East meets west is a constant inspiration for fashion students, but the theme took on a distinctly personal angle for 6 students from Ohio’s Kent State University when they were invited to show their senior collections alongside 4 students from Taiwan’s Shih Chien University, and approximately 15 students from Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology at last week’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Beijing.
The chosen Kent State students–– Kara Kroeger, Abby Steger, Camille Winslow, Dior Delophont, Anastasia White and Calvin Brant––learned about the opportunity just after Thanksgiving break, and hurried to complete 3-5 looks from their senior collection ahead of schedule. Together with the Director of the Fashion School at Kent State, J.R. Campbell, they spent a week in China, squeezing in sightseeing of the Great Wall, the Forbidden CIty and, jewel of modern architecture, the Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium, before getting down to work with fittings and show rehearsals.
The experience proved rewarding on more levels than simply seeing their work on an international fashion week runway: the students got to see firsthand how this country, internationally known for its production know-how, but often vilified for its industry of knocking off designers, has emerged as a strong leader in design innovation.
Dior Delophont, upon visiting BIFT, describes her impressions of the school: “There are studios dedicated to actual companies that exist in the industry. Students get to work in direct partnership with companies, as an equivalent to an internship. Their experience seemed very hands-on. They were given responsibilities and learned to apply their skills in the specific field they chose––active wear, knitwear, menswear, conceptual... For example, one of the companies was a tailoring company specializing in menswear that made suits for presidents and ministers around the world. Some studios were specialized in active wear. For instance, one was dedicated to designing golf outfits for the brand that dresses the Chinese olympic team.”
A global perspective
When asked how she would compare the students’ work from the different schools, Delophont responds, “I was happy to see our collections looked good even next to the wonderful conceptual pieces of the Chinese students. But I noticed Chinese people have a different relationship to their body than Westerners do, and I think this also translates into their work. I would say that they study how to wrap and layer on the body as opposed to contouring the body as we tend to do in the U.S. This might be why the majority of the silhouettes in students’ work seemed bulky or very loose. They also like to work with the actual nature of the fabric and experiment with its essence to give the clothes a real character of their own whereas many American designs often need a body to be fitted in the clothes to reveal what the style is about.”
By contributing guest editor Jackie Mallon, who is on the teaching faculty of several NYC fashion programmes and is the author of Silk for the Feed Dogs, a novel set in the international fashion industry.