The first thing to notice when attending a RISD Apparel Department Runway show is the decorum of the Providence Performing Arts Center. From the lobby’s archway to the exquisite mixture of red and gold that colors the entire space, the Center – once known as the Palace Concert Theater – is nothing short of beautiful. In the 70’s, the space was used exclusively for rock concerts and one can only imagine the spectacle of chaotic rock ‘n’ roll contrasting with the ornate, royal beauty of such a space.
That contrast seemed present this past weekend at RISD’s runway show, Collection 2015. Often with heavy electronic tracks playing in the background (mixed by Jackson Hallberg ’15), the student designers showcased their best work. The main crux of the show was the senior thesis work of 17 graduating students who presented an all-encompassing range of work with tickling collection titles such as “*tween Queen *” (Yuan Peng Wu ’15) and “What’s your Packaging” (Elizabeth Hilfiger ’15).
That’s not to say the sophomores and juniors didn’t present strongly. Notable collections included Adam Dalton Blake’s (’16) outlandish “Judy’s Boys” inspired by wrestling, as well as more subtle collections like Jingxin Xu’s cut-and-sew project “Coleoptera.” Each student’s vision felt present in the designs; some flamboyant in their choice of colors and fabrics, others more bespoke. This was in part due to the different projects each class year had been assigned. The work from the Class of 2017, for instance, was broken up into two projects: Re-Innovative and Print. The Re-Innovative Project, centered around the use of recycled materials, stood out at the show; Noah Pica’s collection “Untamed” used materials like shredded backpack straps to mimic the aesthetic of fur. Pica cited a “tumultuous relationship with my body hair” as inspiration for the look.
The senior theses expanded upon some of the ideas and concepts present in the collections of the younger classes. Each student’s collection was supplemented by an introductory video – sometimes as simple as a close-up shot of a young woman eating brightly colored macarons or as pacifying as watching a figure standing out in the ocean, balancing on a jut of rocks, her large white and blue cloak flapping in the breeze. With sounds of heavy bass reverberating throughout the theater, models presented the senior projects, sometimes with astute poise, and at other times eating bananas. Pushing the envelope was Andrea Dyes’ “Congenital,” a collection of spherical designs that seemed to question modern notions of beauty and appeal. The elegant collections inspired the typical jaw-dropping that RISD Apparel is known for inducing, while the aristocratic, sometimes pompous, glitterati that NYFW and other fashion shows are known for was noticeably absent. Every single collection felt sincere and determined in its vision, however peculiar that vision might be.