By  on June 9, 2009

NEW YORK — “Orange is the new black,” Henry Grethel said playfully to the audience at Syracuse University’s second annual Vision With Action student fashion show. The event, held last Wednesday at J.P. Morgan Chase here, unveiled the top 14 collections selected from a pool of 45 seniors enrolled in the school’s fashion design program.

Grethel, president of HG Designs International and a Syracuse University alum, was honored with the school’s Icon of Style Award for his contribution to American sportswear. “I hope you all realize that tonight you may have seen the next Calvin Klein, the next Donna Karan…the list goes on and on,” Grethel said in accepting the award. And he’s in good company: Other notable alumni include Betsey Johnson, Lisa Kline and Donald Brooks.

The event also drew in Tim Gunn, who popped backstage before the show. “It was such a surprise,” said ChanMi Park, one of the featured designers.

Gunn, chief creative officer at Liz Claiborne Inc. and co-host of “Project Runway,” even reprised his television persona, chatting briefly with each designer before the show. “I actually got a few minutes to speak with him about how I achieved the construction of each garment….It was almost exactly like the mentoring he does on ‘Project Runway,’” said Anthony J. Palmieri, one of the featured designers.

And the Claiborne executive seemed to be impressed, calling the show “a reminder that this nation has no dearth of design talent.”

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