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How to make a fashion statement with 'Uncertainty'

April 1, 2018

ASU students headline first entrepreneurship fashion show

At 9 a.m. on Saturday, teams of Arizona State University students gathered inside the Student Pavilion’s lobby and ballroom on the Tempe campus. Walls and drapery were put up. Technicians affixed a ramp perpendicular to the main stage. Lights and sound cues were tested. 

By noon, hair and makeup technicians arrived on site. Directors and performers started working out nerves, wardrobe and wearables in tote. Organizers checked in on planning items.

A long line of people began streaming into the pavilion at 6 p.m. A red carpet and step-and-repeat banner invited visitors to capture the glamorous moment by selfie or photographer. Guests, all in their best stylish attire, were met by greeters with gift bags and small-plate edibles.

Behind black curtains in the ballroom, models primped and stage managers directed while photographers captured the energy of these behind-the-scenes moments.

Finally at 7 p.m., guests filled the ballroom, where an emcee welcomed them. A singer took the stage and models began to parade down the perpendicular runway for “Uncertainty,” the 2018 ASU Fashion debut.

It was a fitting title, a playful whisper of the risks and rewards of fashion and the future. But if there is one thing Carol Wong can be certain of when she looks back on this night, it's that she took a leap and made a statement inspired by her own uncertainty.

Wong, poised to be among the first students to graduate from ASU’s new fashion degree program this spring, pulled off an aspiring designer’s dream Saturday night, staging ASU’s first-ever entrepreneurship fashion show. 

More: Moving the needle on a fashion education at ASU

The idea to organize a student-led fashion show was simply born out of necessity, according to Wong — ASU’s new fashion program has never had one. So, with help from mentors and classmates in ASU’s Herberger Arts and Design Entrepreneurship StudentsHerberger Arts and Design Entrepreneurship Students (HADES) provides entrepreneurial professional development to design and arts students through peer-to-peer mentoring, workshops, and interaction with art and design entrepreneurs while supporting the launch of design and arts students’ entrepreneurial careers and ventures. (HADES) club, Wong took the lead.

“We all worked together to make it happen,” she said after the show. “It was better than I expected but not as perfect as I wanted."

(A friend then chimed in to say that the designer and capstone project manager doesn’t give herself enough credit.)

"I hope people see this as a starting point with room to improve,” Wong said of her creative vision to see ASU fashion students raise the show to new levels.

Inspired by the scale and production value of the “Big Four” fashion weeks that take place every year in Paris, Milan, London and New York, 90 students spent countless hours designing and reorienting ASU’s new Student Pavilion, transporting almost 500 audience members into another realm of creativity, design and innovation at ASU.

There were singers, dancers, models and plenty of fashion.

From a front-row seat in the runway-divided ballroom, instructor Kathy Stephenson beamed with pride as students from her Fashion Construction I class modeled the white shirt creations they worked on during the spring semester.

“Those are my babies,” Stephenson said. “I am so proud of them right now.”

Dennita Sewell, who leads the fashion program in ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, agreed.

“This was a great success,” Sewell said. “Full house, so many beautiful designs, so much energy, really exciting.”

The show also included sustainability-inspired designs from students in the program’s Fashion Construction II class, in which students were tasked with creating “upcycling” styles with denim material purchased from secondhand clothing stores.

Miranda Katchur, a fashion program senior who led "Uncertainty’s" production coordination for her capstone project, said she hoped the show would help the audience find a new appreciation for the creative work of fashion designers.

“What you’re wearing — somebody made that,” Katchur said. “Someone spent a lot of hours designing and sewing the styles you wear — and I just want people to recognize that.”

Video by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Katchur, who spent a semester abroad studying fashion in Florence, Italy, brought some inspiration from “the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance” back to ASU to create the show's whimsical, floral, Duomo-inspired look she called “Flo."

Pat Pataranutaporn, whose interdisciplinary studies at ASU include creative biology, art, design and coding, shared a few examples of his wearable technology “Hormone Couture,” which will also be featured at the MRS Wearables in Smart Fabrics show at the Phoenix Convention Center on April 4.

And fashion design junior Patrick St. Clair, who admitted to pulling an all-nighter to complete his rubber material designs in time for “Uncertainty," said he was really happy with how it all turned out and had plenty of praise for classmate Wong, whose pieces he said were the “highlight of the show.”

“All the work she put into the show, it was insane,” St. Clair said of Wong. “And she handled so many other aspects than just the design. She was so dedicated and helpful and kind. I honestly don’t know how she got her looks done with how much work she did. She was spectacular.”

Wong’s own collections for “Uncertainty” included an eye-catching “Office Couture” line that featured tailored, extended-length sleeves, vertically striped pants and skirts and the debut of a new line she calls “Hierarchy Queue,” which she hopes will inspire people to build their own reputation through mix-and-match wear.

Mixing and matching is something Wong knows a little bit about having completed an associate degree and advanced fashion degree at a school in California before transferring to ASU. After graduating from her program in downtown Los Angeles, Wong, who grew up in the Phoenix area, discovered that many companies wanted graduates with bachelor’s degrees. So when she heard that ASU was now offering an undergraduate degree in fashion, she moved back to Arizona and enrolled in the program to earn her bachelor's with the academic credits she had earned in California.

“Creativity-wise, I feel like I am getting a great opportunity to experiment here at ASU,” Wong said. “There is no limit. The instructors are very supportive of what you want to be. They're helping us bend the road a little differently especially in the arena of sustainability and fashion."

As for what that “to be” might look like when she graduates in May, Wong says she’s taking that one step at a time. Right now, she has designs on taking her Hierarchy Queue line to launch level and is staying focused — even with a little uncertainty.

Top photo: A model walks the runway during the "Uncertainty" fashion show at the Student Pavilion on Tempe campus March 31. The show, presented by the Herberger Arts and Design Entrepreneurship Students club, featured the work of fashion design students at ASU. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Suzanne Wilson

Sr. Media Relations Officer , Media Relations & Strategic Communications


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Moving the needle on fashion education

March 28, 2018

ASU fashion program on the fast track for industry innovation

Just months into its first academic track at Arizona State University, the newly established fashion degree program is already looking like a powerhouse for fashion education. 

Unfolding since last August in the School of Art in ASU’s Herberger Institute of Design and the Arts, the program offers a kaleidoscopic range of topics and experiences that has been drawing students from an array of disciplines to the newly renovated Fashion Studio on ASU’s Tempe campus.  

Dennita Sewell, director of the ASU fashion design program, leads a class on the global fashion industry.

“We are trying to put together a program that is responding to a changing fashion industry right now,” said Dennita Sewell, professor of practice and fashion director at a benefactor event for the Arizona Costume Institute (ACI) on March 26.

“We are striving to see that whatever happens in this space will lead to students getting jobs with this equipment and this program. You can manufacture Donna Karan’s line in this studio with this equipment,” Sewell told attendees gathered at the Fashion Studio for the ACI event.

She thanked Herberger Institute Dean Steven Tepper and School of Art Director Joanna Grabski for their support in designing the fashion program’s first year at ASU. Tepper and Grabski also heaped praise on Sewell for her vision and thought leadership.

Fashion technology making a statement in wearables culture

The event also included a Q&A talkback between Sewell and designer-to-the-stars Zang Toi, who was a special guest for the ACI event. The New York-based dressmaker — who counts Sharon Stone, Melinda Gates and Patti LaBelle among his famous clients — also shared his enthusiasm for ASU’s new fashion program and the innovative work he saw from some of the students designing in the program's Fashion Technology class.

“I think there is room for everything in fashion,” Toi told ASU Now of the unique student creations in wearable tech. “I think functional fashion will be great for people who really need it and it will be great for those who have the mindset to create it — really brilliant.”

A mixed-media class where dresses and drones sometimes meet, ASU’s Fashion Technology will be on full display April 4 at the Phoenix Convention Center in downtown Phoenix when designer and class instructor Galina Mihaleva and her students will exhibit their creations in the Wearables in Smart Fabrics fashion show. The show comes in the midst of the Materials Research Society Meeting and Exhibit, an annual conference that brings together scientists and industrial designers from around the world. It will run from April 2–6 at the Phoenix Convention Center.

“I’m very excited for the students to be able to participate in this show because it’s a labor of love,” Mihaleva said. “After putting so much time and effort into making this class so incredible, they deserve to have this platform to showcase their work, especially at a world-renowned conference such as this.”

What to look for in wearable tech

Since the beginning of the spring 2018 semester, Mihaleva and her students have been working on designs inspired by nature and the environment — areas she says are in need of attention as we trend toward healthier and sustainable lifestyles.

Beyond smart glasses, watches and what we have come to know of wearable tech, Mihaleva says “smart clothing” can inform us, heal us and even protect us from things that are not immediately apparent in our environment.

Video by Ken Fagan/ASU Now

Fashion Technology student Ben Viton has been working on an LED-enhanced tracksuit that will scroll text down the suit’s sleeves once activated through computer coding. Joking about the branding opportunities that his LED text suit could attract, Viton also told attendees at the ACI-ASU Fashion Studio event that the outfit was actually inspired by HIV awareness and the idea that the suit could be used to share results of health tests in the spirit of transparency.

Carol Wong and Cindy Tran are co-creating a smart dress design to protect wearers from external pollution. The outfit includes a coding-activated oxygen mask that is designed to pop-up for suggested use when oxygen levels decline to an unhealthy state. Wong, a fashion design major who is also organizing a separate student-run fashion showFashion design major Carol Wong is leading the student-run fashion show "Uncertainty," which will be held from 6-9 p.m. March 31 at the Student Pavilion on ASU's Tempe campus. for her capstone project, is handling the dress design for her wearable tech project. Tran, an industrial design senior, is handling the coding.

“We wanted to offer a practical futuristic fashion design for people in cities with high pollution rates,” said Wong, who has experienced her share of health challenges due to questionable air quality. “Incorporating technology into the traditional design process was an overwhelming experience at first but we all got very excited by the possibilities after we started putting products together and seeing it all come together.”

Jenna Forrey, a human systems engineering major, is also excited about getting a platform to show her first experiment in fashion design and wearable tech. Forrey’s dress, a motion-sensing LED-enhanced design, highlights her affinity for bees and flashes when the wearer moves to symbolize buzzing bees.

“With the bee population on the decline, I think it’s important to draw awareness to their importance in nature,” said Forrey, who has spent much of the semester traveling back and forth between the Fashion Studio in Tempe and ASU’s Polytechnic campus in Mesa, where most of her engineering labs are held.

Forrey says she has gained a new level of respect for the fashion industry since enrolling in Fashion Technology, pointing to the effort and long hours that go into transforming fabric and textiles into wearable designs.

Kombucha couture

For her part, Mihaleva — who has shown her wearable technology designs at international competitions — is designing a bodice created from kombuchaKombucha is a fermented colony of yeast and bacteria commonly touted for its health benefits.. She is lab-growing textiles created from the bacteria-yeast combination to demonstrate kombucha’s value in sustainable living and design. Mihaleva also enlisted a group of students from ASU’s Luminosity LabThe Luminosity Lab is a selective group of interdisciplinary students within ASU who are drawing from their network of knowledge to develop and deploy ideas, technologies, and products that aim to provide unconventional and effective solutions to the world’s most complex challenges. to help automate and animate her bodice to mimic the human organ’s interactions with microbiomes.

“I think this class is very important in bringing awareness to things that make life better and more transparent," Mihaleva said. "This is fashion for the future but we need to explore more ideas. It’s not enough today to just be a traditional fashion designer. Some of us will also become fashion fusionists through emerging science and technology.”

If you want to go

'Uncertainty' fashion show
6–9 p.m. March 31, Student Pavilion, Tempe campus

Wearables in Smart Fabrics fashion show
2:30–3:30 p.m. April 4, Phoenix Convention Center

Top photo: Fashion design senior Carol Wong works on her "smart dress" design that will respond to air quality and pollution with LED lights and computer coding. The project will be shown as part of the 2018 MRS Wearables in Smart Fabrics fashion show on April 4. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Suzanne Wilson

Sr. Media Relations Officer , Media Relations & Strategic Communications