalizing the selection of garments to put into production. Next, they will begin the process of pattern drafting, prototyping, and material sourcing. The semester will culminate in three complete looks from their planned collections. Stay tuned for more details on how you can see the work of these seniors, and so many others, this spring.

The Department of Design and Merchandising is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.