At 9 a.m. on Saturday, teams of Arizona State University students gathered inside the Student Pavilion’s lobby and ballroom on the Tempe campus. Walls and drapery were put up. Technicians affixed a ramp perpendicular to the main stage. Lights and sound cues were tested.
By noon, hair and makeup technicians arrived on site. Directors and performers started working out nerves, wardrobe and wearables in tote. Organizers checked in on planning items.
A long line of people began streaming into the pavilion at 6 p.m. A red carpet and step-and-repeat banner invited visitors to capture the glamorous moment by selfie or photographer. Guests, all in their best stylish attire, were met by greeters with gift bags and small-plate edibles.
Behind black curtains in the ballroom, models primped and stage managers directed while photographers captured the energy of these behind-the-scenes moments.
Finally at 7 p.m., guests filled the ballroom, where an emcee welcomed them. A singer took the stage and models began to parade down the perpendicular runway for “Uncertainty,” the 2018 ASU Fashion debut.
It was a fitting title, a playful whisper of the risks and rewards of fashion and the future. But if there is one thing Carol Wong can be certain of when she looks back on this night, it's that she took a leap and made a statement inspired by her own uncertainty.
Wong, poised to be among the first students to graduate from ASU’s new fashion degree program this spring, pulled off an aspiring designer’s dream Saturday night, staging ASU’s first-ever entrepreneurship fashion show.
The idea to organize a student-led fashion show was simply born out of necessity, according to Wong — ASU’s new fashion program has never had one. So, with help from mentors and classmates in ASU’s Herberger Arts and Design Entrepreneurship Students (HADES) club, Wong took the lead.
“We all worked together to make it happen,” she said after the show. “It was better than I expected but not as perfect as I wanted."
(A friend then chimed in to say that the designer and capstone project manager doesn’t give herself enough credit.)
"I hope people see this as a starting point with room to improve,” Wong said of her creative vision to see ASU fashion students raise the show to new levels.
Inspired by the scale and production value of the “Big Four” fashion weeks that take place every year in Paris, Milan, London and New York, 90 students spent countless hours designing and reorienting ASU’s new Student Pavilion, transporting almost 500 audience members into another realm of creativity, design and innovation at ASU.
There were singers, dancers, models and plenty of fashion.
From a front-row seat in the runway-divided ballroom, instructor Kathy Stephenson beamed with pride as students from her Fashion Construction I class modeled the white shirt creations they worked on during the spring semester.
“Those are my babies,” Stephenson said. “I am so proud of them right now.”
Dennita Sewell, who leads the fashion program in ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, agreed.
“This was a great success,” Sewell said. “Full house, so many beautiful designs, so much energy, really exciting.”
The show also included sustainability-inspired designs from students in the program’s Fashion Construction II class, in which students were tasked with creating “upcycling” styles with denim material purchased from secondhand clothing stores.
Miranda Katchur, a fashion program senior who led "Uncertainty’s" production coordination for her capstone project, said she hoped the show would help the audience find a new appreciation for the creative work of fashion designers.
“What you’re wearing — somebody made that,” Katchur said. “Someone spent a lot of hours designing and sewing the styles you wear — and I just want people to recognize that.”
Video by Deanna Dent/ASU Now
Katchur, who spent a semester abroad studying fashion in Florence, Italy, brought some inspiration from “the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance” back to ASU to create the show's whimsical, floral, Duomo-inspired look she called “Flo."
Pat Pataranutaporn, whose interdisciplinary studies at ASU include creative biology, art, design and coding, shared a few examples of his wearable technology “Hormone Couture,” which will also be featured at the MRS Wearables in Smart Fabrics show at the Phoenix Convention Center on April 4.
And fashion design junior Patrick St. Clair, who admitted to pulling an all-nighter to complete his rubber material designs in time for “Uncertainty," said he was really happy with how it all turned out and had plenty of praise for classmate Wong, whose pieces he said were the “highlight of the show.”
“All the work she put into the show, it was insane,” St. Clair said of Wong. “And she handled so many other aspects than just the design. She was so dedicated and helpful and kind. I honestly don’t know how she got her looks done with how much work she did. She was spectacular.”
Wong’s own collections for “Uncertainty” included an eye-catching “Office Couture” line that featured tailored, extended-length sleeves, vertically striped pants and skirts and the debut of a new line she calls “Hierarchy Queue,” which she hopes will inspire people to build their own reputation through mix-and-match wear.
Mixing and matching is something Wong knows a little bit about having completed an associate degree and advanced fashion degree at a school in California before transferring to ASU. After graduating from her program in downtown Los Angeles, Wong, who grew up in the Phoenix area, discovered that many companies wanted graduates with bachelor’s degrees. So when she heard that ASU was now offering an undergraduate degree in fashion, she moved back to Arizona and enrolled in the program to earn her bachelor's with the academic credits she had earned in California.
“Creativity-wise, I feel like I am getting a great opportunity to experiment here at ASU,” Wong said. “There is no limit. The instructors are very supportive of what you want to be. They're helping us bend the road a little differently especially in the arena of sustainability and fashion."
As for what that “to be” might look like when she graduates in May, Wong says she’s taking that one step at a time. Right now, she has designs on taking her Hierarchy Queue line to launch level and is staying focused — even with a little uncertainty.
Top photo: A model walks the runway during the "Uncertainty" fashion show at the Student Pavilion on Tempe campus March 31. The show, presented by the Herberger Arts and Design Entrepreneurship Students club, featured the work of fashion design students at ASU. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now