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SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST: Padded survivalist jackets, feathery skirts for men, breast-baring knit tunics for women and beaten leather jumpsuits were among the runway looks at RISD’s senior show Wednesday night.

Afterward, RISD president Rosanne Somerson praised the students, “What’s obvious in their work is the thought process in each collection — the structure, the materials, the craft and the ideology of a new way of thinking about their line of fabric. Each collection was inspired by a scent and what really came across is the way the scent transformed into an emotion.”

She also thanked Tommy Hilfiger, whose daughter Elizabeth is a RISD grad, for making the event possible. Other alums Nicole Miller and Todd Oldham were also in the front row. “I thought it was fantastic,” Miller said. “But I don’t think anything is going to get sold. In the old days, we used to sell the clothes.”

Participants selected to represent the class were Erica Kim, Lou Rodgers, Yufei Liu, Fernando Flaquer, Matthews Streepy, Ying Bonny Cai, Maya Ortiz, Michaela Wong Xing Yi, Rachel Wong, Xiaoyan Jiang, Avery Albert, Persephone Bennett, William Lathrop and Zehua Crystal Wu. In the look book, each senior wrote a poem about his or her collection. The runway also featured an unexpected dystopian accent — an artistically assembled all-white pile of chairs, frames and other traces of a disrupted home life.

Lisa Morgan, Apparel Design department head, said, “After the collection was finished in May, discussions about the runway show started in June. Plans really ramped up in the past six to eight weeks. We were really looking at transformation, duality and how you can’t move towards the light and hope and beauty without having really rooted around in the darkness. A lot of the process that I work with the students is about opposites. It’s like love-hate, desire-repulsion. They actually live quite close together sometimes.”

She added, “In terms of the whole show, I won’t say that all of the students have looked at transformation, but in many ways they have. Even in materials, working down to horrible net curtaining from secondhand shops and then transforming it to become this beautiful material. The students’ ability to really want to put something into the world that’s beautiful without taking any more. It’s just been a gorgeous process. “

RISD museum director John Smith said, “It’s so uncanny. I can see how students have been looking at very specific things that we’ve been buying — workwear, repaired objects, mended things and Comme des Garçons — for the museum’s collection as a source of learning and inspiration.”

They will have more to draw on next month when “Repair and Designs” opens Oct. 4 at the RISD Museum.

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