Design and Merchandising students ‘transcend’ circumstances to hold CSU Fashion Show virtually

Each year, students in the Department of Design and Merchandising pick a theme for their annual Colorado State University Fashion Show, where the designs of apparel and merchandising seniors are exhibited on a runway in front of a Lincoln Center audience.

This year, the theme was “Transcend.” It turned out to be a more appropriate title than any of the students could have originally imagined.

When the impact of the coronavirus epidemic hit home in mid-March with the switch to remote learning and social distancing, it was clear that the April 17 show would have to be postponed or canceled.

“It was devastating,” said instructor Jennifer Worrell; she was teaching the class who put on the completely student-run event for the first time. “My class had just done unprecedented work, and we had exceeded our fundraising goal. For the senior designers, this was their culminating achievement, but suddenly there was no fulfillment.”

Lindsey Feuer collection
Collection by Alexis

The collections of Lindsey Feuer, left, and Alexis Davis. Photos by Joe Mendoza

Capstone of college

Senior designer Lindsey Feuer, whose internship in New York with Proenza Schouler got cut short because of the pandemic, called the CSU Fashion Show “the celebration of your entire college career.” It was an even bigger deal this year because for the first time, under the direction of Assistant Professor Kevin Kissell, industry judges were used to determine which collections qualified for the show — and which ones fell short.

After some initial discussion about rescheduling the event, it was decided to simply cancel it. The clothing had either been taken home by the senior designers or was locked in the Gifford Building.

“I felt like I was on the verge of tears for a week,” Worrell said. “Everyone was wanting to cry, because we had been doing so well.”

“It was a big letdown, because this class had worked really hard,” added sophomore Chloe Coldrick, a member of the marketing and promotions committee in the class.

“It was very sad,” said senior Savannah Clark, one of the five show directors in the course. “All of our work felt wasted.”

Hector's collection
Moriah Collection

The collections of Hector Mogollon, left, and Moriah Mosely

On second thought

Then, during an April 7 virtual class discussion, Worrell and her students began mulling what it might take to pull together a video featuring photos of the seniors’ collections, to be livestreamed at 7:30 p.m. on April 17, when the show had been scheduled to begin. After all, a professional photographer had taken still shots of models wearing the senior designers’ outfits in December. And there were statements from the designers about what they intended with their collections, typically included in the print program for the show.

“Could we launch it on the day of the show that we were supposed to have?” Worrell asked. “It was a group moment, asking what a virtual version would look like, and whether we could do it on the 17th. We said, ‘let’s do it, let’s go for it.’ After all, what we do is inspire; that’s the core of what we do. We just said we weren’t going to allow disappointment to rule this period of our lives.”

Coldrick had a bit of video editing experience, and had been tasked with creating a video to kick off the live show. She and Clark began spearheading the effort to create the virtual version of the Fashion Show, with help from classmates.

“Savannah and I were constantly on the phone with each other,” Coldrick said. “Having something to look forward to, like a virtual show, helped lift a lot of our spirits.”

“It was a quick turnaround – we had about a week,” Clark added. “We did the last round of edits the day before the date of the show.”

Pamela's collection
Collection by Phebe

The collections of Pamela Adelgren, left, and Phebe Potter

Video debut

After airing an introductory teaser on Instagram TV at 7 p.m., the 26-minute video premiered on YouTube just as the curtain in the Lincoln Center would have been going up. The students watched it live from their various locations around the country, in many cases with their families. The order in which the designers’ collections appeared was the same as it would have been in the live show.

Jennifer Worrell
Jennifer Worrell

Feuer said she and her fellow senior designers were texting each other compliments while watching the livestream, since they hadn’t gotten to see all of the finished collections yet.

“They threw it together really quickly, and they didn’t have to do that,” Feuer said of the students in the Fashion Show class, which she took last year. “We had come to terms with the idea that it would be canceled. So it was a really nice surprise, and they did a really good job. I’m happy they found a way to showcase it in a permanent way.”

“It was great to be able to zoom in on some of the details in the apparel that you wouldn’t have been able to see at the show,” Coldrick added. “It was a lot of work, but it was worth it.”

Transcendence

Suddenly the term “transcend” has new meaning.

“We overcame what we’d been given,” Clark said. “We transcended what we thought was possible at the beginning. I’m just glad we got it pulled together and found a solution to what would have been a very sad day.”

“They had to transcend themselves and the circumstances,” Worrell added. “It was about taking what you’ve got and transforming it beyond the limitations put upon you.”

“A big thank you goes to the Fashion Show class for making this happen,” Feuer said, “and to Jennifer Worrell for finding a way to honor our work.”

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