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Student Success

See How Seniors Capped Off a Fashion Design Education

Models wearing student designs

For graduating fashion design (FD) students at the Wilson College of Textiles, the most exciting “walk across the stage” of their college career isn’t the one they’ll make in a cap and gown. Instead, it’s the path they take behind a line of models wearing their designs. 

Seniors earning their B.S. in Fashion and Textile Design develop a collection each spring for the degree’s capstone course. Each student in the FD concentration must create either six or eight looks for the FTD Emerging Designers Showcase, depending on whether or not they’re enrolled in the accelerated bachelor’s/master’s program

The student designers have complete creative freedom in choosing the inspiration for their collections. As opposed to a typical instructor role, faculty in this course serve as a guide, mentor and resource to help students achieve their goals. 

“It was rewarding to see how the students grew in the past few years,” Associate Professor Minyoung Suh says. She taught many of the student designers in other courses before they entered this Emerging Designers class in spring 2022. “I can see that they’re developing their skills and improving their professionalism from diverse perspectives.”

Sustainability as a Starting Point 

This year, some designers focused on taking “sustainability fashion” from buzzword to reality. Mara Harris used no-waste pattern-making techniques to create each of the looks in her collection, “Kinship.”

“I tried to think about pattern making in an unconventional way to where I’d use all of the fabric that I have for each of the pieces,” Mara says. “So I shaped the front, back, sleeves and other pieces of the garment in a way that they fit together kind of like a puzzle and none of the fabric is wasted.”

An independent study with Professor Kate Annett-Hitchcock that focused on no-waste patternmaking set her up for success with this innovative approach. 

“Kinship” | Mara Harris

Click image thumbnail to expand.

Emma Harris used all upcycled fabrics and materials in her collection “Reclaimed.” This sourcing gave unique character to her pieces, including silk covered in a kitschy golf print that she used for suit lining. It also, however, demanded a new level of care and precision. 

“The absolute biggest challenge was my limited quantity of the fabrics that I really like. I had one shot when I cut it out,” Emma says. “It was a lot of prototyping to make sure that when I cut into that fabric, I wasn’t wasting it because I couldn’t find it again.”

Putting a Bachelor of Science to Work in the Studio 

To achieve the cohesion and color palette required of a professional-caliber collection, Emma had to dye her own fabrics. While her STEM fashion education provided her with some basic knowledge of color chemistry, Emma ran into a unique problem: her up-cycled fabrics didn’t come with any information about their composition. 

However, she had an expert ready to help just down the hall. Jeffrey Krauss, manager of the college’s Dyeing and Finishing Lab, performed burn tests on fabric samples to learn more about their yarns. That gave Emma the information she needed to dye her fabrics using the lab’s industrial-grade equipment. 

“It was nice to be involved in a different aspect of what I usually do with textiles and fashion,” she says. 

“Reclaimed” | Emma Harris

Anne Graf put her physics double-major to use for her collection “(R) Magic.” Her looks incorporated everything from string lights to fiber optic cables and soldered metal accents. She even 3-D printed a topic with motorized elements. 

Prior knowledge in mini-computers and coding helped her execute some of these innovative designs, but she chalks most of her success to trial and error.

She plans to use this collection to apply to graduate physics programs. 

“A lot of it is showing admissions that I can creatively solve problems because this is stuff that nobody has done before,” she says.

“(R) Magic” | Anne Graf

Using Fashion to “Take Up Space” 

The Emerging Designers runway provided Schuyler Broadway with the opportunity to spotlight his community and lived experience. 

“It’s really based on my experiences as a queer and trans person in the fetishwear community,” he says. 

Model wears student designs: orange tulle shirtdress with black leather harness.
“Behind Closed Doors” by Schuyler Broadway.

The collection, “Behind Closed Doors,” served not only as a message, but also as a celebration. To make that celebration authentic, Broadway chose all trans models, many of whom are coworkers from NC State’s GLBT Center

“Every look was custom-fit not only to their measurements, but also  to their personality and their style,” he explains.

Model wears student design on the runway: blue puffer vest dress with attached cape made of the same material.
“Optic Burst” by Sarah Jarrell.

Sarah Jarrell also found inspiration in her NC State community for her collection, “Optic Burst.”

“I am kind of trying to market towards the rave culture, which is really big within the Asian culture and Asian-American culture,” she says. “A lot of my friends go to raves. But a lot of rave clothing tends to show a lot of skin, so I designed my collection for people who maybe don’t want to wear something as revealing, but still want to wear something fun, unique and flashy.”

What’s Next? 

The skills and portfolios these students developed have helped them land jobs at Abercrombie & Fitch, Under Armour, Kohl’s and more. 

“I’ve definitely pushed myself more creatively than in the past. And even technically, what I’ve made for this collection is much more difficult,” Carley Plummer says of her collection “Beauty and the Mundane.” “I’ve gained a lot of confidence and it’s shown me that I do really have the ability to become a designer.” 

Explore more FTD Emerging Designers’ Collections: