When senior Verretta Andersen sat down to sketch clothing designs for her Apparel Design and Production capstone, her mind shot back to Vienna, Austria. To the steps of St. Stephen’s Cathedral. In her travels around Europe last summer, Andersen had seen many cathedrals, but this one in particular had caught her eye. The cathedral’s limestone walls had been stained black with soot and pollution over the years, giving it a dark and organic texture. Her pencil started moving and the sketches that emerged would eventually turn into a collection that would be named the “Best Overall Collection” at the Design and Merchandising Department’s annual 2014 CSU Fashion Show.
Along with 24 other designers, Andersen presented her fashion collection to a sold-out auditorium and three high-profile judges on March 7, the show theme this year was “Rendering Reality.”
“I was very impressed [with the fashion show],” said judge Stephanie Ohnmacht, a recent designer on “Project Runway: Under the Gunn.” “The talent and production was spot on!”
But getting to that runway was not an easy process. At the beginning of the semester, students were first asked to sketch out possible looks. After receiving critique from fellow classmates, students narrowed down their ideas to what would culminate into four final looks (or more, if they so chose).
“The whole process of constructing the clothes wasn’t necessarily make a decision and then make the garment, we kind of adjusted the idea as we went,” Andersen said in a phone interview.
The process of actually constructing the clothes pushed many students to try new techniques, which Anderson said is her favorite part of the design process. For Andersen, this came in the form of fabric painting and dying as she tried to replicate the textures of the cathedral in her garments – a process that was a little rocky at first.
“It was a little rough at the beginning — that is why the first garment is so important for problem solving and really starting a collection in a way that you like,” Andersen said. “But, after I finished the first one, all the other ones went pretty smoothly.”
Countless hours and many sleep-less nights later, Andersen had finished five different garments — she had effectively rendered her inspiration into reality.
“I loved seeing that process [idea into reality] in all of my classmates and just reliving how I just saw that cathedral and somehow I am here today with those garments and how that whole process went.”
Andersen’s reality immediately caught the eyes of the judges as her looks stormed the runway.
“She did a really nice job putting together a cohesive collection, whereas I think a lot of the other designers fell short in taking their inspiration and turning it into building a collection around that,” said judge Tracy Bozarth, a CSU alumna and co-founder and fashion director of Dandizette Magazine. “Just the whole look and feel — it felt like a designer’s collection.”
Ohnmacht agreed, saying, “Verretta’s work had all the things you look for in a great collection. It was eye catching, wearable, unique and well constructed.”
Even Anderson’s fellow classmates, felt her collection deserved the award.
“Verretta’s collection was really good and I can’t think of anyone better that could have won that award,” said Phillip Miller, whose collection was awarded “Best Construction.”
Verretta herself said she felt deeply honored that her designs were deemed the best collection at the fashion show.
“I put in countless hours and I worked as hard as I could, so it was a huge honor to be recognized for the work that I put in and the collection that I stood behind and was super proud of and to see that everyone else could recognize that as well,” she said.
Verretta attributes her award to her many years of sewing experience, dedication to impeccable construction and unique design aesthetic.
“I think my construction is something that sets me apart from people, but also, I think my preferences lean more towards darker things and not using color as much; I really like playing with textures and weird prints, which you can see in my collection,” she said.
Currently on the job search for an internship in New York City, Andersen plans to graduate in Dec. 2014. She said she feels CSU has well prepared her to enter the fashion world.
“CSU was a super great decision for my career; I feel really prepared for going into my future, so I am really glad I came here,” she said.
Following a love for fashion design that she developed in middle school, Andersen said she hopes to experience every facet of the fashion industry.
“I am really open-minded about what part of the fashion industry I will be working in; I think I need to go experience it more than I have to make that decision,” she said. “I just want to be working in a job that is challenging, that is enjoyable and fast-paced. I want to see what opportunities I have and see where it takes me.”
Eventually, Andersen said she hopes to open her own company – a dream she is putting in every effort to achieve. What advice does she have for others following their dreams?
“I think for me, I am still learning about what it takes to get where I want to be,” Andersen said. “I struggle with nerves a lot, so the advice I would give to others, as well as myself, is: don’t be afraid to take chances and really go for what you know you should go for even if you are terrified.”