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Annual Threads Fashion Show to bring student designs to runway this year

After a year of planning and hard work, models will walk down the runway at Threads Fashion Show wearing clothing collections designed by students in the Fashion Merchandising and Design program.

The annual fashion show gives students an opportunity to showcase their design and event planning talents on the runway. The 18th annual Threads Fashion Show will start at 6 p.m. on April 23 in Finch Fieldhouse.

General admission tickets can be purchased for $10 and VIP access tickets are $50 through Ticket Central. A VIP reception will be held at 4:30 p.m. in the Bovee University Center Rotunda on the day of the show for those who purchase a $50 VIP ticket.

Between 600 and 1,000 people are expected to attend the student-run fashion show, said Fashion Merchandising and Design program Professor Ian Mull. 

“We want everyone to experience Threads. There are so many talented individuals who are designing for Threads, day and night, spending all of their hours putting their collections together," said Mounted Exhibition Director Amy Cain. "That’s why everyone should attend — to show that fashion is more than just fun. It’s hard work."

Since May 2015, Professor Ian Mull and student producers Alexis Quinney, Emily Ribant and Kelsey Lancina have been working around the clock to make Threads possible. Students studying fashion, event planning and art and design also helped with the process.

This is Ribant's second year designing for Threads.

"The preparation experience is different depending on the time, but overall everything has been going smoothly," said the Flushing senior.

Student producer applications were provided in April, a year before the event. Once producers were interviewed and selected, the three started working on tasks over the summer to get a head start on planning.

There are eight committees of five to seven students working for Threads this year: events, venue, public relations, mounted exhibition, submissions, budget and logistics, hospitality and modeling. Committees are led by a student director and overseen by one of the three student producers. 

Once the Threads production class — FMD 357 — starts in the spring, students are matched accordingly to committees based on their preferences.

To be selected to showcase a collection on the runway, designers submitted their garments April 8. The following day a panel of judges composed of faculty and fashion icons decided which pieces would be worn in the show. 

Designers had 60 seconds to explain their artistic vision for their collection and used 10 minutes to examine if it meets the certain criteria.

There is not a specific number of designers chosen to be featured in Threads — if a student meets the standard of construction and inspiration, they are selected. 

Awards are also chosen on judging day, such as best womens-wear, best mens-wear and best in show. Designers who are honored with these awards and receive cash prizes as a small "refund" since they pay for their own material.

Student director of the venue committee Sadie Sirois is in charge of everything from lighting and staging to decor and music.

“You get big perks if you purchase a VIP ticket: priority seating in first or second row, pre-show reception in the Bovee University Center Rotunda with a cash bar, hors d'oeuvres, music, a keynote speaker and free goodie bags on the chairs. It’s a very classy affair," Sirois said.

This year's theme is "fashion lab," which pertains to the venue and decorations at the event, but will not necessarily be reflected in the clothing designed for the show. The entire show costs about $20,000 to host. 

This year, students reached out to businesses to get assistance with corporate sponsorship. In exchange, these businesses receive VIP packages and advertisement at Threads. Foster and Swift law firm and Scott's Hair Salon have been this year's sponsors in monetary donations and resources.

“My long term goal is to find corporate sponsors to pay for Threads so we can use our ticket sales to start a scholarship fund for students," Mull said. "We’re going to keep looking until we find that perfect match: someone who believes in the program, believes in the students’ work, and who would be willing to underwrite it."

The budget includes venue cost, decoration, lighting and program bulletins. The budgeting and logistics committee, led by student director Makenzie McFadden, who is in charge of keeping track of where the show is financially.

“Our biggest income is from the ticket sales, so we were in charge of designing the tickets, getting them printed and ready to be sold," said the Grand Rapids senior. "I’d say that the beginning of April really hit everyone, and now we’re all working hard to get the last minute touches handled."

The students have also had help from fundraisers such as resales, an informative Walk-in Heels event and Painting with a Twist. Different classes are a part of Threads as well. IND 331 handles the VIP reception while a food and nutrition course caters the event. Two groups in RPL 430 also chose Threads as their charity to raise money for the event.

To make Finch Fieldhouse a presentable venue for the show, the Mounted Exhibition committee will display everything from art and photography to 3D printing and CAD projects for audience members to look at. Students involved in the mounted exhibit were selected by faculty if their artwork met a certain criteria.

Cain used Adobe Illustrator to make a mock-up design for the showcase.

“I’ve grown a lot since last year when I got the job. Next year, I plan to get even more involved with Threads while designing another collection," said the Detroit senior. "I just want to keep taking it to the next level."

After succeeding Michael Mamp, Ian Mull has enjoyed his first year as the adviser. Though he has been involved with Threads for four years and has put on many fashion shows before, he said nothing has compared to his experiences planning the show this year.

"I think our students are amazing. I look at what they have accomplished since May 2015 — this show is them," Mull said.

Mull said he has enjoyed working with students through the whole planning process.

“Our adviser, Ian, has been really great working with us for his first year. He is really passionate about the show which makes it that much more fun,” said senior Lancina, a student producer from South Rockwood.

Char Glover, a Detroit designer on "America's Next Top Model," was a part of the judging panel that decided which garments will appear on the runway. Glover will also speak to audience members at the VIP reception.

Students worked hard to connect with Glover, Mull said, because they wanted a celebrity that knows the setbacks that Michigan designers face as they try to make their break in a state that is not normally considered fashion-forward.