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NC State Seniors Design What’s Next in Fashion, Fiber Art, Home Textiles

A line of models walks down the runway, with the audience visible in the background. All models wear bright shiny fabrics with floral details.
"Luck in the Garden" by Martha Luck Johnston takes the runway. Photo Courtesy: Amanda Law Photography.

For college seniors, the spring semester is full of traditions and rights of passage – from graduation parties to picking up their caps and gowns. Fashion and textile design (FTD) students at the Wilson College of Textiles have a unique addition to that list: the FTD Emerging Designers Showcase, where they launch their industry-caliber capstone collections. 

Students in the fashion design concentration are tasked with developing a cohesive apparel collection for the runway made of six to eight looks. Textile design students create collections for exhibition-style spaces with at least 10 pieces. What they present at the showcase represents hours of work in Wilson College studios and labs throughout their semester-long capstone course.

“It was a very special experience for our cohort to be back in the studio again in our last class,” new fashion design alumna Lilly Barozzini says.

From the collection “Morning Meditation” by Lilly Barozzini. Photo Courtesy: Amanda Law Photography.
“Jolie” by Mary Mac Lyons. Photo Courtesy: Amanda Law Photography.

Free to Create

The freedom and breadth of Emerging Designers is what truly sets the class apart from the other studio courses in the FTD curriculum. Designers make the greatest number of pieces in this course, and they have complete creative freedom over the inspiration, target market and type of end products they make. 

This lack of constraints leads to a rich diversity of collections on the runway and in the showroom. Some designers use their collections to build an impressive portfolio for jobs in the ready-to-wear and home textile market. 

Sloane Byrd adjusts a prototype for a look in her collection “Bright Young Things.”

Others see the course as a unique opportunity to communicate their artistic vision at a grand scale. 

“I already had a lot of traditional textile design in my portfolio,” textile design graduate Lilly Carl Richards says. “And I thought, ‘When else in my life am I going to be able to create a textile arts collection like this? I might as well do it now.”

No matter which direction they choose to go in, every designer uses their collection as an opportunity to incorporate new techniques and approaches into their portfolio, from French shirring and couture detailing to by-hand textile techniques. 

Chiana Royal prototypes the supports that will make the look on the right possible.
Royal’s engineered look on the runway. Photo Courtesy: Amanda Law Photography.

“I’ve been taking a very much an engineering approach to one of the pieces of my collection, which has been very challenging because I have no background in that,” Chiana Royal says of her fashion collection. “I’ve created these complex support structures. I’ve also just really been experimenting with a lot of different materials I’ve never used before.”

Throughout the process, Emerging Designers Co-Directors Emily Law and Traci Lamar instructors serve as repositories of knowledge as well as built-in mentors. 

Sydney Brown (left) gets advice on her collection from Assistant Professor Emily Law, who directs the fashion design section of FTD Emerging Designers.

“She’s been really helpful with decision making,” fashion design graduate Sydney Brown says about Assistant Professor Emily Law. “When I start getting frazzled by all the options I have in front of me and overwhelmed by all the sketches I’ve made, she’s been so helpful in keeping me on track, keeping me focused and helping me pick the best option.” 

“She definitely offers just a lot of guidance and knowledge,” Richards says of Professor Traci Lamar.

Below, take a closer look at the inspiration and processes behind just a few of this year’s amazing collections.

Inspired by History

Learning How to Fall | Sydney Brown

Sydney Brown’s maximalist, eclectic collection makes a statement about dressing first and foremost for yourself.

“My inspiration for this collection is based around my memories as a kid of wanting to wear these elaborate or funky outfits and then getting worried about what people might say,” she says. “It’s about being able to let go and not reducing the ideas I have for an outfit or a look.”

The collection features strong visual references to the Victorian era and other historical fashions. Brown says her job as an archivist at Raleigh Vintage has helped shape her unique point of view.

“I get to look through a lot of runway shows from anywhere from the late ’70s to early 2000s,” she says. “I’ve gotten to see online and also see in person a lot of really crazy stuff that I didn’t think I’d ever get to see in person and analyze.”

Brown works on a corset that was incorporated into a look in the bottom right photo.
“I’ve been able to push myself with the styling of the collection, and that’s something that I’m interested in doing post-graduation,” Brown says. Photo Courtesy: Amanda Law Photography.
“I wanted it to be less rooted in a specific era and more rooted in my own point of view,” she says. Photo Courtesy: Amanda Law Photography.

Blind Tiger + Bright Young Things | Cadee Gafford and Sloane Byrd

Fashion designer Sloane Byrd and textile designer Cadee Gafford both took inspiration from the Roaring ’20s for their Emerging Designers collections.

Blind Tiger is Cadee Gafford’s interpretation of a modern speakeasy. Byrd’s collection is named for the nickname given to young, wealthy London socialites in the 1920s.

A photoshoot pairing the 1920s inspired collections designed by Sloane Byrd and Cadee Gafford brings both the textile and fashion designs to life. Photo Courtesy: Cadee Gafford.
Photo Courtesy: Amanda Law Photography.
Photo Courtesy: Cadee Gafford.

Divine Opulence | Natalia Barnack

Natalia Barnack’s collection takes inspiration from the motifs, colors and maximalism of Baroque Era art and churches.

“This collection goes beyond mere aesthetics, tapping into the emotive power of sacred art,” she writes in her artist’s statement.

Natalia Barnack puts the finishing touches on a leotard for her collection. She adorned each look by hand.
Photo Courtesy: Amanda Law Photography.
Photo Courtesy: Amanda Law Photography.

Storytelling through fashion

The Puppeteer’s Workshop | Erika Norris

Erika Norris plays the role of a seamstress working for “an unstable, highly skilled puppeteer” who sets beautiful but forgotten marionettes free in her collection “The Puppeteer’s Workshop.”

She used luxury fabrics, hand sewing and fabric manipulation to show the decayed nature of these artisan toys that have been brought to life. Each model wore strings newly clipped to help the puppet escape and walked the runway with the gate of a marionette.

“The Puppeteer’s Workshop” by Erika Norris. Photo Courtesy: Amanda Law Photography.
“The Puppeteer’s Workshop” by Erika Norris. Photo Courtesy: Amanda Law Photography.
“The Puppeteer’s Workshop” by Erika Norris. Photo Courtesy: Amanda Law Photography.

Tragic Delights | Chiana Royal

Ancient marriage rituals served as the point of departure for Chiana Royal’s collection “Tragic Delights.”

“One that I found that’s been prevalent throughout history in different cultures is that if two people died before they’re able to be wed or a husband died in war and left a widow, then they could be married from beyond the grave,” she says.

This dark expression of everlasting love inspired Royal to create looks representing five characters that have each passed away: a groom, a bride, a priest, a flower girl and a ring bearer.

“I think what I’ve learned most is that kind of embracing things that seem very challenging and very difficult or just like a pipe dream,” she says. “When you push past that fear, you’ll end up doing it and you learn so much from that.”

“Tragic Delights” by Chiana Royal. Photo Courtesy: Amanda Law Photography.
“Tragic Delights” by Chiana Royal. Photo Courtesy: Amanda Law Photography.

Fiber Art

Memory Palace | Chase Woodson

Chase Woodson’s senior collection is a commentary on how memories are preserved and distorted through time.

“Over the summer we had the clean up an old storage room that was full of boxes stuff of my grandmother’s and stuff of my dad’s and stuff from my childhood that I’d forgotten about,” she says. “It really just got me thinking about why those items have been stored so carefully and held onto throughout generations. What stories are hidden in these everyday objects that every family has in a box of things that they keep?”

These family artifacts and memories are intended to prompt conversations about memory rather than serving as a visual history, Woodson clarifies.

“The abstraction is an important part of each of the pieces. I think since I’m working with such personal material, I didn’t want it to become so much about the particular stories of my family,” Woodson says. “I wanted to ultimately create pieces that anyone could look at and kind of understand in some way.”

“I’ve tried to challenge myself by combining different methods in one piece, whether that’s digital printing and weaving or two-card weaving and screen printing,” Woodson says. Photo Courtesy: Amanda Law Photography.
Photo Credit: Amanda Law Photography.
Photo Credit: Amanda Law Photography.

A Family Dinner | Lilly Carl Richards

Lilly Carl Richards also found inspiration in stories of the past and present told around the family dinner table.

She translated that inspiration by developing an entire collection of depictions of old family photos in textiles, from quilting to digital printing, embroidery and photo-realistic Jacquard weaving.

“I’ve used a lot of photography in my work, Richards says. “So it’s always about finding new ways to translate that to textiles.” Photo Courtesy: Amanda Law Photography.
Photo Courtesy: Amanda Law Photography.
Photo Courtesy: Amanda Law Photography.

Designed by Milo McKnight

Photo Courtesy: Amanda Law Photography.
Photo courtesy: Amanda Law Photography.
Photo Courtesy: Amanda Law Photography.

Home Textile Collections

Mary Mac Lyons hand weaves a textile that will be used for a table runner and textile samples (below) in her collection “Jolie.” She drew inspiration from both Parisian and Palm Beach interior design styles.
Photo Courtesy: Amanda Law Photography.
Photo Courtesy: Amanda Law Photography.
“Serendipity” by Hope Warner is inspired by the vibrant life and personality of a childhood friend. Photo Courtesy: Amanda Law Photography.
Kenli Esau works on a quilt for her home textile collection “Aleta,” which was inspired by her visits to Ocracoke Island as a child.
The collection’s name references a historic mail boat to call to mind the island’s remote history. Photo Courtesy: Amanda Law Photography.
“Eighteen Thirty” is a reflection on Joanna Gulley’s childhood in rural North Carolina with her sister. Photo Courtesy: Amanda Law Photography.
Rand Dunnigan’s collection “Growth” is a reference to her growth as a designer at the Wilson College as well as the flora and fauna of tropical regions around the world. Photo Courtesy: Amanda Law Photography.
“I hope to instill a sense of serenity one would feel in the tropics through this collection while continuing to stay true to my maximalist design sense,” Dunnigan writes in her artist’s statement. Photo Courtesy: Amanda Law Photography.