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Every spring, we tip our hats to fashion schools across the United States, who go to great lengths and great expense to make sure graduates set off on their post-collegiate careers with every advantage in the world—starting with a blow-out fashion show where parents, friends, colleagues, and, most importantly (professionally-speaking), buyers and press see the fruits of students' years of study and labor publicly exhibited for the first time. Over the last two years, we've had the great privilege to travel to Savannah, Georgia, in May to meet seniors at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) and experience SCAD Fashion, the school's annual blow-out weekend of graduate events and runway show.
Last weekend, 28 graduating seniors presented women's, men's, and childrenswear collections at SCAD's 2011 fashion show to an audience of family, friends, top brass from Elle magazine—Joe Zee, Anne Slowey, Nick Axelrod, and Keith Pollock—who flew down specially for the occasion, and fashion journalists from New York and Atlanta. The show was preceded by a presentation by Andre Leon Talley to his good friend Manolo Blahnik of a Lifetime Achievement Award—one which has previously been bestowed upon luminaries including Karl Lagerfeld, Oscar de la Renta, Miuccia Prada, and Tom Ford.
Each year, SCAD collaborates with a handful of top designers on a year-long student mentorship program. In 2011, Chris Benz, Christian Cota, and Rachel Roy worked closely with graduating seniors—giving students a real-world perspective on both design and industry standards. It's actually amazing how effective this program is—Savannah may be one of the most beautiful cities in the United States and one of the most idyllic college towns we've ever set foot in, but its remote locale hardly affords students the direct access to industry that students at, say, inner-city schools such as Parsons or FIT may take for granted.
SCAD's dedication to bringing the industry to its undergraduates is actually incredible—with former Saks Fifth Avenue womenswear VP Michael Fink as the college's Dean of Fashion, SCAD has aggressively taken the initiative to strengthen its relationships with fashion insiders. Andre Leon Talley is a great patron of the college—he's donated heaps of his own personal collection to the college and will have a gallery in SCAD's new art museum named in his honor—and this year's show production staff alone featured talent including Kym Canter (former creative director at J. Mendel, former special projects fashion editor at Elle) and J. Alexander (king of the model walk).
Now, as for the students, some of our favorite talent this year included Maria Lara, a womenswear designer from Panama, whose dramatic glamorous silhouettes—closely-tailored bodices with trumpet-flare skirts, elaborate shoulder embellishments—in a monochromatic palette recalled a more romantic period in history.
We also absolutely loved Chloe Post's black-and-white hi-tech lasercut work (example, right, via SCADDistrict.com)—Post's ideas and inspiration were probably some of the most modernist and forward-thinking in the entire BFA show, and her tribal-influence prints some of the most covetable (and wearable!). Her work reminded us of a young Markus Lupfer (all those hi-tech fabrics/overlays) meets a latter-day Nicolas Ghesquiere for Balenciaga geometric and graphic sensibility. Post has some great ideas here, and we're excited to see where she lands next.
For a college as young as SCAD—founded in 1978—the level of instruction, the dedication to teaching and learning, and the mind-boggling number of top-notch resources available (If you're in the area and at all interested, we highly recommend going on a school tour. Seriously, we've seen a lot of fashion schools, but we've never seen a school that has as many resources/workshops/studios/equipment/can-do-attitude available to its students as SCAD) is astounding. We've been so impressed by how much the BFA show has grown in just the past two years, we can't wait to see what happens next May.
PS: For anyone who's keen to see what all the fuss is about, Elle magazine has selected students from SCAD's graduating class to show at the magazine's first-ever Mercedes Benz Fashion Week New York show this September—yes, at the official tents! The show will be livestreamed on Elle.com. We'll keep you posted as we find out more.
Disclosure: Travel to and accommodations in Savannah provided by SCAD.
· Savannah College of Art and Design [Official Site]