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The Collections: Stephens Readies 80th Annual Fashion Show

The Collections: Stephens Readies 80th Annual Fashion Show

Opening Scene Of The Collections Stephens College Fashion Department Spring 2023 Show.

The lights dim and the music swells, a hush falls over the audience. The first model steps out and struts down the runway, commanding attention in a striking look. One after another, models glide past — working with the garments they wear and the music playing to tell a story of glitz and glamor. 

It looks so perfect and effortless. It isn’t. 

As the Stephens College Fashion Department prepares to celebrate its 80th annual student designer fashion show, The Collections, we took a deep dive into what it takes to put together a runway showcase of this caliber. 

The Collections student designer fashion show will be held Saturday, April 13, in Windsor Auditorium on the Stephens College Campus. Showings are set for 2 p.m., 4 p.m., and 7 p.m. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit 

Reclaiming the Stephens Story 

The process began in October, when the fashion show chairs met with Monica McMurry, professor of the fashion presentation class responsible for the show. The first step was to create a concept that could encapsulate the work of twenty-nine designers and the profundity of what eighty years of Stephens College fashion means to the world.  

The theme needed to be broad enough to encompass the ideas of a large group of designers—all with different visions, aesthetics, and specialties. 

After months of ideation, the class landed on “Construct,” which reflects how clothing is customized according to fit and style as well as the ways fashion is viewed through cultural lenses. 

According to the concept brief, “We are reclaiming our story; we are deconstructing and reconstructing the way people perceive fashion. Through garments and performance, we are unraveling societal constructs surrounding women and fashion.” 

Corset made by student Ava Hercules; Katie Ciolino photographer.
Corset made by student Ava Hercules; Katie Ciolino photographer.
2023 Show Carousel Look From Reduce Kcfw Collection By Katie Ciolino And Hannah Klema
2023 Show carousel look from Reduce Kcfw Collection by Katie Ciolino and Hannah Klema.

All hands on deck 

During the show, all eyes are on the models. Still, it takes many people working around the clock to make the show look so effortless. 

There are seven student chairs of three committees: publicity, model management, and production. Each committee takes responsibility for executing key elements of the show. They’re all important, and one wouldn’t work without the others. 

The publicity committee’s responsibility is to get people to the show. This team is a group of eight students led by Fashion Design and Product Development senior Bethany Robertson and Fashion Communication junior Lillian Fisher. The co-chairs spend most of their time conducting project management, ensuring that the work is evenly divided among the team and assigning projects based on strengths and passions. 

“There are several elements we use to promote the show, such as media coverage which includes contacting and collaborating with local journalists. We also create a media kit to provide other publications and news outlets,” Fisher says. “We coordinate with local schools to send students to talk to classes about what we do in the fashion department at Stephens College. We also have a team specialized to work on our social media marketing. Because we do so many things in just the span of a few months we as a team prioritize communication and organization to work as efficiently as we can.” 

The publicity committee also works with the publication design class from the Communication Design program to design the show programs, which will be distributed to audience members during the show to provide background information on the garments shown on the runway.  

From the moment the audience steps into the lobby outside Windsor Auditorium, they will travel through the history of the Stephens College Fashion Department thanks to the hard work of the production committee. With Fashion Design and Development juniors Hannah Kleman and Katie Ciolino as co-chairs, the team of six set the stage for the show. They work closely with recent film graduate, Kennedy Brown, to design short video projections that are a big part of the show. Designing the stage and lighting and coordinating the music are also a large piece of the puzzle they are responsible for. 

The Collections 2024 Poster

Claire Johnson, a junior Fashion Design and Product Development major, has worked on The Collections for the last two years and has a unique role. Working mainly in production, she also serves as a floater amongst the different committees and as McMurry’s right-hand person—ensuring all the committees are working together effectively. 

“A well-executed show can be creative, the dance between choreo and lighting and music and timing, what goes out on who,” Johnson says. “Just keeping the audience’s attention for that long just looking at clothes on an unusual stage, it requires a lot of creative attention-holding and problem-solving.” 

Then there’s the model-management committee. With Apparel Studies juniors Emilee Frasier and Alex Jockisch as co-chairs, the team of six plays a crucial role in ensuring the garments are properly showcased during the show.  

Stephens models are part of a group that is juried for admittance and trained. 

“Modeling Group holds practices to help give models feedback on walking the runway and model etiquette. We also help create choreography for the show, as well as putting models in certain hair and makeup looks and preparing the garments backstage with model’s name tags for the day of the show,” Frasier says.  

The Design Process 

The Collections play an important role for all designers at Stephens College, but for Fashion Design and Product Development seniors it is especially significant. After years of hard work, each can create a senior collection representing an aspect of themself.  

Each designer is required to make at least three looks. This can be in any category or market such as bridal or ready-to-wear. The process of developing a collection begins well before a designer even touches the sewing machine at the start of the academic year.  

The summer before senior year, designers follow a recommended set of unofficial summer assignments to help develop their concepts. They are then required to conduct extensive customer, trend, market and industry research to create a market map that reports on and displays important findings. With their findings, the designers create moodboards and sketches that are then critiqued by Stephens alumni currently working in the industry. Once they receive feedback, they can move forward with their designs. 

To ensure garments are properly fitted to their models, the designers develop patterns, conduct countless fittings and finish garments. 

As the designers begin wrapping up their designs, it comes time to present their final work to the Jury of Selection, a panel of industry experts who assess each garment based on concept creativity as well as quality of construction. Jury is an important day for all designers submitting their work to the show. From sophomore to senior designers, anyone who is showcasing their work must present their pieces in front of this panel. This year’s panel included Lauren Boshans, Fey Chavez, Colby Scott, and Sarah Olivia Mills-Williams.  

Once the jury selection concludes, designers get to take a sigh of relief. At that point, their only concerns about their work are making minor adjustments and putting final touches on their garments. After the final look from their collection hits the runway, senior designers get to walk out with their models for a final bow and to take in everything they’ve worked so hard for. 

Meet the Senior Designers 

There are four seniors presenting collections this year. 

Juliet Forehand’s senior collection is a deeply personal exploration of her struggle with a nightmare disorder, expressed through a mix of hand-knitted garments and intricately painted denim pieces.  

Hannah Hicks uses her collection to challenge the fashion industry’s lack of size inclusion. Having struggled with her body image, Hicks designed a line of party wear that celebrates body diversity.  

Kayla Homeier designed a bridal collection that transcends conventional boundaries. Inspired by her sister’s struggles to find her wedding dress, Homeier resolved to fill this void in the bridal market through feminine dresses and a men’s-style suit with added feminine frills.  

Bethany Robertson’s sustainable collection incorporates upcycled fabrics and sustainable fibers. Robertson collaborated with her brother, a horticulture student at Johnson County Community College, to locally source the plant-based materials used to dye her fabrics. 

Behind the Scenes  

When the long-awaited showtime finally arrives, backstage magic is created. Behind the curtain, there is a palpable energy amongst the controlled chaos. Every moment is orchestrated, and everyone has a job. Models move in and out of quick changes, running to make their cues. The crew carefully times lights and music to flawlessly communicate the story of the show. 

Amidst all the garments, people and hairspray, you can see the vision coming to life. 

Why it matters 

Historically, fashion has been seen as a woman’s craft and often a frivolous industry. This narrative undermines the creativity, ingenuity and business savvy the fashion industry requires.  

The Collections represents the culmination of years of hard work and dedication of Stephens students and faculty. The 80th annual show is a special time to reflect on the impact of the Stephens College Fashion Program. This show not only celebrates the designers whose work graces the runway or the crew who makes the show possible, but every fashion graduate from Stephens College who has made an impact on the industry. 

This show is a testament to the power of creativity and storytelling, it reflects who Stephens College fashion students are as individuals and as a collective. The Collections remind everyone of the transformative power fashion has to inspire, empower and change lives. 

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