Fashion aficionados celebrate designer Mr. Blackwell at the Avenir Museum

Three people sitting in armchairs holding microphones
Assistant Professor Kevin Kissell, Curator Emerita Linda Carlson, and Assistant Professor and Curator Paula Alaszkiewicz.

Story by Doreen Beard

A fashionably fancy throng gathered at Colorado State University’s Avenir Museum of Design and Merchandising on Friday evening, Nov. 18, to celebrate student apparel design creativity inspired by the mid-20th-century American designer Richard Blackwell (1922-2008), he of the eponymous ‘Mr. Blackwell’ label. The celebratory evening was doubly meaningful, as 2022 is the centennial year of Mr. Blackwell’s birth.

Attendees enjoyed the opportunity to dress up for a visit to the Fall 2022 exhibit Mr. Blackwell: From Inspiration to Innovation in the Large Gallery, and to nosh on a delicious array of 1960s-themed hors d’oeuvres and a signature champagne cocktail – served in an era-appropriate coupe glass – as they mingled in the Avenir Museum event spaces. The evening’s program highlights included a video salute to Mr. Blackwell as a distinguished benefactor of CSU, and a lively Q&A with current and retired Design and Merchandising faculty who knew him personally, Assistant Professor Kevin Kissell, and Curator Emerita Linda Carlson.

Along with faculty members, community members, volunteers and other Avenir Museum supporters, several Design and Merchandising students whose work is featured in the exhibit were also present at the festivities to speak to the experience and to enjoy the salute to their creativity. They had studied the ‘Mr. Blackwell’ apparel collection’s examples of color, textile design and surface embellishment in several apparel design and production courses since 2020, collaborating in the design and production of a collection of textile prints and finished garments inspired by Blackwell designs of the 1960s-1980s.

The Nov. 18 Blackwell Celebration soirée was the culmination of their academic inquiry, collaboration, creativity and use of new technologies to create modern silhouettes inspired by a popular culture-fashion-icon of the mid-20th century.  The Blackwell Celebration event served as a fundraiser for conservation of three fragile Mr. Blackwell evening gowns that require professional services; the CSU Foundation is currently tallying the final proceeds. You can view photos from the event on the College of Health and Human Sciences flickr page.

The exhibit Mr. Blackwell: From Inspiration to Innovation features 11 original Blackwell garments alongside 22 garments created by these students who were inspired by the original Blackwell pieces; it remains on view through Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022.

Thank you to Fort Collins City Lifestyle for sponsoring the event.

The Avenir Museum is in the Department of Design and Merchandising, part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.