By  on April 8, 2008

PHILADELPHIA — The University of Pennsylvania's second annual fashion week culminated Friday night with a "Carnaval"-themed fashion show displaying the collections of 23 student designers.

Penn's fashion week 2008 appealed to hundreds of students who were eager to learn more about the fashion industry. From March 29 to Saturday, several on-campus events gave fashion-enthused coeds a chance to discover the professional opportunities within the industry. Trunk shows, beauty workshops and guest speakers all grabbed the attention of students whose appetite for the industry is not fully satisfied through their Ivy League academic pursuits.

This year Penn garnered Kenneth Cole as the keynote speaker. Cole came to the West Philadelphia campus on April 1, and delivered a speech discussing his decision to start his own company and his current philanthropic involvement.

"It was really inspiring to hear such a relevant figure in the fashion industry discuss how he has instituted broader change," said sophomore and student designer Lily Rogath.

A fashion panel on Wednesday focused on the evolution of luxury and retail, specifically speaking to the trend of exclusive couture houses transforming into "mass luxury" brands. Moderated by Erin Armendinger, managing director of the Baker Retailing Initiative, the panelists gave their insights into designer diffusion lines, the effects of high brand awareness and the role the Internet plays in the luxury market. Panelists included Carinah Martin, a Penn 1995 alum who has worked in the luxury sector for 10 years, and Alexandra Wilkis Wilson, founder and chief merchandising officer of Gilt Groupe, a private luxury and fashion sample sale Web site.

For most, however, the fashion show was the week's most anticipated event as it showcased the work of aspiring designers on campus. On Friday evening, hundreds of innovative designs made their way down the runway on student-models whose feather-embellished hair and dramatic makeup reinforced the wild spirit of the "Carnaval" theme.

"The clothes were much better quality than last year," said Wharton senior Jacqueline Raich, former editor in chief of Penn's fashion magazine The WALK. "Colors are in and the designers definitely picked up on that." Almost a quarter of the collections opened with a bright yellow piece, and ruffles made a big statement, appearing on several designers' shorts, dresses, tops and skirts.The show's front row included a buying representative from Bloomingdale's.

"The response we had from everyone on campus has been really positive," said Lea Artis, a senior and president of Dzine2Show, Penn's fashion club that organizes fashion week. Artis said that, after the evaluation meeting on Monday, the club will begin brainstorming for next year's event.

The weeklong campus event was hosted by Dzine2Show (Penn Fashion Society), the Wharton Retail Club and Delta Sigma Pi business fraternity, and was supported by the Jay H. Baker Retailing Initiative.

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