SAIC’s graduating seniors prepare to present their final collections
by Britany Robinson
Art marries fashion in SAIC’s Department of Fashion Design, and the school’s annual fashion show illustrates that — not only in terms of the show’s locale, but also in the hoards of fashion and art aficionados who pay up to $500 to see the avant-garde work of up-and-coming fashion designers, as well.
For graduating seniors, it is the culmination of four years of hard work and the ultimate satisfaction of completing a program founded on “survival of the fittest.”
Grace Lee Eunhae and Tahlia Elinoff are both graduating this May. With less than a month until the big show, both girls sat down with F Newsmagazine in their studio to discuss their time at SAIC and their still-developing final collections.
Elinoff cites Dick Tracy comics and the exaggerated shapes of the 1940s as major influences on her work. Her completed looks include a billowy blouse with an enhanced, pouffy neckline and structured A-line skirt that sculpturally exaggerates the protrusion of a woman’s hips. At home in her studio, her own outfit — a chic floral sundress and leggings — mirrors the femininity and simplicity of her designs.
On the other end of the spectrum, Eunhae has created a menswear collection that challenges the perception of men’s fashion as “boring.” The sleeves she struggles to assemble on her mannequin measure around four feet long and hang to the floor like tiered slinkies. This is just one example of her interest in unlikely shapes and exaggerated forms.
“I think it’s funny when you take something that’s so intimate and you blow it up into this big thing and it just becomes a joke,” Eunhae said regarding the exposed boxers and sagging waistline of a pair of pants she paired with the slinky sleeves.
The fashion department’s class of 2010 is a testament to the program’s difficulty. Eunhae and Elinoff began their undergraduate studies with roughly 60 classmates, and only 14 graduating seniors have earned the honor of presenting their collections at FASHION 2010 — the rest have dropped out along the way.
Both Eunhae and Elinoff admit that it’s been a difficult journey. Eunhae recalls an early critique with a particularly harsh teacher, in which she broke down in tears, overwhelmed by the criticism and the lack of sleep that students in the department frequently endure. “People don’t understand how much work goes into the fashion department,” remarks Elinoff. “Everything is just so time-consuming.”
Despite the hours of work, Eunhae and Elinoff both appreciate the unique approach that SAIC and the city of Chicago take towards fashion. “It’s a lot more conceptual,” said Eunhae of SAIC’s program, when comparing it to other schools.
“You’re free to express what you want in fashion, which you can’t do in New York. New York is more confined by mainstream media.” Elinoff agrees, admitting that Chicago lacks an impressive fashion “scene,” but makes up for it with their “fashion as art” approach.
Nick Cave, an SAIC fashion professor, echoes the “fashion as art” philosophy in the fashion show’s official press release: “The Art Institute of Chicago provides a vibrant cultural resource for our students, and through this extraordinary event we are proud to shine a spotlight on the many ways that SAIC students are also making significant artistic contributions to the fabric of the museum.”
How do Eunhae and Elinoff feel about this spotlight? An understandable mix of elation and fear seems to motivate both graduating seniors to ensure that every last detail of their collection is perfectly completed. Elinoff can’t wait to see her garments on the models when they walk the runway, and Eunhae is looking forward to seeing her parents in the audience.
When the lights go down and the music comes on, all of the hours of sketching, sewing and disheartening critiques will be well worth it. The fashion show allows graduating seniors to present themselves and their work as the future of fashion — to the school, the city, and the greater fashion community. It’s their time to shine, and they’ll do it in style.