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As California finds itself mired in a historic drought that appears to have no end in sight, fashion students at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles tapped their creativity to come up with stylish solutions befitting a water motif at their annual fashion gala at The Beverly Hilton on Saturday.

Inspired by professional mentors who provided design directives, the senior and junior classes created more than 100 looks — covering swimsuits, children’s clothing, outerwear, lingerie, sportswear and evening gowns — that fit under the theme “a celebration of water.” Trina Turk, for example, told her seniors to seek inspiration in architect Gio Ponti for an ensemble that is snazzy enough to wear on a yacht cruising the Italian Riviera. Heather C. Brown from Pacific Sunwear of California encouraged junior students to experiment with recycled garments while Anne Cole’s Anna Kenney requested a new interpretation of stripes.

The other mentors included Zaid Affas, Joe McCarty of Lane Bryant, Liliana Casabal of Morgane Le Fay, and Bob Mackie for the senior class, and Mary Jo Bruno, Lindsay McNutt of Urban Outfitters, Emily Fong of Isobella & Chloe, Ryan Keenan of Quiksilver, Alan Hardy of DC, and Kassandra Cassily of Roxy for the junior class.

A winning design was chosen from each group. Top honors went to Molly Workman (Morgane Le Fay); Dane Diseth, Ju Yeun “June” Lee and Min “Michelle” Lee (Lane Bryant); Hyunjin Cho (Trina Turk) and Ju Yun “Jessica” Choi (Zaid Affas and Bob Mackie) from the senior class. From the junior class, the winners were Song Baik (Anne Cole), Alysha Aguilar (PacSun), Michelle Kim (Isobella & Chloe), Loie Victorino (Quiksilver), Angelia Karnes (Roxy), Tzu Wei Tang (DC), Khanhlinh Su (Urban Outfitters) and Xiaoli Ling (Mary Jo Bruno).

In addition Rosemary Brantley, the school’s fashion design chairman, named Choi as student designer of the year.

The accolades didn’t stop with the students. Lucky Brand chief executive officer Carlos Alberini accepted the Otis Fashion Leadership Award, PacSun ceo Gary Schoenfeld received the Otis Creative Vision Award, and Turk scooped up the Otis Fashion Innovation Award.

Among the some 900 attendees who cheered the award recipients while nibbling on roast chicken and Baked Alaska were actors Michael York and Kathrine Herzer, fashion designers Karen Kane and Robert Tuggle, retail executives Jerry Magnin and Art Coppola, and philanthropists Elaine and Bram Goldsmith. The 33rd annual show raised nearly $1 million for the Los Angeles-based school.

Past and current executives of Reef, Billabong and Volcom made a surprise tribute onstage to Quiksilver ceo Bob McKnight, who is not only a trustee but also the namesake of a new scholarship funded by Macy’s Inc. chairman Terry J. Lundgren, Mervin Manufacturing ceo Ryan Hollis, Reef cofounder Fernando Aguerre, Quiksilver and others.

McKnight passed on a dedication to the industry to his children, who joined him at the event. His eldest daughter, Kristi, who is an Otis alumna, is developing a venture that merges fashion and action sports, while Roxy is managing special projects for The Lab, an “anti-mall” in Orange County. Both daughters also serve as brand ambassadors for Quiksilver.

“I feel like a total elder statesman of our surf industry,” McKnight said. “It’s a nice position to be in.”

With their decades of experience, the industry leaders imparted advice to the aspiring designers.

“Having great product is critical to winning retail,” Alberini said.

Turk, who has mentored almost half a dozen classes over the past 15 years, boasted the extra distinction of dressing Otis’ new president, Bruce Ferguson, in a brightly printed jacket from her Mr. Turk men’s wear line.

“The fashion industry can be very intense,” Turk told the students in the audience. “Don’t let it get to you. You have your secret weapon, which is your creativity.”

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