by Liza Roberts
photographs by Robert Willett
With the wave of a visionary wand one night in April, ambitious students at N.C. State’s College of Design transformed Talley Student Union into a glamorous showcase for their manifold design talent.
The event, in its 15th year and known as Art2Wear, was the culmination of a year of intense work by a team of nine designers chosen by a jury. These students spent months creating, sewing, knitting, and refining capsule clothing collections that ranged from stylish contemporary eveningwear to cutting-edge sportswear and flights of creative fancy. The theme: “The virtue of obsession.”
“You can feel the energy,” says designer Justin LeBlanc, the show’s faculty advisor and chief cheerleader, as he watched a dress rehearsal. “This year is probably the best I’ve seen so far.”
The fashion on display was the event’s obvious highlight, but the show’s success also relied on a fleet of accomplished students who directed, produced, promoted, choreographed, photographed, fundraised, and modeled. They made films to spotlight the individual designers and to open the show. The highly produced event they created was a fitting forum for a range of fashion designs as unique as their creators.
Designer Bailey Knight took her “obsession and romance for the earth and the magic it produces” and her love of Henry David Thoreau to craft an homage to mushrooms with a fanciful collection she called MycoLogic. Backstage, surrounded by friends modeling her creations, she pointed out the inspiration behind a ripply, mustard-hued coat: a Chicken of the Woods mushroom. A white cape with a blue pleated interior was an Indigo Milk.
A few feet away and a world apart stood Leeza Regensburger, whose collection, Moth, included hip sportswear: plushy pastels, crop-tops, pom-pom-drawstring hoodies, fleece gym shorts. Meant to evoke “a moth to a flame,” Regensburger says she imagined the woman wearing her clothes as an insomniac running out in the middle of the night to grab something to eat from a corner store. Young, thrown together, unfussed, but stylish.
In another realm was Angele Gray’s Vert, which took its cue from “Paris during the rise of Formalism and Modern Art.” This translated to a restrained palette – mostly black and white – and a focus on line, composition, and texture. The result was a series of body-skimming dresses and ensembles that would be at home in any elegant setting.
More fitting for an urban walk to the gym were the creations of former soccer player Grace Hallman, who based her collection, Mia, on “the obsession of being an athlete.” She dressed her fit and confident models in laser-cut, close-to-the-body synthetics that put a futuristic spin on the athleisure trend.
For her part, Quinan Dalton took her own childhood home and “the obsessive sense of nostalgia many tend to feel when they think of their past” as
her inspiration. Her collection, Kingdom, which also included designs for men, included carefree silhouettes with a childlike aspect, including fabrics like pique and tulle, embroidery, and knitwear.
Gena Lambrecht’s collection, Gold, was all grown up. The glittery metal “has motivated some of history’s greatest conquests and caused the downfall of entire civilizations,” she says. Her ensembles, shown to the tune of Gold Digger by Kanye West and Jamie Foxx, comprised a series of strutting, gold-hued looks, including a showstopping waterfall-pleated tulle gown.
Dionysian Contagion by Kathleen Davis was unique: a creative explosion of recycled plastics, gas masks, and light, meant to evoke the powerful effect live music can have. She described it as: “Movement. Silhouettes. Illumination. Color. Music. Your entire soul shifts. The infection spreads, until you awaken anew.”
Indeed, inspiration for these makers came from very different places. Susan Stephens, with her 1919 collection, honored her own great-grandmother, who was born in that year, and the tradition of crochet she passed down through the generations. Stephens’ large-scale, knitted pieces were architectural and striking, paired with tailored pieces made of printed fabric Stephens created herself.
Meaghan Shea also printed her own fabrics, and used “a single print, color scheme, and endless iterations” to inform her refined and carefully tailored clothes. Each piece spoke to the others through geometry and shifts in color.
Together, these nine designers and their fellow students who put on the show showed “what the College of Design has to offer,” says LeBlanc. Art2Wear, he says, is “more than a fashion show … it showcases the talents of our students and their ability to transform their vision and dreams into reality.”