Philadelphia University Senior Sarah Fitzgerald took top honors at the school’s annual fashion show held at the Academy of Music on Saturday night. The event, emceed and hosted by NBC 10’s Bill Henley and Lori Wilson, showcased the best and most creative student designs from the past academic year. Fitzgerald’s winning collection “Borrowed Baroque” was the last to walk down the runway in front of an audience of over 2,000 people, including fashion designer Nicole Miller.
Nicole Miller came to town to accept Philadelphia University’s 2013 Spirit of Design Award. Since 2002, the school has presented the honor annually to a designer who has made “outstanding contributions” to fashion design and who serves as “inspiration” to students. Sarah Fitzgerald said that Miller is someone to look up to because of the way in which “she pushes innovation.”
Honoring a ‘true designer’
“Innovation is a much better word than design,” Nicole Miller said when she accepted her award, noting that it felt like she “just got the Oscar.”
In a video introduction, Miller’s business partner Bud Konheim spoke to her reputation for constantly reinventing her brand. “A true designer,” said Konheim, “hates what she just did.”
One of Nicole Miller’s first looks to capture international attention was what Konheim called a “cheek high mini-dress” in the 1980s. Today, Nicole Miller’s apparel and accessories are sold in boutiques and in high-end retail stores around the world. One such boutique is located on Main Street in Manayunk.
Collections of color and flare
The fashion show opened with two student collections featuring folksy beige and pink wedding dresses and lingerie.
The first crowd pleaser was student Alicia Pickney’s men’s collection, entitled “Balanced Chaos”: her palette featured maroon corduroy pants, a gray hooded long sleeve shirt, and dyed denim wear.
Several designers sent swimwear in shades of blue and purple– particularly indigo and navy — down the runway.
Alison Haftel’s “Costa Rican Rain Forest” offered edgy safari pieces in a different and welcomed variety of color, including an orange one-piece with a mesh top, a grey vest, and green and brown bikini bottoms.
One career ends while another begins
Sarah Fitzgerald’s “Borrowed Baroque” concluded the show, but it wasn’t until the models strutted down the runway in her pieces – a tan and grey fringe dress with a lambskin vest, a cream long-sleeved tunic with brown mesh riding pants, a maxi dress with a studded brown jacket, and a sheer tunic with metallic overlay — that Fitzgerald learned her collection took four of the evening’s top prizes, including the Best in Show Award and Chico’s Award for Design Excellence.
Clara Henry, the Director of the University’s Fashion Design Program, closed the evening with a heartfelt speech that publicly announced her departure from Philadelphia University after 23 years. She credited her colleagues with the ability to work “with grace in challenging times.”
As one stage of Henry’s career ends, the first of Sarah Fitzgerald’s begins. The Baltimore native says that she wants to continue working with her high-end women’s sportswear designs, but more immediately, she wants to prove herself as an apprentice in one of the world’s fashion capitals.
“I’m going to New York,” she says.