Fashion on the Shore, which was held at the beginning of May at the Heritage Museum and Cultural Center, a stately building in downtown St. Joseph, was created to spotlight the works of student designers and showing the attendees what these emerging artists’ works look like on runway models. With a focus on Michigan and colleges in neighboring states, this year’s design students were from Central Michigan University, Western Michigan University, Kendall College, Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois and the Illinois Institute of Art-Chicago.

The requirements for each of the colleges focus on different types of designs for their final assignments. Because “artists” was the theme this year at Central Michigan University, Justin Gagnon decided to pattern his designs on the works of the Chinese-French artist Zao Wou-Ki, whose abstract impressionist work was influenced by Paul Klee. This June, Wou-Ki’s paintings, “Sous Bois Dans la Nuit” sold for $18.4 million at a Sotheby’s auction in Beijing.

Annie Brower, also a student at CMU, chose Basquiat as her artist inspiration.

“His work is a multimedia collage of words and art,” says Brower whose goal is to have her own label or brand someday where she can design clothes that are ethically made either in house or in a production company. “I did my own fabric surface designs to create a collage effect.”

According to Susie Reeves, an assistant at Western Michigan University’s Textile and Apparel Studies prepares students in different aspects of the fashion industry by offering programs such as Fashion Design Emphasis, Merchandise Emphasis and Product Development Emphasis.

“Many of the students attended here already have some experience,” says Reeves, “but we do have students who are very interested in the field and taking courses.”

With both classes and an emphasis on hands-on experiences as well as placements in the community for real life skills, Reeves says they also hold two big fashion shows a year, at the end of the spring and fall semesters.

“It’s amazing how much work goes into the shows and how impressive the students’ designs are,” says Reeves.

“You know longer have to go to New York or Las Angeles to get a degree in fashion,” says Theresa Childs, administration counselor at Kendall College of Art and Design is a NASAD-certified college of art and design located in downtown Grand Rapids.

Childs notes that their four year program, culminating in a BFA in Fashion Design giving students the advantage of preparing for their careers within four-year design program.

“We have an advantage,” she says. “We’re clothing designers not just technologists.”

Described as a 3 in 1, their BFA program interweaves Kendall’s design expertise of Kendall and FIT or fashion industry immersion. This allows students so spent time in both locations—the Kendall campus for three years of study followed by a year immersed in New York City’s fashion world.

The Illinois Institute for the Arts offers two programs in Fashion, Fashion Design and Fashion Merchandizing. The first starts with fundamentals like color theory, fashion drawing, patternmaking, accessory design and life drawing and the goes to the next level offering such courses as patternmaking, fashion drawing, trends and concepts in apparel. Digital text design and concept development.

“The clothes I designed for the shore show were inspired by a purple print fabric that I owned,” says Lynn Seman of Western Michigan University. The colors within the fabric intrigued me and allowed me to create different pieces that mixed and matched well with each other,” says Seman noting her target market was a mid-twenties woman who is looking for fun outfits and isn't afraid to wear patterns and contrasting colors. “I designed and constructed the clothes for a class during the spring, when the opportunity came up to do the Shore show I knew I had to take it. I had been too busy during the school year to do the fashion shows that an organization at WMU puts on.”

For Seman, whose future plans after graduation attending IUT in Annecy, France to earn a Bachelor's degree in Performance Sports Textile and Footwear and then a move to the West coast to pursue a job with an outdoor sports company such as Patagonia, The North Face, Nike or Marmot, appreciated what FOTS offered.

“It was a great experience, I love watching my designs walk down a runway and being able to get professional photos of my designs on models for my portfolio was great,” she says. “I also really enjoying seeing what other talented students are able to design and create. I definitely plan on participating in the shore show next summer.”

Vicki Cook, owner of VC Metal Works in Benton Harbor and designs and fabricates jewelry using metals such as sterling, fine silver, copper, brass, and gold creating jewelry, has judged FOTS for all three years and relishes meeting the designers and observing their work.

“As a judge I was able to come early and meet each of the designers in person, so they were able to talk about their pieces—most pieces were still on the hanger at this point, concept, theme, materials, techniques—their entire process,” says Cook. “Seeing the clothing on the models, showed the flow and drape of the fabric and told us if the designers were considering how the pieces actually appeared when worn.”

Gagnon, a participant in FOTS since its inception three years ago, finds those viewing the show as appreciative and giving positive feedback.

“It’s a tremendous event,” he says.

“It was a lot of fun participating in FOTS,” says Souser who this fall is applying to the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. “In the past I have helped a fellow designer out and decided to take my turn at it this year. The show is very well organized and leaves me stress-free and having a great time. It’s a great place to network with other students from schools we barely meet with. I will definitely be competing again in the show this next year.”