Chicago Fashion Foundation’s (CFF) hosted its 6th annual scholarship benefit at the Hard Rock Hotel on March 21. The annual event, which serves as a celebration of the local, emerging fashion community, focused this year’s theme around the “Threads of Time.” It was the first time in six years that the show sold out.
Fifteen student designer finalists representing local fashion colleges competed for scholarship prizes. Following the theme of this year’s show, the emerging designers were instructed to choose a time period as their inspiration. The judges were some of the best in Chicago’s fashion scene, including handbag designer and Project Accessory contestant, Diego Rocha, and Macy’s VP of Media Relations, Andrea Schwartz.
Before the student contestants got their chance to have their designs rip the runway, viewers got the chance to see the 2013 capsule collection from Elena Bobysheva, the designer who took home the $5,000 grand prize in last year’s competition with her Ukrainian Village inspired look.
Bobysheva stuck to what she knew best for her collection, using black as her base, and blending in printed lace and classic silhouettes. You can’t deny the adorability of her designs. It was interesting to see her growth from student designer to emerging designer. In fact, helping students merge the gap is what the CFF competition is all about.
While many of the student designs were great, two of the looks really stood out, and should have been in the running for first place. Dominican University’s Erin VonKannon created a dramatic wire cage dress that was very avant garde. While I loved the idea behind VonKannon’s design, it was Harper College’s Myra Chung that really stole the show for me. Chung, who came in 3rd place, got “Gone with the Wind” fabulous with her piece influenced by the 1860’s. The white cocktail dress, with intricate ruffles and beading, really looked like a piece Natalie Portman would have worn in Black Swan. The construction of the dress and the elaborate details coupled with the styling (it was worn as a tunic with cigarette pants) completelly won me over.
While I was rooting for Chung, it was the “celebration of life” piece by Harper College’s Agnes Hamerlik that snagged the highly coveted grand prize, the $5000 scholarship check named in honor of patron Doris Scott Behr. The design wasn’t commercial, but it struck a cord with the judges as well as the audience because it told a story: the celebration of life and its complexity, from beginning to end. The cut-out hand stitching on the sleeves and the hand-cut, yarn heart really captured my attention. I see a future in fashion costumes for Hamerlik.
Scholarship competitions like “Future of Chicago Fashion” are very necessary. Each year, the student designers bring their passion and stories to life in the form of their designs. It is always interesting to see what they create during the early phases, not tainted by the pressures of generating capital. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the next go ’round.
Which piece was your favorite?
Photos credited to David Stephens Photography, unless otherwise noted.