As the city braced itself for the coming surge of parents, siblings and friends of Virginia Commonwealth University seniors for graduation weekend, a cadre of students were busy transforming Main Street Train Station.
Together, groups of senior and junior students played host to the largest VCU Fashion showcase ever. Led by an assistant professor in the department of fashion design and merchandising, Rudy Lopez, the show titled Momentum felt vibrant and exciting from beginning to end.
Student designs for the show explored inspiration from the 1970s, played with oversized details like bows, elongated lapels for workwear layers and created whimsical silhouettes with sheer fabrics and netting.
"Seniors have been working all year on their collections," says student director Maddy Murrow. "It's not only a culmination of all the skills they have learned but a representation of who they are as a designer."
After an opening reception, the dean of the VCU School of the Arts, Shawn Brixey, kicked off the evening. He had just returned from Doha, Qatar, where the university has a satellite campus and where fashion students held their own fashion showcase days earlier. Some of the highlights of that show played on the big screen throughout the evening. "Each one of these items is stitched and every aspect of the show is planned by students in the program," Brixey noted.
Beyond the garments, design students selected and trained models and managed backstage operations. This year, that meant a lot more work. Attendance tripled the number of guests at previous events to nearly a thousand people. The 500-foot runway, which snaked through the historic train shed as models entered from both ends of the room, helped those in attendance feel as though they were on the front row no matter where they sat.
Lopez explained that students were a part of the decision-making process, including playing with different runway layouts. "They knew right away that layout was the one for the location," he said.
A new song played for each senior with a full collection. Joe Davenport — DJ Bobby La Beat — laid out the beats live. This is one of many ways Lopez hopes to engage the community in the annual event in the future. Collaborations with local designers, musicians and business owners are all in the works, he says.
"I want this to be a Richmond event," Lopez says. "I want more people to know about this, to be able to be part of it. Because it means so much to me."