The School of the Art Institute Chicago (SAIC) has one of the most renown fashion programs in the country, boasting an impressive alumni list that includes: Halston, Cynthia Rowley, Lawrence Steele, J. Morgan Puett, Eunwha Kim, Maria Pinto, Gary Graham and Matthew Ames. Known for their emphasis on concept and embracing of the avant-garde, there’s no question that SAIC fashion designers are incredibly talented – any opportunity to see their wearable art is a distinct treat.
On Thursday May 5, SAIC hosted their 77th annual fashion show, FASHION 2011, in Millenium Park. Throughout the day there were a series of runway events showcasing the garments and collections students have been working on throughout the year. The sophomores each showed one look that was made of cotton and could only be dyed through the grey scale, and the juniors and seniors presented mini collections, with the juniors showing three looks and the seniors showing five.
In addition to the 9am, noon and 3pm shows, there was also THE WALK 2011, a benefit gala during which the department honors one Legend of Fashion and a prestigious set of scholarships to chosen students. This year, Ikram Goldman was the Legend of Fashion, and her award was introduced and presented by Sally Singer, fashion editor of T, the New York Times Style Magazine. In THE WALK’s front row, Laura and Kate Mulleavy of Rodarte, as well as Jason Wu and J. Crew’s Jenna Lyons (who sponsored a one-year scholarship at J. Crew in New York, awarded to senior Erin Pianetto) were present, supporting both their mentor, Ikram, and the fashion students. Although unable to attend, the Proenza Schouler boys also made their mark, awarding a one year internship in New York to senior Jacqueline Kim.
Having had the distinct pleasure to attend all four shows, I can attest that the event was a rousing success. The students showed a wide range of work, spanning everything from whimsical costuming (like junior Cyndi Outarsingh’s homage to ‘90s clubs kids, which featured men in heels and one very precariously placed stuffed animal) to impeccable ready-to-wear (senior Amanda Bauer’s chic, sleek wide-legged trousers and silky blouses were among my favorite looks of the whole show) and I was so impressed by their explorations of shape, movement, story-telling, and construction.
Other personal favorites included senior Bonnie Alayne’s collection, which featured gorgeous antler headdresses and voluminous-skirted gowns paying homage to a woodsy utopia of her own making. Sophomore Savannah Cipriano was a definite crowd favorite, showing a gorgeous origami-inspired skirt lifting out from the body in triangular angles, accented by hand-painted geometric lines. Per my own personal obsession with billowy, over-sized blouses, I loved senior Danijela Neric’s silky black tunics, highlighted by various stripes that accentuated her incredible draping skills. Although I love the experimentation of SAIC designers, I was thrilled to see something that I could envision in my closet — hopefully she’s taking orders! Junior Silvio Pinto’s urban aesthetic no doubt made his aunt, Maria Pinto (who sat front row at the 3pm show), proud. I loved his deconstructed tulle skirt and structured leather jacket. His collection possessed an edginess that was both uniquely fashion forward, and wearable.
To continue trying to single out notable designers is a nearly impossible task, for I was so impressed by the students’ ability to successfully realize their very inventive concepts (Erin Pianetto’s exploration of “night terrors” was absolutely beautiful, and worth every bit of her new internship at J. Crew), and juniors Laura Dodd and Jordan Jenner showed incredibly finessed design and construction skills in their dynamic collections (both 2011 CFDA award winners at the college level, Dodd’s angular exploration of a destroyed civilization was powerful in her deconstructed femininity, and Jenner’s striking all-black collection was both moving and haunting, inspired by musicians who have lost their limbs).
For those of you who didn’t make it this year, I would suggest getting tickets for next year. The SAIC fashion folk are some pretty amazing designers, and clearly, judging by this year’s star-studded front row, the world’s taking notice.
Photos: Second City Style