Awaken: The Spirit of Invention Prevails

Meet the young visionaries with big dreams.

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By Christina Pippin

Local Shopping & Fashion Blogger

Get ready for a sublimely exciting sojourn of singular and daring designs at Dominican University’s much-anticipated student fashion show in River Forest this weekend.

Recently, I had a sneak peak of the whimisical work and exotic designs from nine young visionaries, all senior students pursuing a degree in fashion design or merchandising. All will present original and diverse bodies of work at the annual spring fashion show.

Shine in thy place!

The show’s program announces the title and theme of the production “Awaken” in distorted Tim Burtonesque lettering. A willowy young woman emerges from a seemingly scorched forest, denuded trees flanking her. Her inky silhouette is illuminated by sun advancing through cloudy skies.

Despite the pitchy palette, there’s something hopeful about the svelte figure standing erect at the break of dawn. (See program in photo gallery.) Accordingly, the artwork mirrors the voyage – the trials and triumphs – of the students participating in this year’s show.

This isn’t a coincidence. The program has been conceived by the apparel merchandising students themselves. As a matter of fact, the production is completely organized and staged by the apparel merchandising students.

I had the opportunity to sit down with three of the budding ingénues whose work will be showcased come Saturday and Sunday, and the young talent proved to be fantastic storytellers in their own right, unraveling the mystery of the genesis of each strange and spellbinding design – from sketchbook to catwalk.

City of Dreams: Shannon Seegers

Shannon Seegers is a fresh-faced student who believes earnestly that it is what’s on the inside that counts. That’s because she’s a psychology major.

How did she end up designing meticulously constructed cotton and wool dresses with stage-worthy polish for our outer selves? She didn’t get lost on her way to a social psychology course: Shannon is a fashion design minor.

If you’re wondering whether a psych major has the fashion fortitude and creative dash necessary to beget beguiling garments, well, that’s like asking if Freud believed in unconscious desires. The answer is unequivocally yes.

Shannon is an unaffected designer whose inspiration was the attribution theory – a concept concerned with how individuals interpret events. She was interested in creating a visual translation of internal and external attributions.

Her line is a material depiction of what we see and interpret versus what is. Shannon shares, “We don’t always take into account the entire context. We try to sort through things quickly in our minds to move through life more quickly.”

Hence, Shannon has ingeniously conceived two garments for each of her designs: a structured woolen outer layer with crisp, clean lines and a delicate, soft inner piece, intricately constructed of cotton. “My focus is on functional apparel. I’ll be sending my models onstage barefoot to shed their exterior layer and reveal what's beneath."

Don’t be surprised if you see me around town clad in one of Shannon’s constructions (But I'll probably be wearing shoes.). I promise you, there’s only one way to interpret this: my love of great design.

Rising Star: Katherine Johnson

Katherine Johnson is a slip of a thing, with dark hair framing her small face, and eyes full of vitality. Akin to a hummingbird, Katherine flutters from one dress to another as she prepares her designs for the final show. As we chat about her uncommon collection, she multitasks effortlessly, flitting from one body form to another, scissors in one hand, needle in another, thread propped between her pursed lips.

She seems propelled by a limitless supply of energy – an almost otherworldly vigor. Appropriately, she looks to the stars for inspiration, astrological and fashion inspiration that is. She effuses, “I love reading my horoscope!” Katherine decided to create a series of zodiac inspired wearables and costumesque designs for her senior collection.

I am convinced there is a market for her bewitching faux metal dresses and equally enchanting faux fur frocks. It’s easy to imagine Lady Gaga strutting across the stage in a Katherine Johnson celestial composition. She shares sprightly, "I would love to have Lady Gaga wear one of my designs." Sans the help of a sky-map, I predict the stars will align for this capable designer.

Big-Time Ambition: Danielle Moorhouse

Remember this name: Danielle Moorhouse. I suspect we’ll be hearing a lot more about this young designer. Danielle’s playful yet sophisticated collection of urban-eclectic pieces is inspired by the vibrant and bold colors of the circus as well as the distinct shapes found within the arena: the ringmaster’s top hat, the big top tent.

Stripes and polka dots mingle on silk dupionis and poly shantung to create easy separates that would make a welcome addition to any woman’s wardrobe. Danielle offers, “I wanted to be creative and create clothes that would be fun.” The only drawback to Danielle’s clever collection: “Ever since I started this collection I haven’t been able to get the carnival song [Entrance of the Gladiators] out of my head!”

Dream Undeffered

Sarah Gretencord, the Fashion Show Director, explained that the students’ excitement over their impending graduation was tempered by bleak thoughts of a depressed economy and an uncertain job market. But over time the students have come together to support one another on what they consider to be a very personal journey.  

Gretencord expounds, “It’s our turn to show what we can do. We’re confident, we’re focused, and we’re ready to achieve our goals. Things are going to get better. That’s our rebirth, our awakening."

Lund Auditorium, Dominican University
7900 W. West Division St
River Forest, IL 60305

Date & Times:
Saturday, April 9th- 3pm & 7 pm
Sunday, April 10th-3 pm

Call Dominican University Box Office (708) 488-5000
$10 Student Admission
$15 General Admission


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Posted: May 18th, 2012 1:48 AM

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Christina Pippin from  

Posted: April 11th, 2011 1:44 PM

I agree! The fashion show was well orchestrated and the designers' talent can not be denied. It was impressive. Looking forward to showcasing the students' work in a future blog post. Stay tuned!

Melanie Dykstra from Oak Park, IL  

Posted: April 11th, 2011 11:19 AM

I may not be the most objective of viewers being a DU staff member, but I was overwhelmed by the Fashion Show -- the quality of the production and the creativity of the designs. I felt so proud. Congratulations to all!

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