“Formation” fashion show brings two VCU design students to a new level

Taylor Thornberg
Spectrum Editor

VCUarts students Miriam Weirich (left) and Manon Loustaunau (right) finish preparing for their “Formation” fashion show. Photos by Julie Tripp

While many students associate research with the science, math and technology fields, two VCUarts students are changing that perception by presenting research in the form of a fashion show Saturday, May 2 at the Middle of Broad storefront.

Manon Loustaunau, a junior in fashion design, and Miriam Weirich, a senior in interior design, used a research grant they received from the School of the Arts to design and create a collection of clothing that combines the fundamental concepts of architecture and fashion.

“(We’re) essentially taking these concepts of architectural construction like scale and proportion and materiality and opacity and translucency and applying them to the scale and technique of fashion,” Loustaunau said.

Loustaunau said the idea came about in fall 2014 after she and Weirich began working together through Middle of Broad, or mOb, a design studio and storefront where VCU students and professors in the graphic, interior and fashion design departments collaborate on projects that help the Richmond community. When working together, Loustaunau and Weirich call themselves “Level Fortythree.”

“I guess it’s our other identity,” Weirich said. “We got ‘Level Fortythree’ from, at the time she was 20 and I was 23 so we added our ages together, and together we made ‘Level Fortythree.’”

They applied for a research grant from VCUarts to experiment with combining fashion and interior design and were given a little more than $2,000. Loustaunau said they had asked for just under $3,000 and were pleased to get most of what they asked for. She added that the money the art school provides for grants comes from extra funds made from summer intensives offered to high school students. They used the money to pay for travel expenses to and from New York City and the materials used in the show. Loustaunau said they took the trip to New York City as part of their research.

“We went to New York to see an exhibition at FIT, the Fashion Institute of Technology, on Halston and Yves Saint Laurent in the ’70s,” Loustaunau said. “And we were just completely blown away by the culture of the ’70s and the way everything was, sort of, starting to be deconstructed.”

Loustaunau said the idea of deconstructivism in both the fashion and architecture of the ’70s was a starting point for them to begin experimenting. Both students said their research was a mixture of learning from each other and learning from books, drawings and other designers. While they spent many nights in the library, Weirich said a big part of the research was understanding each other’s views on their respective design fields.

“It started off mostly with us just really talking, having a conversation and trying to understand our two worlds of design,” Weirich said. “We use the same vocabulary but we use the vocabulary in a different way because we’re both working on different scales, architecture being much larger than fashion.”

Through their discussions they found a designer they could both draw inspiration from: Gareth Pugh, a British fashion designer who takes a highly structural approach to clothing.

“His designs are very conceptual, very technical, very constructed, they’re like buildings around the body and that was something we were really interested in,” Loustaunau said.

After two months of research, Loustaunau and Weirich both took part in drawing out their ideas. Weirich said they focused first on building structures around bodies and later decided to create clothes. Loustaunau sewed the fabric, which included velvet, satin and sheer, and Weirich built plastic structures to create the structure of the pieces.

Their fashion show, which serves as the product of their research project, will be held Saturday, May 2 from 6-9 p.m. at 205 E. Broad St., the mOb storefront. Loustaunau said the models will be stationed throughout the space from 6-8 p.m. as mannequins, so that people can walk around and see them, and at 8 p.m. the models will do a walk.

“It’s not gonna be a very formal fashion show walk, it’s gonna be our interpretation of a walk,” Weirich said.

As the culmination of their work approaches, both designers said the project has been an important learning experience which influenced them to be more collaborative with other design fields. Weirich said she hopes the audience can experience this as well.

“I hope that they’ll understand that design doesn’t just have to be fashion, it doesn’t have to just be graphic and it doesn’t just have to be interior,” Weirich said. “There can be a language, a universal language that can be understood for all aspects of design.”

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