A Sarah Nasgowitz design
Madison fashion has been heavy on accessories lately: scarves, mittens and balaclavas. Earmuffs are the new black.
Meanwhile, students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have been thinking warmer thoughts as they prepare for UW Fashion Week. It kicks off Monday, March 9, and is organized by MODA magazine.
"We are the UW's first and only fashion magazine," says editor-in-chief Chloe Karaskiewicz. "We cover fashion, lifestyle, social news and the arts, and we even have a men's section this year. We're completely student-run."
MODA (Italian for "fashion") has been named one of the top 15 college fashion magazines by StyleCaster, a national apparel news website. The magazine is available free on campus as well as online.
This is the fourth annual UW Fashion Week. This year's highlight will be a runway program. College Fashionista, a website that covers campus fashion around the world, will be live-tweeting the event (@Cfashionista) and providing goodie bags.
Fashion is serious business to Karaskiewicz, a senior psychology major from the Milwaukee area. "I actually wrote a paper my freshman year about the psychology of fashion, and why we adorn ourselves and place importance on how and when we do it," she says. "It's an underexplored field."
The runway show will feature 30 female and male student models and local professionals, and many more people behind the scenes. "It's a pretty big production," says Karaskiewicz. Just preparing the models takes a half day.
"We have them there at noon to do a runway run-through," she says. "Then they get their hair and makeup done and we have them dressed, and then we do another run-through. We hold ourselves to a pretty high standard, to give everyone a professional showcase."
Gaining that professional experience is the main purpose of UW Fashion Week. Three of the featured student designers will be Madalyn Manzeck, Sarah Lauren Nasgowitz and Caitlin Wagner, juniors in the university's textile and apparel design program at the School of Human Ecology. (Madison-based designers Sophia Luchianni, Lauren Lynch and Chelsea Stotts will also be featured.)
"Fashion shows are tremendous marketing and advertising tools," says Manzeck, a Milwaukee-area native. "They get your work out there for people to see, and the goal is to hopefully spark interest and meet with people who want to help you and your brand grow."
Then there's the cathartic value. "So much work goes into creating the pieces," says Nasgowitz, a student from Colgate, Wis. "It starts with an inspiration, lots of sketches, a finalized illustration, technical [drawings] of the garment, then you can finally start draping and patterning the garment, make a mock-up of muslin, then create the finished look. Seeing my pieces on a model on the runway makes the hard work worthwhile."
"It's hard work," agrees Wagner, a native of Westfield, Wis. "You're always sewing. They make it seem so easy on Project Runway. It takes much more real time than people expect."
For each of them, fashion has been an interest since they were young. "I've been sewing since I was seven," says Wagner. "I didn't take it seriously until high school. I really like making something that's just mine." While well-meaning others have advised her to pursue design as a hobby and instead get a "real" job, she says her philosophy is to do what she loves. What do these designers think of how the city in general dresses?
"I think Madison has a different kind of fashion," says Manzeck. "More artsy," perhaps with hints of prior hippie culture, and "not so much high fashion."
"Fashion is kind of a growing scene in Madison, I think," says Karaskiewicz. "It's been gaining a lot more traction recently, as we draw in more designers and give them more outlets to show their work."
Wagner agrees. "Madison is a really great place to come if you want to create things," she says.
Scheduled UW Fashion Week activities include:
Cocktails and Couture, 8-10 pm March 9, in the lobby of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. A night of mingling with student designers, couture-clad models, MODA staff and regional industry professionals.
Swap and Shop, 7 pm, March 11, Union South. Have some clothes or accessories that just don't speak to you anymore? Swap in your wardrobe and shop everyone else's. Check "Today in the Union" postings in the building for room location.
Fashion Show, 8 pm, March 13, Varsity Hall at Union South. A runway program featuring Madison-area retailers as well as student and community designers. A "mingling hour" begins at 7 p.m. .
All events are free and open to the public. For more information, visit their Facebook page. .