The Spring Show at Academy of Art University Allows Students to Experience Runway Exposure

Graduating students at Academy of Art University in San Francisco had an opportunity to present their creations to various professionals in the design industry on April 26. Moreover, many of these fashion displays can be viewed at the annual Spring Show and Student Showcase from May 18 through June 9.

This yearly event allows students who are about to graduate an opportunity to experience the runway and all its attendant pageantry. Design mogul Harry Winston once said of the runway, “People will stare. Make it worth their while.” This year’s graduating students were able to see if their design creations drew stares that were worthwhile, perhaps for the first time. This experience helps to prepare them for future runway experiences, even unusual ones.

The Diverse World of Fashion Design

Ideas and fashions are as diverse as the global population, as are the kinds of people who are pulled toward careers in fashion design. It is not only for some special breed, or those with connections in the industry. A previous graduate of Academy of Art University’s School of Fashion was a former scientist, captain in the United States Marine Corps, retail manager, and high country backpacking guide. If you always thought such a working class background could never find success in the world of fashion or art, just ask Eden Slezin.

The Academy boasts a thoroughly diverse student population, representing creatives from over 112 countries. For this year’s graduating class, students in the School of Fashion came from all around the world, including China, Indonesia, Taiwan, Vietnam, South Korea, Nigeria, Mexico and the United States. Such a mixture of backgrounds, cultures, and viewpoints is an important part of growing students’ creativity.

“When fashion-design students from different cultures and backgrounds collaborate, their diverse spirit, ideas and passions are reflected,” said Elisa Stephens, current president of Academy of Art University. “Collaboration is a crucial aspect of the professional world, and we encourage students to work together because it mimics the collaborative work that they will do in their professional careers.”

Preparation for Different Runways

Perhaps his initial runway experience as a senior at Academy of Art University provided some confidence for 2016 alumnus Brandon Kee as he prepared to compete in the 16th season of the popular Lifetime television series “Project Runway.” Only a year after graduation, Brandon worked with a “tunnel vision” focus, resulting in designs that dominated the catwalk and awed judges week after week.

As a group, the show’s judges mused over Brandon’s creative collection both on the New York runway and throughout the show. “He has a particular point of view that has even influenced other designers on the show,” said Nina Garcia, editor-in-chief of Elle Magazine, during the finale. “That’s what you want from a designer, to inspire and be a trendsetter.”

Although Brandon did not win it all, he was among four finalists whose creations were chosen as both diverse and inspirational. “Brandon can clearly design, cut a pattern and construct,” said Simon Ungless, Academy of Art School of Fashion executive director. “He has a highly developed skill set and that came through in his quiet confidence [of] getting the job done.” Confidence, vision and consistency—all qualities stressed at Academy of Art University—contributed to Brandon’s success.

Brandon admitted that competing on “Project Runway” was a “true test” of his creative abilities. But what he wants students from his alma mater to know is that, yes, thriving in the fashion world rests largely on vision and aesthetic, but also on identity. “[That experience] was really a testament to knowing who you are as a designer, your taste level, what you’re picking out,” he said. “It really kind of pushes you to figure out who you are [as] a designer and through the process, you find that out rather quickly.”

Academy of Art University

Since its founding in 1929, Academy of Art University and a host of working creatives on the leading edge of industry trends have continued to provide a solid education in design, communication, and the arts, including innovative online arts education since 2002. Today, students thrive in 17 housing facilities throughout San Francisco and compete in 16 NCAA intercollegiate athletic teams. Degrees ranging from Associates through Masters are offered in over 40 disciplines through 23 departments.

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