A Runway of Genius Designs

Mary Peters-

Duct tape, trash bags, paper doilies, tissue, newspaper, cotton balls – all very suitable for creating clothing, right? Normally, no; however, for Fashion Without Fabric, it’s a requirement. In the words of Robert Atwell: this show is “the School of Art and Design’s take on a fashion show, with the caveat that you can’t actually use any fabric/textiles for your fashion project.”

Robert Atwell is the School of Art and Design Foundations Coordinator. For Fashion Without Fabric, Atwell is the supervisor of the student coordinator who runs the show, Rebecca Sheahan. “She’s completely in charge of the show, from getting the runway ordered and set up via the tech crew at the MSC—Trevor and that crew are great to work with—going to all the classes and talking with the 200+ students that are in the show and working with the faculty, coordinating the volunteers, ordering tickets, getting judges, the works,” explained Atwell.

The theme for this year is “Real Genius,” which uses the MacArthur Foundation’s Fellowship winners. Each 3D Design student must incorporate this theme into their fabrications. Atwell described the root of the theme,  saying it “uses the MacArthur Foundation’s Fellowship Winners, which are awarded to individuals for their life’s work. The geniuses are varied from artists and writers to human rights activists and economists. Thinking about how to design a project by synthesizing human rights in Third World countries makes the students think about design in a much different way.”

Cynthia Bland, a judge for this year’s show, explained that there are many benefits for the students in the show: “Students learn to work with one another in the classroom, develop their ideas from their first sketches to the final product and have a hands-on interaction with unique materials.”

Atwell believes University of WisconsinStout started holding this show about 16 years ago. Katy Maury, a professor for 3D Design, started out holding it for just a few course sections. “Now all our 3D Design sections participate, and it has become something of a must-see show. The show sells out 650 seats annually, and now students compete for a $1000 scholarship prize, which is in its fourth year. The students create their projects in only 3 weeks,” expressed Atwell.

Fashion Without Fabric is held over Family Weekend, so students’ families are likely more able to attend. Atwell noted one of his favorite parts of being involved is “seeing reactions to the show, and getting feedback from [the audience] on what they think.  It’s been great to have students work towards something in a short amount of time and see them in front of such a large crowd.”

Bland agreed with his thoughts, saying, “It’s so fun for me to see the students outside of the classroom setting, proud of their hard work and confident in front of a large audience.” An intense and miraculous show to pull off, Fashion Without Fabric is well rewarded and well appreciated by many. From elaborate found material dresses to fashion pieces held together with little more than hot glue and prayers, UWStout’s 3D design students put out their best to spark excitement from the audience, and will for years to come.