Gallatin School of Individualized Learning’s annual fashion show, themed “Renewal,” featured the work of 21 designers at the 2023 show.
The 2023 Gallatin Fashion Show, featuring student designers, was held on March 3 and was the school’s first in-person show since 2019. His theme was “renewal.” The show was produced by Rachel Plutzer, senior director of events and special programs at Gallatin, and Teresa Anderson, associate director of special events. It was hosted by Robert “Bobby” Peñajero, who served as Gallatin’s assistant director of student life for four years.
“Coming back in person was so phenomenal,” Peñarero said. “There’s just a spirit here at the show that you just can’t capture unless you’re together.”
The show began with a panel discussion featuring all 21 designers, each explaining how they interpreted the theme of “Recovery” in their collections. The runway opened with the “Feeling Fruity” collection by designer Leah Hans, which was a crowd pleaser. Hans, a 2020 Gallatin graduate, collaborated with fellow NYU student Jordan French, who hand-painted the fruit print on each garment. Hans incorporated real fruit into the look, and dried kiwis hung from handbags as accessories. Like its namesake, the collection was playful and refreshing.
Students in Associate Professor Louise Harpman’s Good Design class created their own looks, which came together in a collection called The T-Shirt Project. It featured various creations by students who transformed the ordinary t-shirt with their own design principles.
One designer, sophomore Spencer Bendtel, transferred to Gallatin last semester from Washington University in St. Louis. He debuted his first collection, Acknowledging Sunsets, which featured matching sets reminiscent of the sunsets that covered the skies of his hometown in New Hampshire.
“All the fabrics were originally purchased in white,” Bandtel said. “I pulled from a collection of photos taken over the years in New Hampshire and dyed the fabric to match the colors in the photos.”
Like Bandtel, others have also relived the past through their collections. Freshman Carmen Lopez-Fernandez’s Reclaiming Innocence collection featured four looks that transformed the restorative journey of reclaiming a girlhood that was abandoned too soon. Light colors and loose silhouettes were contrasted with dark skin and sharp lines to further detail the connection between the two polar ideas of ‘youthful innocence’ and ‘tainted maturity’.
Gallatin freshman Anthony Ofia debuted his collection, HEAVEN CONCEALED: Esoteric, which featured a musical track created by NYU student Phoenix Ferreira Ford.
“Music gives life to art, and fashion as an art form is enhanced by music,” Ofia said. “When I imagine fashion, there’s also a soundtrack that captures the spirit and mood, so it was important that I work with someone to bring out the music that I associate with ‘HEAVEN CONCEALED.'”
A few designers have adapted the more literal meaning of “Update”. Gallatin Junior Athens Soren Lui presented a collection called “Astral Gore” in which they recycled items from their own trash and turned them into wearable clothing.
“I think it’s important to use what you have, what’s already been done, before these fossil fuels and things that can’t be replaced completely run out,” Lui said.
Senior XY Zhou and junior Abigail Lenhard showed a collaborative collection titled Every Cowboy Sings a Sad, Sad Song, which explored the American icon of the cowboy and revealed the undertones of the reality of the “co-optation and silencing of BIPOC cultures” that the designers said is ever-present in our American history.
Another designer, Gallatin freshman Sophia Valencia, presented a collection called “Broken Pieces that Make Us Whole,” which was about showing inner strength and power. Themes of self-discovery and self-expression were woven into each designer’s interpretation of the update.
Each design was observed from the front row by Gallatin School of Individualized Learning Dean Victoria Rosner, who was proud of the students and their creations.
“Our students are incredibly talented, and I love that they chose the theme of ‘Renewal’ for the show,” Rosner said. “I think it really speaks to the fact that we all feel so honored to be coming back in person, and that this is Gallatin’s first in-person fashion show since the pandemic. You just feel the richness and satisfaction of being together.”
This year’s fashion show ended with a stellar review from Rosner and loud applause from the audience. Several students are even looking forward to next year’s event.
“Planning for next year’s fashion show starts tomorrow, so it will take a whole calendar year to get it together,” Peñarero said. “We have to think through the theme, the whole process, and try to figure out the literal logistics of how to create theater in a creative and inventive way for years to come.”
Contact Layla Anderson on [email protected]