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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Art to Wear: This one will go down in history

Posted by on Thu, Mar 25, 2010 at 12:07 PM

click to enlarge A Vansana Nolintha creation from 2008. (Photo by Jeremy M. Lange)
  • A Vansana Nolintha creation from 2008. (Photo by Jeremy M. Lange)

Where there's fashion, you can reliably find people who adore the industry, and worship it with every fiber of their being. But you can also meet people whose interest might be surprising, until it starts to make sense

For example, Sean Avery, a hockey player for the New York Rangers, interned at Vogue in the summer of 2008 and now aspires for the plush life of the fashion editorial after he hangs up his skates.

OK, Avery is an extreme example, but N.C. State's Art to Wear show has to grapple with aspirants who come from outside the departments normally associated with fashion.

The Art to Wear fashion show is a joint endeavor put on by College of Design (COD) and College of Textiles (COT) students. Past participants have earned degrees such as art and design and textile and apparel management (now known as fashion development and product management).

One would assume that participation in the event is restricted to students in those two colleges. That's what everyone assumed, but nobody knew for sure until this year.

Kirk Smith, a senior majoring in food science through the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), has made waves this year as the only student designer who's not in COT or COD. He's apparently the first non-major, as it were to do this. A look at previous years' participants turns up no majors outside of COD, COT or the Anni Albers Scholars Program dual degree offered by both colleges (Albers is one of the greatest textile designers of the 20th century).

Art to Wear faculty advisor Vita Plume notes that in past years, there have been collaborations with designers whose majors fall outside of the two colleges, as well as students with a double-major in either college. A recent notable example is Vansana Nolintha, a double major in art and design and chemistry, whose religious tenets-inspired creations drew rave reviews in 2009.)

"There's nothing on the Web site that says you must be in Textiles or Design," Plume says, noting that participation being limited to the COT and COD has purely understood-until now. "No one [outside the two colleges has] ever really ever wanted to enter before, but we learn something new every year."

"I've always been a fan of the textiles. I've gone to Art to Wear all three years that I've been here," Smith says. His first ambition was to model for the event. That didn't pan out, so he wanted to be involved in another capacity. He perused the event's Web site and met with Plume just to make sure he was allowed to submit his work for the jurying process.

"I am the only person that's ever even applied for jurying that's not in COD or COT," Smith says. He adds that he's been told that he may end up being the only such participant.

Plume speculated that the students will most likely close the loophole after this year.

When he met other designers at the jurying, the others were excited about the possibility of another college coming in. But he feels this will be the only time that happens, since Art to Wear isn't funded by CALS.

"At times, I feel I took someone else's spot and [wonder] what would've happened if I hadn't gotten in. But everyone has been really supportive," Smith says.

Incidentally, the collection by this upstart who majors in food science is inspired by ... food.

We'll have more on his collection next week.

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