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Threads Senior Collection Provides Room for Expression, Opportunity

model walking runway

Select photos courtesy Veritas Digital Photography

By Sarah Stone

“Nothing like any other class.”

That’s how Associate Professor Kate Annnett-Hitchcock described Threads to the audience in a sold-out Talley Student Union ballroom and the hundreds of people watching from home. 

Nearly one thousand people had gathered in-person and virtually to see the course’s “final exam” – a 15 collection fashion show. 

The assignment

Fashion and textile management (FTM) students in the fashion development and product management (FDPM) concentration as well as accelerated bachelor’s master’s (ABM) students can enroll in this elective course, which is devoted entirely to planning, designing and constructing a collection.

Each student is tasked with transforming their inspiration into runway-ready pieces that build off of each other to create a cohesive collection. Undergraduate students must create anywhere from three to five looks. Master’s students are required to make between six and ten looks. 

“I’m not really doing any traditional teaching, just sort of guiding them through the process,” Dr. Annett-Hitchcock says. “They’re doing a lot of independent problem-solving, because the class is really like 16 different independent studies.”

Students in design studio

The opportunity

Most of this year’s students say participating in Threads has been a goal for them ever since they first entered the FDPM program. Their motivation can be boiled down to one word: opportunity. 

First, the opportunity for creative freedom. 

“I was excited by the thought that I could creatively make something super out of the box. This is the one class that yes, you’re still getting graded. But it’s not so much a formal rubric or outline of what you can make,” senior Amanda Valentine says. 

Second, the opportunity to learn. Most students incorporated some sort of technology they had previously been unfamiliar with into their collections, whether they digitally printed onto fabrics, pleated fabrics, or knitted whole garments. All of this technology, and guidance on how to use it, was at their fingertips through the Wilson College of Textiles’ labs. 

“Trying new things and making things that I’ve never created before has been important to me during this class,” Valentine says. Her collection included materials she had never used before as well as her first attempt at designing and sewing menswear. “We like to learn from our mistakes here.”

Textile student projects

Third, the opportunity to build a portfolio. Threads allows students to create garments using industry-level materials and techniques. Each collection goes through a series of critiques from the students and professor.

Students in design studio

The course also provides students with the resources to showcase these portfolio pieces. Professional media teams photograph each look in a studio and take photos and videos of the garments on the runway. This year, the designers’ work will even be featured in a virtual reality gallery. 

Immerse Yourself In the Future of Fashion

Teaching assistant Cecilia Monge and Annett-Hitchcock partnered with the D.H. Library to create the immersive virtual reality gallery for this year’s show. Monge used an application to automatically take photos of each garment as she walked around it, rendering a 3-D model. Then she worked with the library’s virtual reality studio to create a reception room.

The collections

Some designers chose to create marketable, ready-to-wear looks. Kelsey Brown put her own spin on the academia trend for her collection.

“Instead of the darker and heavier fabrics, I’m using lighter weight fabrics in hopes that you could possibly wear academia-inspired clothing year-round rather than just during the wintertime.”

For other designers, fashion served as an artistic medium to make a statement. Caroline Forsyth created her collection completely out of found materials. She used everything from grocery bags to old canvas hammocks. She hopes the audience left with a new perspective on how they can incorporate sustainability into their wardrobe. 

“‘Orbit’ is inspired by my optimistic perception of the future of fashion,” she says. 

Diversity and heritage also served as a large source of inspiration for this year’s collections. 

Talya Suber paints an idealistic portrait of their culture’s future with their collection, “Afrofuturism.”

“I kind of want it to be like a honoring my ancestors and also creating this new future where there’s just all this Black hope and love,” Suber says. “So I’ve incorporated science-fiction-inspired patterns and fabrics.”

Saajana Bhakta’s collection, “Radha” celebrates her South-Asian heritage and the way she best identifies with it.

“I grew up in a first-generation immigrant household in a primarily white community,” the Asheville native says. “So I felt a little out of touch with my culture, but the one thing that I felt most connected to was the clothing, and I want to be able to bring that kind of clothing into the Western world.”

That inspiration translated into embroidery, sparkles, jewel tones, flowing fabrics and asymmetrical silhouettes. 

A lack of accessibility in the fashion industry motivated master’s students Sabrina Martin and Mary Grace Wilder. The pair created a collection of ready-to-wear looks that customers with any range of physical abilities and attributes could feel confident and comfortable wearing. 

One emotion tied each of the show’s collections together: pride. 

“It’s definitely the highlight of my college career,” Bhakta says. “Nothing I’m going to do is ever going to be greater than that.”

Stream Threads Fashion Show

If you missed this year’s show or just want to relive the magic, you can watch the livestream.