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Young U.S. Designers Prove They're a Cut Above,
Select Group is Paris Bound for Prestigious International Competition

Date: Nov. 1, 2002
Story by: Mary Bridget Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Archive: General News
Photos by: Lisa Ventre

Cincinnati -- The best of the United States' young designers competed at the University of Cincinnati Oct. 31 in a run-way competition that is sending a handful of them on to Paris for the world finals of the prestigious International Competition of Young Fashion Designers in December.

More than 40 students from 18 of the best fashion programs in the country showed their finest "wears" before a panel comprised of professional designers from New York, Paris and elsewhere. All were competing not only for the chance to move up to the final level of competition against their peers from Europe and Asia on Dec. 17, but also for other premium awards, including a graduate scholarship to Paris' Institut Francais de la Mode (IFM).

At the close of the Oct. 31 U.S. finals, 10 garments and five accessory pieces were selected as representing the best of the student designs. The designs and their creators will travel to Paris for the Dec. 17 finals of the International Competition of Young Fashion Designers. Three of the U.S. students received special Awards of Distinction, and one of these three will be offered the IFM scholarship after the Paris competition. They are:

design by Maren Hartman

  • University of Cincinnati Junior Maren Hartman
    Hartman, 22, created a dress of dip-dyed muslin with a deep v-necked bodice of dark pink, rose pink and cream that plunges to the waistline. The short, very full skirt also consists of shades of deep pink, pink rose and cream muslin with a bright, red underlining and underskirt layers of red and pink tulle. It's capped by an overskirt of pink tulle as well. A deep pink, satin bow sets off the dress as do 160 dip-dyed petals of muslin. Each red dyed petal is attached to the skirt, creating an organic feel. "They're like crinkled rose petals upon the skirt," said Hartman who added that her cooperative education quarters in New York - working with stylists of HBO's "Sex in the City" and with celebrities' stylists - have taught her the importance of detail and dedication. "On co-op or in class, we're always on deadline. You get it done even when it means 18 hour days," added Hartman. This coming summer, she'll co-op with Stella McCartney of the Gucci group in London.

    Of the competition results, Hartman recalled sitting in the audience with her mother. "I had no clue as to the results. And then, I was called up on stage. I was smiling so much afterwards, my cheeks were hurting. I didn't sleep at all last night. I came home and had a bottle of champagne with my parents, and then got right to work on a tailoring project for a current studio class. I worked on that till 4 a.m." And then? Hartman was off to her early-morning studio class.

    design by Issariya Virajsilp

  • Issariya Virajsilp of Parsons School of Design, New York
    Virajsilp, 26, of Bangkok, Thailand, employed all natural fabrics and neutral tones in a gown designed to express the intimacy of love. "The theme of this year's competition is 'Love and Fashion.' And I kept thinking, 'What does love mean?' To me, it's intimacy, bringing the inside out. So, I began to layer underwear, exposing the corset in my design."

    The Cincinnati competition was, in truth, the first time she saw her design on a model. Until the 31st, she's always seen the garment on a dress form. "I couldn't believe how different it looked compared to being on a mannequin. I saw my name come up, and I knew my garment would be next on the stage. I kept thinking, 'I'm next...I'm next.... I'm next!' I was stunned by how it looked. I almost fainted. It was magic," she recalled.

    Virajsilp added that the competition has garnered her more than a trip to Paris (where she would some day like to work) and a chance at the IFM scholarship. It has meant the opportunity to exchange ideas with peers from throughout the U.S. and now, the world. And it has taught her the importance of always learning and improving. "I know that when everyone else saw my gown, they saw it as an excellent, finished product. Not me. I kept thinking, 'I need to make it more exciting. I need to fix that, or this...'"

    design by Kellyn Leveton

  • Kellyn Leveton, 21, a senior in fashion design and art at Marist College, Poughkeepsie, New York
    Leveton created a black, knit garment consisting of a long, tunic top and leggings that rose to mid-thigh. Attached to the hem of the tunic are black-and-white photographs of couples of all ages embracing and kissing. In fact, Leveton said the best part of the project, for her, was taking photos of all of her friends as they kissed.

    While Hartman, Virajsilp and Leveton, as winners of Awards of Distinction, will travel to the international finals Dec. 17 in Paris, other U.S. students, whose work was also judged as outstanding, will also have the opportunity to represent the United States in the Paris runway competition at the Louvre. These students will exhibit work either in the Accessories Category or the Fashion Category.

    Exhibiting in the Fashion Category are:

  • Laura Dawson, University of Cincinnati
  • Jennifer Dusold, University of Cincinnati
  • Akrasun Seanglai, University of Cincinnati
  • Halimshah Hassan, Marymount University
  • Katherine Neumeyer, Houston Community College
  • Kristin Ritter, Oklahoma State University
  • Kyoko Wakamatsu, University of Delaware

    International finalists in the Accessories Category are:

  • Jennifer Dusold, University of Cincinnati
  • Heidi Dakter, Art Institute of Chicago
  • Lisana Falcon, International Fine Art College
  • Shivonne Kissoondath, International Fine Art College
  • Carrie Zoltowksi, Kent State University

    This year's event, themed "Love and Fashion," marks the 20th anniversary of the international competition which is sponsored by Air France; the French Federation of Haute Couture, Ready-to-Wear and Designers; and the city hall of Paris.

    Schools competing in the U.S. finals which were organized by Nathalie Doucet, UC assistant professor of fashion design and president of the Arts of Fashion Foundation, were:

    University of CincinnatiArt Institute of Chicago
    California State Northridge UniversityColumbia College, Chicago
    Cornell University, New YorkDrexel University, Philadelphia
    Houston Community CollegeInternational Fine Arts College, Florida
    Iowa State UniversityKent State University, Ohio
    Marist College, New YorkMarymount University, Virginia
    Nassau Community College, New YorkNorfolk State University, Virginia
    Oklahoma State UniversityParsons School of Design, New York
    University of AlabamaUniversity of Delaware

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