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Designer Celine Borthayre ’21 Makes Her NYFW Debut

Celine Borthayre (center) poses for a group photo with two models wearing her designs standing on either side of her. All five people stand in front of a NYFW step-and-repeat and smile at the camera.

By Sarah Stone

Some fashion designers work their entire careers for the chance to see their collections debut during New York Fashion Week. Celine Borthayre earned the opportunity within just two years of her graduation from the Wilson College of Textiles. 

Borthayre (B.S. Fashion and Textile Design ’21) was just about two months removed from launching her own business, designing custom gowns for editorial photographers and other clients, when a friend from high school called with a big opportunity.

“My friend is working  with a company called Fashion Week Haus, one of the firms that puts on NYFW,  and they had a last-minute runway show opening for a designer that needed to be filled quickly,” Borthayre says.  “So she called me up to see if I would be interested.”

There was a catch – Borthayre would have to have a 10-piece collection ready for the runway within 10 days. 

“It took me a second to get over the fear of it,” she admits. “At first, I told her, ‘Thank you for thinking of me, but it’s not gonna work out right now.’ Then, after I hung up the phone, I thought about it for 10 minutes and realized I would be crazy to not take that opportunity.”

Preparing for a runway show in 10 days

In order to make sure she had enough NYFW-caliber looks ready, Borthayre included all of the dresses from the collection she designed for her fashion design capstone course. “The Swing,” a Rococo era painting by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, provided the inspiration for “Dawn of Love.” 

To that, she added dresses she had designed for clients. The remaining two dresses Borthayre designed in a matter of days continue to build on what she calls her “running through a meadow aesthetic.”

“Highlighting femininity is a really big part of it. I love ruffles and frills and delicate details like hand beading and smocking. But then I also appreciate the structure and corsetry that accentuates the female form,” Borthayre explains. 

Developing the collection was only the start of the work she put into developing a NYFW show on a deadline. 

“During that time, I was also working to collaborate with the show coordinators about my runway music, logo, and set design. I was also communicating with models and figuring out their measurements and deciding which pieces worked best with which model, then adjusting those garments to their measurements.”

Design education in and out of the classroom

Borthayre says her experience at the Wilson College of Textiles equipped her to turn around high-quality apparel on such a tight deadline. 

“A deadline motivates me like nothing else,” she says. “I was really in my zone, and I haven’t felt that kind of hustle since I was in college making my senior collection.” 

Fashion illustration shows four models wearing sketches of Borthayre's final designs for senior collection.
A fashion illustration Borthayre drew of the looks in her FTD Emerging Designers senior collection.

During her four years at NC State, Borthayre also found her footing in the runway show environment. In addition to her senior collection, she developed collections for both the African American Textile Society’s Fashion Exposé and Greensboro Fashion Week. 

“Our professors were very encouraging of us participating in outside-the-classroom opportunities and they understood how beneficial they were to our growth. I think those shows are where I built a lot of my skills as a designer, as well in the classroom. Many of the sewing skills that I have, I learned in the studio courses and then perfected on my own.” 

She also lists her internship with Wilson College alumna Lisa N. Hoang as one of the college experiences that shaped her into a NYFW-caliber designer. Hoang, a luxury designer whose clients include celebrities like Bella Thorne, launched a collection at NYFW while she herself was still a student. Borthayre spent a semester working as Hoang’s sewing intern.

“I honed a lot of sewing skills while I was doing that,” Borthayre says. “But I also think it was just so valuable and encouraging to see her run her business and to learn what it took for her to do that successfully.”

Supporting younger Wilson College designers

It’s no surprise, then, that when Borthayre saw an opportunity to pay it forward to another member of the Wilson College Wolfpack, she didn’t think twice. 

Scrolling through Instagram one night, she saw that fashion design student Jasmine VanBlon was in Manhattan for a program called U of NYFW. Borthayre immediately reached out to VanBlon and secured a spot for the sophomore at her show. 

“I was just in a new element,” she says. “And even though my parents were there, I knew it would make me feel better to see somebody from NC State. After the show, we got a chance to meet and we talked about all of those first-year studio projects like the circle skirt and the 60  drawings. I remember it like it was yesterday.”

She’s already started to view NYFW as a catalyst for her business. 

“Since the show, I’ve gotten a lot  of interest in custom pieces, which has been exciting. I was also able to connect with so many cool people in the industry. There are lots of business cards that I’m planning on pursuing.”