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Fashion Emergency: Designs for a Changed World

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2009-04-28-JessicaMikeselldesign.jpg

Al Gore's consciousness raising over global warming appears to be making its way into the fashion world. Last week, as the School of the Art Institute's top design students took their visionary designs to the runway, the most consistent theme was fashion for a compromised world. This year, SAIC's young designers aimed to turn heads, as well as change minds. Whether sculpted, layered, or draped -- the tone anticipated an era when fashion may have to protect us from the environment, rather than use it as a backdrop.

The Armageddon gear that peppered the School's show this year embraced shoulder pads, eppelets, face masks, and border-crossing nomadic looks that evoked a sense of exodus. The ecophobia thread that ran through many of the 200 innovative garments on parade also reflected the Etsy DIY ethos. Torn, recycled skirts and slacks that were topped with tailored jackets (Margot Brummer) and off-center blazers. Business on top, social message on the bottom.

The School of the Art Institute prides itself on a trans-disciplinary approach, and its 2009 Fashion Show walked that talk. At intervals, student performance artists used the runway as a stage and flexed some artistic muscle in the moment.

If SAIC's young designers provide a glimpse at what lies ahead, then we can expect the following trends to appear on racks:

1. Pleats in unexpected places like the back of a blazer or a midriff. (Arushi Kumar, Skruti Kirti, Pamela Miranda)

2. Shorter slacks with Star-trekkie, geometric flares right below the knee (Tina Park)

3. Urban geurilla gear for men that loudly bull-horn, "I'm a man, dammit!" (Seth Meyerink-Griffin)

4. Leggings. More leggings. Striped, paisley, floral, long and spatlike. All manner and color. (Neha Khanna, Victoria Larkin, Cindy Hong)

5. Layers. Piles of fabric, be it ruffled, shredded or neatly sculpted, layers are the thingy. (Carolyn Sgrignoli, Desserae Bassil, Jennifer Heidger, Maggie Burke, Sarah Mallis, Nanajelic Neric, Catherine Kao)

Never short on cleverness, SAIC students always tease out one or two designs for which a reporter lusts. Mine was Jessica Mikesell's red and white reinvented varsity jacket that fused jock with diva producing an evening coat with a long, layered train.

As always, SAIC's annual fashion show inspires and transcends. Because fashion students have more to prove and less to lose than working designers laboring under the tyranny of a bad economy, the designs are always bold. And isn't that the whole point of a creative education?

Photo: Jessica Mikesell's design courtesy of Jeremy Lawson