Drexel University students must be trying to get on the good side of women who lament the loss of classic silhouettes. Their end-of-year collections provided practical styles that boasted both architectural and youthful twists.
Saturday's senior show marked the end of the fashion presentations held annually at each of the area's top design schools. This year, Drexel, along with Philadelphia University and Moore College of Art and Design, thankfully managed to veer a bit from what had become predictable fashion journeys in prior shows.
After years of hosting at the Crystal Tea Room in Center City's Wanamaker Building, Drexel's fashion design and merchandising program moved the presentation to Urban Outfitters' Navy Yard campus.
The new space offered a longer, 48-foot runway, and its high ceilings and exposed beams resembled the cool loft spaces designers look for when they hold shows away from New York Fashion Week's tents in Bryant Park. Yet despite the new surroundings, there was a tone of familiarity thanks to fashion insider Kate Burns, who annually announces the students' work in her trademark sultry voice.
The hour-and-a-half presentation began with lingerie designs. Anna Burns' tuxedo sleeveless nightshirt and white button-down with matching boxers was the classiest of this grouping. Burns' interpretation of the all-the-rage boyfriend look was refreshing; the ratty T-shirt and plaid boxers look is so 1990s.
The show quickly moved through children's wear, which included an adorable, kelly-green overcoat with fierce black buttons paired with white leggings by Keturah Drake. Elizabeth Ko rightfully won best-of-children's-wear designer for her five-piece collection of tiny cropped pants and dresses in Lilly Pulitzer pink, green and blue.
When it came to menswear, the legging-and-tunic combinations seemed jarring. I understand the difficulty in trying to put a fresh spin on khakis, but adapting feminine silhouettes to menswear looks unsettling. Still, senior Margaret Delap did an exemplary job making wide-legged trousers manly, thanks to the chunky, hand-knit sweaters she paired them with.
Dresses inspired by industrial construction sites were among the most creative groupings presented. Spokesman Zeek Weil told me it had to do with the campus' being inundated with construction work for the better part of the school year. (Hard) hats off to the students who turned a negative into a positive. Exposed zippers, geometric prints and plaids, stop-sign reds, and, of course, caution orange ruled these 11 dresses for a visually rewarding grouping. Mika Osoro's racerback mini was red hot in color and design.
The 19 senior collections were a striking combination of whimsical silhouettes and angular suiting. Overcoats were cleverly lined with checkerboard fabrics. Leather ensembles in primary shades were accented with taxicab-yellow shoes. And dark denim was transformed into jumpsuits suitable for evening wear.
Senior Lisa Salen's collection of oversized bags was nothing short of excellent, and she won the David Yurman Award for accessory design. As an added punch, the charcoal-gray tube dresses she paired with the bags had best-seller potential, too. Dana Mearig's coats-only grouping inspired by architects Frank Gehry and Santiago Calatrava were sharply tailored with exaggerated collars and unique seam lines. Nice.
Karolyne Lockhart's pastel, corseted brocade gowns adorned with peacock feathers and accessorized with beads were absolutely beautiful, and were among my favorite groupings. If it were up to me, Lockhart would have won best of show.
Samantha Butler followed up that grouping with a breathtaking collection of rainbow-colored shifts (and floppy straw hats) inspired by designer Isabel Toledo. (Toledo designed first lady Michelle Obama's sparkling, lemongrass inauguration ensemble.) A yellow, orange and pink tiered dress inspired me to doodle "I want that" on my program. Butler took home the most-salable award from King of Prussia Mall.
Lastly, Jessica Saphire's six-piece silk collection of organza wide-legged pants, dresses, and slim skirts was a real treat.
Her black strapless ballgown with what appeared to be a dozen handmade pink and purple flowers won the Joan Shepp Award for Design Achievement. The entire collection won for best evening wear. Curious fashionistas can see the gown on display at Shepp's Center City boutique at 1616 Walnut St. through the end of June.