Architecture students are helping the Cornell Fashion Collective (CFC) work through a budget shortfall by designing and constructing the set for this year's runway show, April 28 in Barton Hall.
Traditionally, the CFC holds a set design competition on campus, with the winning design executed by a local contractor.
But this year, even with cutting corners, the projected runway construction cost would have been about $19,000 -- and "we were already in horrible financial straits, starting this year with only about $2 in our accounts," said CFC President Brittany Lutz '12, an apparel management, marketing and communications major in the College of Human Ecology's Department of Fiber Science & Apparel Design.
Robert (Nelson) Crosby, B.Arch. '12, offered to help by building the set he designed, with a small student team working in Rand Hall, saving CFC more than $2,300.
"Everyone was thrilled with his design," Lutz said. "CFC is really focused on making this show a cross-campus collaboration. It's not just fashion students; it's all students interested in design."
The set design for the 28th annual show will echo the interior look of Barton Hall, Crosby said.
"We saw this as an opportunity to look at the specific architecture and history of Barton Hall and create a set that would bring some of these qualities to the show," he said.
"Because Barton Hall was once used as an airplane hangar, it required the use of a large spanning truss structure. For the set, we have taken the [truss] form, slightly abstracted it and will line the back of the runway with it. When models emerge onto the catwalk, they will slowly be revealed to the audience as they pass by a series of backlit fabric spanning the spaces between the truss."
BSI of Ithaca, the show's contractor in recent years, will handle most runway construction, "and then essentially 'drag and drop' the set that Nelson constructs on top of the runway, giving it more of a uniqueness and design focus on the runway itself," Lutz said. "It's this really subtle mimicry, to take the industrial design of Barton Hall and turn it into something beautiful. We want to make the show new and exciting each year, and that includes reinventing the runway."
Annual production costs of the fashion show can top $33,000, most of which is recouped in ticket sales.
"It's a big production," Lutz said. "I love the surprise factor for people who have never seen it. In the fashion industry, the runway show represents a critical marketing moment for any brand. For the individual designer, it's those five minutes of runway time that everyone spends the rest of the season judging you on. We try to give the students an opportunity to showcase their design work on the biggest stage we can provide."
The collaboration with architects benefited the CFC's business plan this year, with the College of Architecture, Art and Planning contributing $1,000 to the effort. The Student Assembly Finance Commission, also under tight budget constraints, provided $5,000 for the 2011-12 CFC budget, Lutz said. Outreach to alumni, including a newsletter, brought in another $4,500.
"The annual budget depends on the scale of our promotional activities," she said. A name change from Cornell Design League to Cornell Fashion Collective in 2010-11 necessitated "larger scale marketing events that might have put us out of budget this year. We're trying to work with a budget that's more manageable. ... Hopefully we will break even and have maybe a couple of thousand dollars in the account in the fall to continue to develop our organization's brand image on campus."
By Daniel Aloi, Cornell Chronicle