Fashion Forward

Inside the fashion design program’s annual runway show

Anna Powell Teeter

“Style is something each of us already has,” fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg once said. “All we need to do is find it.”

And the College’s fashion design program is helping students do exactly that. Part of the School of Art, Architecture + Design, this program trains students in every facet of fashion design, from illustration and construction to the art, function, and philosophy of fashion.

Each year, the program culminates in a student-led runway show — a vibrant celebration of students’ work. Juniors and seniors showcase a selection of their most compelling designs, and in doing so the evening becomes an electrifying expression of style, technique, and artistry.

This past season, The College Magazine captured both the preparation and the premiere of the 2018 IU Fashion Show, and the resulting photo essay is a testament to the beauty and inventiveness of these students’ work.

“There are some students who like to work starting from fabric, but a lot of these students are really driven by ideas,” says Deb Christiansen, director of undergraduate studies for the School of Art, Architecture + Design and the area coordinator of the fashion design program. “And much like any other studio art, [fashion design] is an iterative process. We want them to overwork an idea. I’ll tell students, ‘I need you to do 20 sketches of that. I need you to build on that idea and think about it in a lot of different ways.’”

On holding the show in Alumni Hall, one of the largest venue spaces in the Indiana Memorial Union, Christiansen says, “You need to think differently about scale, about emphasis, about some of the principles of design. It’s a huge room, but it’s beautifully lit. I tell the students that they need to consider hair, makeup — the whole gestalt.”

“Predominantly, runway fashion is known as concept design,” Christiansen says. “What we see coming off of the highest level couture runway shows isn’t necessarily what people will buy. It’s intended to put across a designer’s message — to express their conceptual signature, either for that season or sometimes for their career. So, I tell students, ‘Once your collection is seen together, what do you want people to feel about you?’ We are training students in marketability and that this is a business, but it’s also important for these designs to be art, as well.”

“Students’ fourth semester [in the program] is when they show in the fashion show, and we ask them to prepare three to five or even six outfits," Christiansen says. "There are students with very advanced-looking collections that didn’t ever sew before they came into our first semester course, and there are students that have sewn since they were seven or even younger.”

“When I watch our runway show, I’m looking at the arc of all these students,” Christiansen says. “And some them have come a long way, even if you look at their collection and say, ‘Oh, I wish that hem would have been better,’ or ‘Oh, I wish that fit was better.’ Overall, this past year, I was so proud of the fit and finish in these students’ work. I thought it was better than almost any other year.”

Anna Powell Denton

Anna Powell Denton is a photographer and filmmaker based in Bloomington, Indiana. She works with both digital and film formats specializing in editorial portraiture and documentary photography. Visit Anna's website at