“A positive change in the world” – The Source

The Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts presents its 93rd Annual Fashion Design Show on April 30th. The picture on the left shows examples from the “Wild”, “Venus” and “Future” collections. (Designers: Bridget Halliday, Olivia Baba and Kate Ward. Photos: Patrick Lanham. Make-up: Randi Nicole. Hair: Dominic Michael Salon)

Fashion is many things – an art, a calling, a passion, a business.

But fashion can also be a force for good, said Mary Ruppert-Stroescu, associate professor and director of fashion design at the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis.

“Fashion can create positive change in the world,” said Ruppert-Stroescu, an authority on sustainable design and the way technology is shaping fashion innovation. “Our students excel in design, but also in pushing the boundaries of how fashion can support society and help preserve our planet for future generations.”

On Saturday, April 30th at 7pm, the Sam Fox School will present WashU’s 93rd Annual Fashion Design Show. The event is one of the oldest such shows in the US and will feature dozens of models wearing dozens of outfits that collectively explore themes of sustainability, accessibility, structure and more.

Looks from the Venus collection. Pants and top Kate Ward. Green wrap dress and pink dress from Olivia Baba. White dress by Maddie Savitch. (Styling Olivia Baba and Lambo Perkins. Photos Patrick Lanham. Make-up Randi Nicole. Hair Dominic Michael Salon.)

Tactile experience

“Many of the works in this exhibition are inspired by materials,” said Ruppert-Stroescu. She pointed out that consumer fashion is often filtered through photography and popular media, while contemporary designers often use digital tools to develop patterns. “But a pattern made of silk or muslin will look and feel very different than the same pattern made of brocade or recycled cotton.”

Attention to the tactile experience is manifested in the inaugural collection of special-occasion outfits—17 in all—created as part of Made to Model, an all-volunteer program that WashU designers work with youth from the Special School District of St. Louis brings together County, Variety STL and KEEN (Kids Enjoy Exercise Now) St. Louis. Founded last summer by Arts & Sciences student Shelei Pan, the group creates clothing for students with disabilities who may have difficulty wearing standard sizes and cuts, or who may be sensitive to certain colors, patterns or textures.

“Our goal is to raise awareness of the importance of fashion for people of all abilities,” Pan told the WashU Source last fall. “And in return, encourage inclusivity and awareness.”

Looks from the Wild collection. Bridget Halliday dress. Skirt, top and gloves Josie Zimmerman. Crochet top by Sophie Roig; crocheted skirt by Mackenzie-Mary Llewellyn. Pants and top Nisha Mani. (Styling Angela Clemente Faith Phillips. Photos Patrick Lanham. Make-up Randi Nicole. Hair Dominic Michael Salon.)

From ‘Daybreak’ to ‘Nocturnal’

The next collection, entitled “Daybreak”, features strong, hand-woven knitwear. ‘Venus’ highlights loose, spring-inspired garments in soft pastel tones. “Elemental” shifts the palette to earth tones, while “Reflection” showcases cool, shimmering fabrics that shine like water. “Wild” pays homage to festival culture (including WashU’s own outdoor concert series) through vintage “upcycled” fabrics and crochet.

“Knitting and crocheting are extremely sustainable methods,” emphasizes Ruppert-Stroescu. “You use the exact amount of material that the finished piece contains. There is no waste.”

Next is Future, with sharp, angular lines and smooth, saturated colors, followed by Disruption (experimental looks), Polish (tailored coats) and Unwind (kimono jackets made from recycled muslin). The program closes with Geode, which draws inspiration from geological formations, and Nocturnal, which brings together a variety of formal looks.

Looks from the Reflection collection. Green and cream shirt, tan pants, and beaded dress by Zinaida Calixte. Blue shirt and navy pants from Katherine Dudley. (Styling Jaitsiri Ahluwalia, CJ Benn and Jess Piard. Photos Patrick Lanham. Make-up Randi Nicole. Hair Dominic Michael Salon.)

An important skill

The 93rdapprox The annual Fashion Design Show is organized by students of the Ruppert Stroescu Course in Fashion Promotion and Exhibition, which deals with topics related to fashion marketing and public relations.

Ruppert-Stroescu launched the class – which is open to students from across the university – in spring 2020. When the COVID-19 pandemic forced the suspension of large gatherings, the class quickly flipped and organized the 2020 and 2021 fashion design shows as online Events and accompanying social media campaigns.

“This is the first year that the class organizes the fashion design show as an in-person event,” explained Ruppert-Stroescu. “It is a great opportunity and an important learning experience for all of our students.

“It’s an important skill for designers to present their work professionally.”

Looks from the Future collection. Fuchsia and pink dress by Maddie Savitch. Black and blue dress by Zinaida Calixte. Black and white dress by Lena Cramer. (Styling Caroline Chang and Soohoon Oh. Photos Patrick Lanham. Make-up Randi Nicole. Hair Dominic Michael Salon.)

Sponsors and Awards

The Fashion Design Show is coordinated by Ruppert-Stroescu and sponsored by Mother Model Management, Caleres, Evolution St. Louis, Stars Design Group and Tacony Corporation, with support from Dominic Bertani, Randi Nicole and Susan Sanders Block.

The evening will also feature several departmental awards including:

  • The Saks Fifth Avenue Awards, which recognize six students who demonstrate exceptional creativity and marketability in their work. The selected students’ looks will be on display at the Saks Fifth Avenue store on Plaza Frontenac in May.
  • The Dominic Michael Cutting Edge Award, which highlights the unique connections between hair design and garment design. The award will recognize the student whose work most convincingly incorporates colour, texture and volume.
  • The Susan Sanders Block Silver Ripper Award is presented to the young fashion design student who has shown the greatest determination and growth.
  • The Riverbend Textiles Sustainable Design Leadership Award is presented to students who have promoted sustainable clothing design through active leadership and original fashion design work.
  • The Fashion Citizenship Award is presented to an outstanding sophomore fashion designer who has demonstrated good citizenship and community involvement.
  • The Stars Design Group Lead Design Talent Award, presented to a student with high business potential; The price includes mentoring and studio space.
Looks from the Polish collection. Brown coat with fur from Zinaida Calixte. Black coat with gold brocade from Maddie Savitch. Mackenzie-Mary Llewellyn red coat. (Photos Patrick Lanham. Make-up Randi Nicole. Hair Dominic Michael Salon.)


Washington University’s 93rd Annual Fashion Design Show begins Saturday, April 30 at 7:00 p.m. Doors open at 6:30pm and there will be a meet and greet with the designers immediately after the show.

The event is free and open to the public, but ticket reservation is required. To reserve tickets or register for the YouTube live stream, Visit here.

View campus information COVID-19 guidelines here.


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