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School Ties

San Francisco’s Academy of Art College students presented their final designs during an event honoring Josie Natori and Fern Mallis.

SAN FRANCISCO — The evening weather outside the Academy of Art College’s Morgan Auditorium was warm, but inside, the runway was cool and serene as 58 students presented their final designs at the largest privately owned art school in America. Fashion veterans Josie Natori and Fern Mallis received honorary doctorate degrees.

“Dr. Mallis — don’t ya love it?” quipped 7th on Sixth’s executive director. “And we had to come all the way across the country to get recognized for what we do in New York.” Mallis congratulated the students, and instead of the typical history-of-my-career speech, she offered good, old-fashioned advice: “Use common sense, be creative, have good values, be willing to work hard and always give a good, solid handshake.”

Natori also skipped the hackneyed podium talk. “I’ve finally become legit,” she said, referring to her nearly 26 years in fashion. “It’s so rewarding to have men tell me, ‘I sleep with you all the time — your things, that is.’”

The runway show followed with individual design and textile presentations. Some, such as Suzy Tamini’s black skinny pants and double-breasted coat, were sleekly understated. Others were more dramatic: Anna-Barbara Bernhard showed a parachute-inspired halter gown in blue and yellow nylon, and Ivy L. Chirc, a BFA in fashion design, took inspiration from Lewis Carroll’s photographs of childhood innocence to create wrap-style jackets paired with full skirts. J’Amy Tarr was inspired by the ducks of Marin County of all things for her intricate insets and patches on leather pants and strapless dresses. Do-Hui Erika Kwon showed a black silk coatdress worn with Lynn Christiansen’s organic silver wire bracelet.

After the show, Natori returned to the podium to announce the students she’d invite to join her team in New York as interns. “I’m in complete shock but delighted,” said one of her choices, Norman A. Sauer, a 22-year-old BFA of fashion and textile design who had previously interned with designer Miguel Adrover.

But Dr. Elisa Stephens, president of the school, summed up the evening with a big plug for San Francisco, often considered New York’s “Left Coast” equivalent: “The backyard becomes incestuous, and New York would benefit from reaching out to get some fresh blood,” she said. “San Francisco has a sophisticated taste level and tonight the students showed that.”