CCA's Inspired Annual Fashion Show a Trailblazer for Sustainable, Interdisciplinary Design

The 2011 Annual Fashion Show has come and gone. Get all the highlights, plus an interview with Fashion Design chair Amy Williams

The Annual Fashion Show 2011 at California College of the Arts, the capstone experience for Fashion Design seniors, unfolded Friday, May 13, with all the characteristic grandstand presentation the college and its community have come to expect. And once again, with 800 persons in attendance, the shindig was completely sold out!

Watch the slideshow » (Select "show info" in the upper right-hand corner to see the name of the designer.)

CCA’s Annual Fashion Show, which first emerged in 1998, is one of the college’s most recognizable annual occasions. Now under the leadership of Fashion Design chair Amy Williams, the event is literally encased by a big-top exhibition tent erected in front of the Nave on the San Francisco campus. An entire block of Eighth Street is cordoned off to accommodate the fetching spectacle—one that honors and showcases the work of the senior Fashion Design class.

Below are the names of the 10 featured seniors, each followed by the designer's collection title. Please visit Senior Fashion Show Designers for additional details regarding the artists' conceptual inspiration.

Patricia Lucia Arroyo (Ardour)
Alexandra Canter (All Tomorrow’s Parties)
Sloane Groenveld (Geodesic Psycho-Babble)
Anna Huang (Nympheas)
Marcela Lucía (Amor y Guerra)
Mariana Moreno-Gonzalez (Hollow Grounds)
Jacky Safer (Patina)
Johnny Paul Vera (Female Manifestation)
Sam E. Weinberg (Umbra)
Ana Zaharia (Flora)

Continued Sponsorship

California College of the Arts and the Fashion Design Program gratefully acknowledge the continued support of Osterweis Capital Management, the event’s major sponsor for a seventh year, and Surface magazine as media sponsor for a ninth year!). The college is also grateful to welcome back SF Hotel Carlton as hotel sponsor for a second year. This year also marks the first time Levi Strauss & Co. has officially supported the Annual Fashion Show. (Hat's off for all the sponsorship!)

Inside the Fashion Show

Once inside, the resplendent runway show overpowered its surroundings—not even the sounds of blustering winds outside could dampen the excitement and anticipation of the crowd. The pulsating music, cutting-edge fashion collections, high-caliber runway models, and cheering fans collectively lend this show its deserved reputation for being the Fashion Design Program’s own greatest show on earth.

“It is wonderful to see the sparkle of pride shining in a designer’s eye as their fashion idea transforms fabric into sculpture on a model’s form,” says Williams. “It has been a joy to help shepherd these enthusiastic students through their time at CCA.”

(It should also be pointed out that others were in attendance who also were sporting sparkles of pride, namely Ms. Williams’s parents, husband, and daughters!)

Lights, Cameras, (Runway) Action!

By dusk the line of ticket holders could be seen and heard from more than a block away, formed by brave souls who were willing to brave the frigid and blustery San Francisco wind. Many of CCA’s die-hard fans resorted to taking refuge by huddling together against the polyurethane siding of the canopied, street-side tent. (A logical endeavor seeing as how the runway models have little else between themselves and the gusts of wind as they change clothes throughout the evening.)

Yet once under the warmth of the 50-plus spotlights, all expertly aimed to accentuate the models at the precise moments when the photographers and videographers could capture the collections best, the show truly heated up.

Want to see what goes into the making of the Annual Fashion Show? Visit Behind the Scenes . . . to see installation, rehearsal, and other candid on- and off-the-runway moments.

Surface Magazine Emerging Talent Award

This year a total of 10 designers competed at the Annual Fashion Show for the industry-recognized Surface Magazine Emerging Talent Award, which is determined by fashion editors at Surface magazine and presented to a prominent young designer each year.

The award includes a full photographic spread of the student’s collection in the upcoming Avant Guardian issue of Surface magazine.

Ardour Rises to the Surface

Congratulations to Patricia Lucia Arroyo (BFA Fashion Design 2011), this year’s Surface Magazine Emerging Talent awardee, who was honored for her stunning Ardour collection.

In describing her collection, one that stems from past memories and experiences of the ocean, Arroyo explains, “The sea translates into a stylized form of self-expression through garments that suggest a sophistication as explored in the seaming, leathers, suedes, hardware, and jewelry techniques.” (Read more about this and other designers’ collections.)

Previous Surface Emerging Talent Award recipients include Laura Schmits (2010); James Edwards (2009); JiHye Kang (2008); and Chris Weiss (2007).

Prestigious Internship with Nicole Miller

Typically each year a promising designer is selected for an internship with a prestigious designer. The internship is often a career milestone for a young designer, who otherwise has to face significant competition to secure such a professional opportunity, one that launched the career of several Fashion Design alumni. (See Alumni)

Yet before announcing this year’s selected intern, a last-minute switch that even Williams admits she “didn’t know anything about” until Surface magazine fashion editor Gregory Wein took her aside at the show and offered it, resulted in not one but two internships with the reputable New York–based designer Nicole Miller!

Miller’s nonconformist designs are inspired from a wide variety of influences: cinema, contemporary art, mid-20th century architecture, and other exotic cultures. According to Williams, “This is a huge multi-category women's company . . . a perfect launching pad for a ready-to-wear career—real clothes.”

Last year Fashion Design alumna Laura Schmits earned an internship with Tim Hamilton (in addition to her Surface Magazine Emerging Talent Award); in 2008 alumna Zara Franks interned with George Marciano. (No internship was awarded in 2009.)

This year two Fashion Design alums will partake in internships with Nicole Miller: Patricia Lucia Arroyo (yes, a double winner!) and Johnny Paul Vera for his Female Manifestation collection, which he describes as an investigation of the female form that embodies expansion and reduction.

“A transparent fashion design reveals traditional tailoring techniques yet crafts an armor of ideal female proportions,” Johnny explains when discussing his collection. He also brings his familial history into his design work and does so with a subtle hand in textile choice and color application.

Johnny started out at CCA in the Pre-College Program, which is aimed at helping high school students transition to college life. “Johnny’s aesthetic sense was raw and not yet refined,” Williams recalls, “but with careful direction, hard work, and his vision of strong femininity . . . to win an internship is outstanding. . . . He has always loved shaping fabric to the woman's form but this collection was his first really refined collection that spoke of his understanding of women.”

Fashion Show Audience

Among the fashion soiree's audience were current students, faculty, staff, alumni, trustees (past and present), and many, many Bay Area friends of fashion. Local celebrity Fernando Ventura of the popular San Francisco-based morning radio program “Fernando and Greg in the Morning” on Energy 92.7 FM, was spotted cooing over the collections. And of course sitting in front was fashion industry editor extraorindaire Gregory Wein (with media sponsor Surface magazine), as was fashion friend Jason McBriarty (senior finance manager for Levi Strauss & Co.).

Even 89-year-old Betty Reid Soskin, who received an honorary doctorate along with John Baldessari at the recent commencement, was whooping it up at the event, decked out in the most fabulous hand-painted jeans. Painting/Drawing professor Raymond Saunders was a close second in the fabulous fashion category! (Read more about CCA's 2011 honorary doctorates.)

Other notable guests: President Stephen Beal and Dee Hoover Beal; Provost Mark Breitenberg; trustee Ann M. Hatch; former trustee Jan Boyce (with husband Tom); Associate Provost Melanie Corn; photographer Douglas Sandberg; Hiroko Kurihara (founder of Oakland's 25th Street Collective and chief creative of hiroko kurihara designs); Kelly and Anthony Todd (Todd Di Pietro Salons); Vice President for Communications Chris Bliss; and Graphic Design faculty member and 2010 AIGA Medal awardee and 2011 AIGA Fellow Jennifer Morla.

Many Fashion Design faculty were on hand, proud as peacocks:

Charlie Cronk, senior lecturer
Lyndsie Nash, lecturer
Jean Oppermann, associate professor
Lynda Grose, assistant professor
Susan Robinson, adjunct professor
Melissa Leventon, senior adjunct professor
Martha Maggos, adjunct professor
Barbara Kelly, adjunct professor

Learn more about the Fashion Design faculty.

Friends of Fashion

A private Friends of Fashion Champagne reception took place in the Nave just prior to the main show. The event was sponsored in part by Levi Strauss & Co., which used the venue to promote its [WaterAlumni Trajectory Reflects Well-Suited Careers

Over the past five years, Fashion Design alumni have demonstrated design leadership and expertise at many of today’s best-known fashion retailers. Some are working full time where they began as an intern; others are entrepreneurs who have launched their own companies or have chosen independent contracting within the industry.

Whichever path they’re choosing, employers and clients of significant industry cache are taking advantage of these young, talented alumni who are eager to embark on their careers. See for yourself just a sampling of the reputable companies where Fashion Design alumni have gone on to succeed professionally (see also the Fashion Design alumni page to learn about specific alumni):

Abercrombie & Fitch
Ambit (founded by alumni)
Badgley Mischka Couture
Jones of New York
Mountain Hardwear
Narciso Rodrigues
Old Navy Kids
Pottery Barn Kids
Sweet Potatoes
Thom Browne
Venn Clothing & Apparel

Bonus Interview with Fashion Design Chair Amy Williams

I recently sat down with Fashion Design chair Amy Williams to chat about her most important event of the year. Aside from the crazy-making, year-round planning that goes into such an inspired show, I got her to focus on what truly matters at the end of the, er, runway: students and their careers.

About CCA's Fashion Design Program

CCA’s Fashion Design students are trained to be the innovators of tomorrow. Our alumni are praised for excelling in their discipline and applying their talents in a wide variety of capacities from large and small design houses to artisan cooperatives in the United States and abroad. (Learn more)


2011 Annual Fashion Show press release
View more runway images at Stylenik blog
Miss the Friends of Fashion event? View photos
See what happened Behind the Runway . . .
See photos from the rehearsal show
Recent CCA Fashion Design News