Art Institute of California – San Francisco showcased the latest works of 13 student designers in 2015 Annual Student Fashion Show. “TalkStyle” fashion show was a delightful celebration of hand techniques and slow fashion.

June 13, 2015 marked our 6th consecutive attendance to Art Institute of California – San Francisco (AiCA-SF) Annual Student Fashion Show. This year marked the second time AiCA-SF Annual Fashion Show was held at SOMArts Cultural Center, San Francisco.

The school showcased works from 13 student designers, many of whom employed hand techniques – shibori dye, crochet, air-brushing, spray-painting, pleating, marble-painting, gold-leafing – in their end-to-end design process.

The result was an eclectic mix of design perspectives, many of which featured detail works and fabric manipulations. The designers’ craftsmanship was highlighted in a 2045 setting of “a world on dystopian universe.” In addition to the chosen model styling of silver white wigs and dramatic smoky eyes, the fashion show had quite a memorable setting. So let’s talk about it, shall we?

Fashion Installation: the Setting of “TalkStyle”

Imagine an irregular triangle. There were three raised wide rectangular platforms on each three points. Inside and outside of the triangle, without blocking the three point-connecting lines, there were seats for audience members.

There was a dressing room behind the walls of each platforms. The models would emerged from a dressing room and went up to the nearest platform. So this means there were three separate collections shown at the same time on three different platforms. After pausing for a while, the models would go down one platform and go clockwise to the next platform. And to the next. And then they went back to the dressing room they came from.

Interesting, right? Such was the format for this student showcase, masterminded by show producer Michael Rosen (pictured left).

Just like last year, we came to both “TalkStyle” preview show at 4:30pm and VIP show at 7:30pm. This allowed me to see the show from two different vantage points – I sat near the press pit and the video / music equipment system on the first, and sat on one of the front rows between 2 raised platforms.

If you’re an audience member, it’s an exciting experience. There were nearly no bad seats in the house, and seeing the “rotating” collections was an engaging experience. The format gave a closer look to each collections and their movements than the traditional runway show. Seeing the models emerged from backstage, go from platform to platform, and eventually returned to backstage was a visual entertainment by itself. Moreover, I could see the design details of each garments; the models paused long enough on the platforms to convey a hint of the construction quality.

If you’re a photographer, it’s a different story. The platform nearest to the sound and video equipment was the dedicated stage for photographers to take pictures of. The lighting was really poor, and some models were better at chasing the light than others. Not to mention some of them missed where the photographers were completely. Frankly, it was…very challenging to get good results. As a result, many shots got more intense post-production corrections than others, but I did my best to keep the adjustments natural-looking.

Kudos for the Trio Linchpins

Regardless of the show’s setting highlights and challenges, one thing was certain. Shout out to the three MCs of AiCA-SF fashion show: Mariana McDonald, Denise Garong, and Elishes Cavness III. These trio clad in whites (pictured below, assisting Geetika Gupta and AiCA-SF President Byron Chung during award ceremony later that night) were the linchpins that kept the fashion show moving.

They started with greetings, setting the tone for the show. They then gave the necessary cues for the models to start going off one platform and on the next, as well as helping them going up and down the platform stairs. The models looked good, but they transitioned well thanks to these three, and it showed from their confident strides. At the end of the show, they also helped the score-counting committee buy a little bit of time, entertaining the audience in the process with a group selfie!

I really appreciated how hard these three worked that night. They did their best, thoroughly professional, and were very dependable. I called the trio “a peace of mind” on my show notes. Bravo!

“TalkStyle” Student Designers

Alright, let’s get back to the focus of the AiCA-SF Annual Fashion Show. Without further ado, let’s browse all the latest collections from “TalkStyle” designers! Ah, I could almost hear the music from Dj PM that night :)

Photos by Christian Hadidjaja

Sylvia Trammel

Laura Ingalls in Indigo Heaven
I really like Sylvia’s set of of 7 looks. Creatively done with shibori dyeing, stenciling, and air brushing with lace and crochet. The inspiration was clear, and the Japanese-centric colors, textures, and silhouettes appeared very comforting and nostalgic. The models looked like nomad wanderers.

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Alberto Cuiriz

Lost in the Woods
This collection is Alberto’s interpretation of his childhood fairytales and nighmares. While the earthy tones represented his theme, the fantasy stopped there for me. If I was supposed to feel some kind of innocence or hidden darkness, then I only felt a hint of it.

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Leila Nekbeen

Garden Posy
Speaking of innocence, that’s what Leila’s “Garden Posy” was about. The embroidery and crochet technique applied to soft pastel colors felt really bubbly and sweet, plus the footwear was on point.

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Lauren Ortega

I liked how Lauren’s collection focused its visual impact on long, lean silhouettes with tied red ribbons as finishing touch. That simple accent elevated all three outfits.

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Armando Ortiz

Technicolor Mayhem
Armando’s collection was designed with freedom and strong individuality in mind. The inspirations from 90s club kids and street art were obvious, and the garments’ rectangular shapes were the perfect canvas for colorful grafittis. The giant safety pins, chains, face gear, and studded cap completed the vision nicely.

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Betsy Anne Brown

Betsy Anne explored deeper shades of blue for her collection. The contrast of blue with the orange heels were sexy and sophisticated, and the blue fur pieces gave a dose of sophistication.

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Mark Figueroa

Mark’s “Fog” was one of two collections that took all three platforms to showcase. And I have to say it’s well deserved; Mark improved a great deal since last year. His designs were more defined, clean, and the oversized dark visors completed the vibe for all 10 looks. He was inspired by 17th century Spanish fashion, while focusing on genderless quality in the fashion industry.

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Josh Charles

Saint Society
Josh’s collection – the other collection that took all three platforms with 9 looks – was centered on the idea of a religious worship of beauty. While his past collections had bold commanding presence, it was more toned down this time. Long gowns and oversized silhouettes gave good first impression, but they looked like missed opportunities on subsequent glances. Some of the chosen silhouettes reminded me of his last year’s collection, and the new ones felt like they could’ve been pushed more.

That being said, no doubt he has worked hard for all 10 looks that evening. The gold gown was only shown during the preview show, and the black cocktail dress was only shown on the VIP show.

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Daniela Ramirez

En Blanco
Daniela’s collection was arguably the best collection to take advantage of the platform format. Her inspiration was the Charro, traditional horsemen from Mexico. Each of the looks is focused on one design details, and they look mighty fierce when they’re all shown together on one platform. I wished the models paused thrice longer on the platform so I could enjoy the design details of the garments more!

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Jesus Romero

If She Favours You, Love Her
Jesus set himself up for some Great Expectations (pun intended). From the first glance, it’s clear his 3-piece collection is as labor intensive as it is poetic. The white layers of paper, fur, linen, and other materials were meticulously cut and hand-sewn together for a Mrs. Havisham-inspired statement makers. Jesus also took part in this presentation, from popping up the fur collar of one or assisting the massive tail management of another – what a great way to stay true to the “fashion installation” concept!

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Tayler Melhart

Tayler’s collection was about “masculine sartorial symbols of power seen through feminine eyes.” The colors she chose reminded me of her last year’s collection. However, she has grown tremendously since then, and her design point of view has become so much crisper. Hopefully her she uses this momentum to keep growing; she definitely has the talents!

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Lucia Mendez

Lucia’s collection is a great reflection of her dedication to women and inner beauty. I liked how the models formed a pillar of goddesses at the beginning, and then broke up one by one to show off their gold outfits. The silver wigs arguably made these five outfits more modern-looking.

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Lauren Barisic

The Eccentric’s Perspective
Lauren opened the show last year, and she closed the show for this year’s fashion show. This was my third year seeing her collection, and it’s always fun to see the direction she chose to take risks in every time. This time, she was inspired by “an eggplant-hued crab wedged between two rocks on Asilomar Beach.” That eventually translated into 8 outfits of sophisticated rich hues relaying subtle luxury of simple delights in life. They definitely looked like a stylish wardrobe starter set!

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After The Show: Mingle, Talk Style, and Award the Winners

After the last three set of models went back to their respective dressing rooms, it was time to mingle while the scores were tabulated. It was a great chance for student designers to get immediate feedback from audience and judges. Christine and Ben Ospital of MAC (Modern Appealing Clothing), fashion designer and Ai graduate Gelareh Alam, and fashion writer Daniela Province formed the judging panel this year.

After some impromptu photo taking sessions, champagne-sipping-and-congratulating networking session, and happy vibes all around, it was then time for the winners are announced. Academic Director Geetika Gupta led the affair, and here were the winners of the night!

Best Construction
Runner-up: Leila Nekbeen
Winner: Jesus Romero

Most Creative
Runner-up: Mark Figueroa
Winner: Daniela Ramirez

Most Marketable Collection
Runner-up: Tayler Melhart
Winner: Lauren Barisic

Best of Show: Daniela Ramirez (pictured below)

It has been a delightful honor to see AiCA-SF student talents year after year. There’s always a lot of concepts and imaginations, but this year, I felt many more students stepped up in executing their designs. As a result, the collections of “TalkStyle” looked strong overall, whether it consisted of just 3 or more than 5 looks.

Thank you AiCA-SF Academic Director Geetika Gupta and Show Producer Michael Rosen for inviting us to a great show! Moreover, kudos to all the whole production team, faculty members, AiCA-SF’s International Culinary School team for the delicious bites and beverages, and everyone else that made this elaborate event possible. It’s very intriguing to see the direction of AiCA-SF fashion department year after year. We eagerly anticipate the unknown of next year’s show!

Thanks for reading; until next time,

Photos by Christian Hadidjaja