Student designers take to the runway at 2011 Fashion Show

This Saturday, buried within the massive PIFA crowd, Philadelphia University held its annual fashion show and Spirit of Innovation Gala.  More than 2,000 people packed inside the Academy of Music to check out what the young designers could muster.

The large crowd included high profile guests like former Senator Arlen Specter and Carson Kressley, best known from Bravo’s Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Kressley attended to introduce his longtime friend, Tommy Hilfiger, who was set to receive a special award from the University. However, Hilfiger was not able to attend because of a family emergency.

“That’s how good of friends we are,” Kressley joked. “We have the same hair cut.”

The pieces, designed by Philadelphia University fashion design majors, ranged from casual everyday wear, to over-the-top extravagance.

Anfisa Sokolova, a Philadelphia University senior, designed a collection inspired by pop artist Roy Lichtenstein. One piece, a sculpted toole tutu received thunderous applause on the runway and won the “Best in Show” award. The design is somewhere between architectural high fashion and the sock hop.

“Philadelphia has a really interesting fashion scene,” says Sokolova, “You really have to look for it, but that’s what makes it better. When you do find something, it’s like a hidden treasure.”

Economic downturn has hit the fashion industry hard. H&M reported a 5-percent slump in sales last month, and the store is by no means an anomaly. Many design seniors, wary of the state of jobs in the arts, seem to come to the same conclusion: head to New York.

“I think I’ll just retire and move to the bahamas,” Sokolova joked. 

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