UA apparel students take on NWA Fashion Week

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 115 views 

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of five features about local designers participating in the opening night of runway shows for NWA Fashion Week. Thursday (March 8) is dedicated to home-grown design houses, such as the University of Arkansas Apparel Studies Student Association.

FAYETTEVILLE — When an organizer of Northwest Arkansas Fashion Week asked apparel students at the University of Arkansas to have their own show, the students jumped at the chance.

“We knew how huge it would be,” said UA senior Katie Caplener, chairman of the event for the UA Apparel Studies Student Association.

Asking the student association to be involved was a way to feature up-and-coming designers, said Jade Terminella, a co-founder of fashion week.

“We wanted to feature the kids coming up,” she said. “They are the grassroots of the new local designers that will be emerging.”

One recent afternoon, Caplener and three other students — senior Leanna Poole and juniors Sarah Clark and Anna Taylor — sat in the home economics building at UA and discussed the intense work they’d put into making their runway show a quality event.

“A lot of people didn’t realize how professional we wanted to be,” said Poole, the association’s president.

With meetings, design sketching, sewing and juggling classes, the students have been working nonstop. About a dozen would-be designers who wanted to be in the show have since dropped out, leaving just 10 to do all the work, Caplener said.

The Apparel Studies Student Association, which started as the Fashion Merchandising Club in 1968, focuses on design and the business of apparel. Roughly 220 students major in apparel studies, with just 75 to 100 of them active in the association.

Featured UA student clothing lines will vary from rockabilly-classic to the culture of Kenya. Still, the students want their clothes to be worn, not like some of the uncomfortable or outrageous designs you’d see on the runway of New York’s fashion week. They imagine their duds on the folks you’d see on Dickson Street.

Taylor is focusing on designs influenced by Kenyan culture and manufactured by widows in Kenya. One of Clark’s pieces is a pair of rock-and-roll-styled pants, she said.

“It’s not high fashion,” Clark said.

“It’s definitely wearable,” Taylor responded.

“This is very wearable,” Caplener said.

“No Lady Gaga,” Poole added.

That means no dresses made out of newspaper, Caplener explained.

People who like what they see at the fashion show can contact student designers about reproducing pieces for them, said Clark, who will show under the label C. Lark Designs. No clothing will be for sale at the show.

While Clark sews her own clothing, Taylor is trying to get a business off the ground that allows her to design clothes, choose the textiles and hire widows from across the world to put them together. She spent a year in Kenya to study the culture and make connections with seamstresses. Coincidentally, that trip allowed her to develop about 20 “looks” ready for NWA Fashion Week when she returned to the university.

A professional show, like the one they are doing for the local fashion week, will help the students get the word out about their work and help them gain name recognition. It’s also good for their portfolios.

As Caplener talked, she sat hunched over, wearing a fitted jacket but looking pale. She’d just finished two tests before 2:30 p.m. and still had to go to work.

For her and Poole, the opportunity to participate in NWA Fashion Week could help them land jobs outside of design. Caplener wants to go into trend forecasting for clothing and color, and Poole hopes to land a job in apparel marketing and public relations.

Fashion Week has been an eye-opener, that’s for sure. Besides promoting their designs, the event has forced students to be professional, Caplener said.

“It should help all of us learn we have to meet deadline,” she said. “For New York Fashion Week, you can’t say ‘Oh, I’ll be there tomorrow.’ No, it’s today.”

The UA Apparel Studies Student Association show begins at 7 p.m., Thursday (March 8) with other local professional designers following on the half-hour beginning at 8 p.m. Cost is $25; $50 for VIP treatment. University students with a campus identification card and a canned good can get in to the UA show for free. The UA student show benefits the UA’s Full Circle Campus Food Pantry.