With a colorful collection featuring playing cards, Grace McLain won Best in Show at Kent State’s 2021 Annual Fashion Show on April 30.
Senior and graduate students from the Kent State’s School of Fashion participated in a virtual fashion show to showcase and celebrate their work. Unlike Kent State’s previous fashion shows, this event featured prerecorded professional snapshots and videos of the students’ work. Think Media Studios, an Emmy-winning video production company in Cleveland, filmed the fashion show.
McLain, a senior fashion design major, combined her skills in machine embroidery, hand embroidery, print design, engineer printing, patchworking and upcycling denim to produce her women’s contemporary collection entitled “All In.”
“I made my collection based on the idea of gambling and love, so there’s a lot of playing card motifs and also a focus on the hearts,” McLain said. “I really wanted to utilize that theme of taking a risk on love and it felt very personal to me and it also led to a lot of really graphic prints which I was really interested in.”
Before the show, School of Fashion Director Louise Valentine, Ph.D., spoke with designer Kenneth Cole about his business, activism and advice for students. Cole was inducted into the Kent State School of Fashion 2021 Hall of Fame.
In the ‘80s, Cole raised awareness for HIV/AIDS, which was a highly stigmatized topic at the time. Cole partnered with the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) in 1985 and later became part of the organization, now known as the Foundation for AIDS Research.
Throughout an almost 40-year career, Cole consistently uses his platform and his company to shine light on important issues and support social justice causes such as LGBTQ+ rights.
“The fashion business is very much a reflection of not just what we stand in but what we stand for and not just what’s on our body, but what’s on our mind,” Cole said in the video. “I think it’s our job as a designer to connect with our customers or our prospective customers in as meaningful ways as we know how.”
Cole answered some fashion students’ questions and offered career advice by championing problem-solving skills. Cole said creative solutions are the best solutions, so students can tackle the post-COVID world’s new challenges with creativity.
Cole also announced the launch of the Mental Health Coalition which seeks to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health. The coalition includes other mental health organizations and will host conversations each day in May with well-known individuals such as Kendall Jenner, Whoopi Goldberg and Chris Cuomo.
Janelle Sessoms, a sophomore fashion merchandising major, was one of the lookbook coordinators for the fashion show. Sessoms helped create the lookbook, a digital compilation of all of the outfits displayed at the fashion show.
“I’m just really excited for everyone to see themselves or for designers to see their clothes in a book format,” Sessoms said. “Since it’s digital they can have this with them wherever they go, put it in a portfolio, put it on their resume and be like, ‘Yeah, I made that’ or ‘Yeah, I modeled that.’”
Sessoms said the lookbook exudes a “minimalistic design” with a neutral tan color story because the fashion show did not have a theme as previous years did. The 2021 lookbook will be available May 3.
Luke Leyden, a junior computer engineering technology major, modeled in the fashion show for senior fashion design major Drexton Trantina. Trantina’s “What Makes a Man” collection redefines menswear with an all-black color palette.
Leyden said the clothing was “more revealing” than he expected and he had a great experience working with Trantina. He hopes to model for the fashion show again next year.
“A lot of hard work has gone into it and honestly because of COVID, things are insanely different,” Leyden said. “I think they really pulled it off; I mean, the video team they brought in is a professional.”
Based on the smooth experience with Think Media Studios, Sessoms said she would not be surprised if next year’s fashion show is a hybrid of an in-person and virtual experience. Faced with coordinating a large-scale production in the middle of a pandemic, fashion students helped deliver a fashion show exemplifying their creativity and skill.
“At the end of the day, we want to show off the collections in the best light possible just like an in-person show did and I do think that we still did that,” Sessoms said. “I think COVID just changed the platform of the show and how we went about things, but I think the final result is going to be just as amazing just as if it was in person.”
Contact Catie Pusateri a [email protected].