As the school year came to a close, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) celebrated the 81st edition of its annual runway show, Fashion 2015, culminating in THE WALK, SAIC's annual benefit supporting the production of student work and scholarships. This year, world-renowned fashion critic, journalist, and filmmaker, Diane Pernet, received SAIC's 2015 Legend of Fashion Award for her outstanding contributions in the fashion industry. Along with pioneering the advent of online fashion journalism through her website, A Shaded View on Fashion, Pernet is also credited with spearheading the fashion film genre, providing a new medium through which artists, photographers, and designers can collaborate on creative projects.
SAIC's annual production is arguably the best fashion show to grace any Chicago catwalk. Featuring more than 200 original garments crafted by undergraduate students in SAIC's internationally renowned fashion design program (boasting a long list of distinguished alumni including Cynthia Rowley, Maria Pinto, and Gary Graham), the evening was kicked off with a performance piece entitled The Dolls by artist and associate professor of Film, Video, New Media and Animation at SAIC, Claudia Hart.
Beginning with the sophomore year students who each presented one avant-garde look challenged by a limited color palette, models paraded in intricate looks that altered the human form - overly-accentuated hips and shoulders, constrictive sculptural pieces (a golden pedestal, wire cages, an accordion torso can be seen in the photo gallery), and a few unwieldy hand props including breadsticks and a ball and chain -plus a standout piece for its jarring depiction of a human face with hair and mysterious limbs flanking the ensemble.
Juniors were tasked with creating three looks for their presentation. Traces of the avant-garde explored in their sophomore year remained strong in these collections particularly in Mady Berry's vibrant Beetlejuice-esque trio beginning with a knit flowering cactus. Nana Park's monochromatic collection was a standout for her excellent millinery work and dreamy white gowns that floated gracefully down the runway.
It was in the senior year collections that dealt with deeply personal stories and showcased the brilliance of these designers and the education they have received from SAIC. Sin See Leung's boy x mAn explored her coming to terms with graduating and the duality of youth versus adulthood. Shorts suspended below the knees paired with a disproportionately tailored blazer and a jumpsuit with shortened sleeves and legs featuring contrasting prints portrayed Leung's personal challenge of crossing the threshold into adulthood. Must we relinquish our childhood once we cross that threshold? Leung's collection encourages the viewer to find the balance.
Kaleigh Moynihan's DaVina Francois (named after a mesmerizing woman she met on the streets of Chicago) brought a refreshing cast of models that breathed life into the creations they wore. Rightly so since Moynihan designed each of her pieces to fit the personality of the models wearing them. A bubble-blowing happy-go-lucky model began the collection who was soon chased down by a caveman-like aggressor brandishing a mannequin arm. Following in their chase was a stunningly voluptuous woman wielding her flower power and vivacious personality. Closing out Moynihan's collection was perhaps an introvert encased in a striped shell with a very talented model who seemed to have been on wheels the way she glided down the runway. Other standouts included Ingrid Yeo's introspective Army of Me which featured looks inspired by her clumsy personality. I loved the print details that included broken glass and coffee cup spills. Samantha Sipos presented the most wearable collection of the evening showcasing her fantastic attention to detail in her choice of textures and stitched designs in Some Wounds are Like Cages. James Oh's Finding Moon River represented his longing for a dreamy past that is impossible to reach which was particularly resonant with me because that is the reason why I photograph. My camera and my work is a coping mechanism to keep all these beautiful sights around me - hoarding memories and visions that can't possibly be felt or seen in the same light again.
Relive the incredible fashion show with exclusive backstage access and check out the wonderfully dressed attendees letting loose at the after party in the two galleries below!
The evening was sponsored by Swarovski, MacLean-Fogg, Richard and Ellen Sandor Family, Bill and Stephanie Sick, McDonald's, Ulta, Bank of America, Exelon, Gallery Aesthete, Macy's Ariel Investments, Mesirow Financial, Steller Enterprise, and Virgin Hotels.
The Walk Fashion Show:
After party at the Harris Theatre rooftop: