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Academy of Art University presented its 2016 Graduation Fashion Show Wednesday night, with a fast-paced presentation featuring women’s and men’s wear by 30 students, many of them collaborating across their disciplines of textile design, fashion design, jewelry and metal arts, knitwear design and tailoring.

Audience members expecting tech-generated styles, à la the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s new “Manus x Machina” fashion exhibit, saw something quite different: art-infused and handcrafted fashions that relied on traditional Tambour beading, arcane traditional Japanese dye techniques, elaborate stenciling and lace work.

“Some students, who’ve worked with 3-D printing and laser-cutting, for example, are bored with tech and are immersed in traditional crafts like hand-embroidery, hand-knitting, weaving or beading, and prefer to develop designs using drawings and paintings,” said Simon Ungless, the executive director of the school of fashion.

“Tech can’t design for you. It’s taste-free. Your mobile can find a million references, concepts and sources, but ultimately you have to be able to draw, design, collaborate and bring fashion to life. We see students are inspired by anarchic design, personalized looks and bespoke concepts,” he added. Indeed, the students cited in the runway program showed references ranging from sacred geometry to lacrosse uniforms to Afghani skateboarder girls to Seventies Chinese antigravity pilot suits.

The presentation opened with a collaborative series of retail-ready looks by eight students, repurposing fabrics from the textile lab print tables. The stenciled cotton knits and paint-spattered cotton canvas included jumpsuits, jackets and streetwear.

Standouts in the show included the dresses and sportswear by Celine Sohrabian, who collaged shimmering latex, hand-painted cotton twill, cotton/poly lace and ribbed wool jersey into highly inventive abstract compositions (she named “obscurity” as an influence). She was awarded an internship at Rodarte.

Regina Yoon’s couture-level dresses and gowns in draped and swooping cotton twill, pleather and broderie anglaise, in collaboration with textile design student Jadi Haynes’ psychedelic prints, were embellished with jeweled and hand-sequined rainbow-bright collars and belts with Tambour beading, to create a dazzling effect.

Other designs included Wen Jiang’s graphic wool knit tunics, dresses and coats in intricate geometries of purple, pink and white, and Ke Zhang’s white and pastel cotton men’s wear, the jackets and pants artfully tailored and strategically lined. Among the non-fashion students, Eirin Midtskogseter created graceful, abstract jewelry in rubber cord and brass based on a theme of “What if jewelry protected against physical pain.”

Before the show began, the university bestowed honorary doctorates on Kate and Laura Mulleavy, founders of Rodarte. “Kate and Laura Mulleavy have brought attention back to beautiful, considered and thought-provoking clothing in American fashion,” said Ungless. “All of our past Honorary Doctors have gone against the flow and made monumental changes to the way we dress and the way we think. McQueen, Westwood, Gaultier and Alaïa have all broken the rules at some point, and I see the Mulleavys doing that now.”

Earlier in the day, the duo reviewed the graduates’ sample designs and fabrics. Before a student audience, they also participated in a discussion with Christine Suppes, couture collector and co-author of Skira-Rizzoli’s “Electric Fashion,” moderated by Simon Ungless.

Also viewing students’ portfolios and their fashions were recruiters and representatives from St. John Knits, Abercrombie & Fitch, Adidas, BCBG Max Azria Group, Gap Global, Old Navy, Pottery Barn, Williams Sonoma, Levi Strauss & Co. and Marmot Mountain.


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