Design X fashion show features dresses made of straws, foam and paint samples

Many girls dream of the day they will wear a wedding dress. Most, however, do not dream of that wedding dress being made entirely out of paper and origami flowers.

But Melonie Farrow, a design student at Philadelphia University, pushed those creative boundaries when she designed this very dress to be featured in yesterdays Design X fashion show in Downs Auditorium.

Held for more than 23 years, Design X showcases the work of the design program’s problem solving class. It is a course in which students are challenged to think in a different way about design and sustainability.

Clara Henry, the Director of Philadelphia University’s Fashion Design program, also teaches the course. “When we first developed this course in the late 80s, we were very ahead of the whole sustainability movement”, Henry remarked. This course gives our students the opportunity to reuse, recycle and repurpose materials and garments.”

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Christine Michalek, one of the student designers, had three of her pieces featured in this year’s show. One of her works, a toga dress made out of tulle and hundreds of straws, drew attention for its painstaking design process. Michalek, who gathered straws from the campus dining facility, had to cut and individually glue each segment of straw onto the fine material. “What is so neat about this class, is that everything must be done on a small budget. In the past, students have even been known to go dumpster diving for materials,” Michalek commented.

While no students went dumpster diving this year, fellow classmate Kristin Melendez took a few risks for her “Mermaid Fish Scale” dress. “I stole maybe 250 paint [samples] from Home Depot,” Melendez said. “My friend and I would talk about painting a pretend room and then I would grab ten paint samples of one color.” The designer then had to cut each chip and hot glue it onto its denim shell.

Other notable pieces in this year’s show were a white and gold dress made from paper lunch bags, a colorful checkered top made of craft foam and a wavy dress designed from comic book pages glued onto muslin backing.

Under the direction of Fashion Industries Association president Adriana Corso, the FIA student volunteers put together the show’s lineup, music, lights and decorations. Student models who donned the wildly creative attire, walked across the auditorium stage and down a neon duct tape runway. As a senior, Corso has been a part of FIA and the Design X fashion show for four years. “Every year we produce Design X, and every year it gets better.”

The design program will now focus its attention on Philadelphia University’s annual fashion show held in April at the Academy of Music. It is one of the largest student run fashion shows in the United States and sells out to 2,300 people every year.

“This year designer Nicole Miller will be there receiving the spirited design award”, said Corso. It’s possible that the famed formal dress designer will be inspired by Melonie Farrow’s sustainable origami wedding dress.

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