I wouldn’t consider myself a highly creative person (contrary to popular belief, creative writing and magazine writing are two vastly different professions), but I’m fascinated by those who are. It’s also the reason why I enjoy attending CREO, Mount Mary University’s annual student designer fashion show and gallery exhibit.
This year, the fashion show relocated to the Father Robert V. Carney Performing Arts Center at Pius XI High School, where video production, mood lighting, well thought-out choreography and student-designed fashions combined to transform the space into one worthy of a couture runway show. As each model took his or her place center stage, I carefully evaluated the looks, examining their construction, fit and wearability.
What was most interesting, however, was the source of inspiration each student designer drew from when sketching and sewing her work. Ranging from historical and literary notes to more sentimental sources, the ways in which the designers creatively translated these influences into their work was seamless and, to be quite frank, beyond impressive. I couldn’t help but notice how well their talents aligned with CREO’s 2016 theme, synergy — the act of ideas floating, colliding and melding.
One student, for example, used a set of her grandfather’s silk ties as the lining for a fit and flare coat, melding sentimentality with marketable design. Another sought inspiration from her native Hmong culture, and a third student crafted a stunning gold gown inspired by the Ukrainian ballet. Additional influences included the geometry and architecture of the Brooklyn Bridge, the laidback vibe of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Palm Springs, and even noted women in pop culture such as Diana Ross and Marilyn Monroe.
CREO encompasses more than the student designer fashion show, though. An Arts & Design Exhibit showcasing student achievement is on display throughout the two weeks leading up to the show. Open to the public (and with free admission) on the university’s campus, the gallery of work includes studio art pieces, graphic and interior designs, fashion garments and more — a dedicated celebration of student talent and expertise.
It’s refreshing to see a university so committed to recognizing its students, and both the fashion show and gallery exhibit do just that, ensuring Milwaukee area talent is nurtured and cultivated for years to come.
After graduating from college, I spent two years living and working in Manhattan, where I had the great privilege of attending New York Fashion Week multiple times. The week-long event is, in a word, mesmerizing. Fashion’s finest flock to the metropolis to view the latest designer collections, and the energy at each show is captivating — an energy that, I had thought, would forever go unmatched. But then I attended CREO for the very first time, and I immediately felt like I was transported back inside the tents at Lincoln Center in NYC.
CREO is Mount Mary University’s annual student-led fashion, art and design show. The fashion show is planned and produced by university students with the assistance of professionals and celebrates the work of students enrolled in Mount Mary University’s Fashion Design program. This year’s theme, “IGNITE,” centered around the concept of sparking imagination and ideas, and after personally experiencing the show and viewing the student collections, I can attest to the fact that it was a concept well executed both on and off the runway.
The setting, sounds, fashion and creative direction combine to present a show brimming with energy and talent. The Run of Show, a production term used to describe the order in which the designs are presented in, included six different collections — Ebony, Spark, Flicker, Flare, Illuminate and Explode. Each collection featured, at minimum, seven original garments designed and manufactured by Mount Mary University students. From chunky knit tunics and wool outerwear to lavishly decorated bridal gowns and wearable separates, each piece was more unique than the last — a testament to the students and their ability to create fashion that not only blends cohesively into an overall collection, but also remain true to their own individual style of design.
What I found intriguing was the diversity of the show’s audience — younger, older, male, female. It’s clear that CREO attracts more than just the city’s most fashionable, and I can see why. It’s a vibrant, energy-packed celebration of young local talent — an event worth attending, no doubt. I’m already looking forward to next year!
ART AWARDS AND A NEW EXHIBITION
CREO, Mount Mary University’s annual student designer fashion and art show, is just two days away, and festivities leading up to the event are well underway. Just yesterday, for example, the League of Milwaukee Artists named its two award recipients — Sarah Fink and Michelle Dabel. Both artists were recognized for their excellence in artistry and craft, and each student received a monetary prize and a free, one-year student membership to the League of Milwaukee Artists.
The awards coincide with CREO’s Honors Show, which showcases pieces created by students in the School of Arts and Design within the last year and a half. The artwork, which varies from drawings and paintings to graphic designs and fashion illustrations, is on view in the Harley-Davidson Museum Chrome Tent beginning at 1 p.m. Contributing artists are not limited to art majors — those who simply took one studio class were also invited to exhibit. Plus, each piece is available for purchase. “It’s always great for our students to have the opportunity to sell their work off-campus,” adds Josh Anderson, the Marian Art Gallery director and an instructor in university’s art department. “Attendees can purchase works on-site and take them home with them that night.”
The exhibition is juried by a professional panel, and the university recruited one juror specific to each of the four disciplines — interior design, graphic design, fine art and fashion. This year’s jurors include:
• Aga Artka, Aga Artka Interior Design, LLC
• Reginald Baylor, Executive Director – Plaid Tuba Holdings, Reginald Baylor Studio
• Jessica Frantal, MFA Candidate – Textile and Apparel Design, UW- Madison
• Kurt Thieding, Graphic Design Manager, Associate, Kahler Slater, Inc.
New this year, the Honors Show will also feature a series of large format prints created by Mount Mary University art students for a special commission. General Electric tasked the university’s art department with developing prints for its on-campus Menlo Studio, and the project, which centers around design empathy and what it means, draws on the question of narrative — a direct way of communicating empathy. Of the 15-plus prints on display, six were chosen for the Menlo Studio installation, which will be completed at GE later this month.
This year, Mount Mary University’s renowned fashion show CREO fell on my 31st birthday. Earlier that week, my husband asked if I would be taking the day off and I wheeled around and exclaimed, “Are you kidding me? That’s CREO day!”
When it’s more exciting than a birthday, you know it’s a great event.
For years now, M Magazine has been a proud media sponsor of CREO and this year we were thrilled to partner once again with Mount Mary University on this year’s show, held at the Harley-Davidson Museum and themed Pulse. Ask any of my coworkers and they’ll tell you that I could probably be a one-man, traveling marketing campaign for CREO. It’s always a top Milwaukee event recommendation when anyone asks.
Working for a magazine, I have the honor of attending many wonderful events, but this one is near and dear to my heart. Why? Because there’s something captivating about seeing an entire show come together because of the hard work and talent of students who have their finger on the pulse (ahem…remember the theme?). I also feel proud to live in a city where a university celebrates this creativity by giving its students a unique outlet to explore their passion.
That’s the beauty of CREO - it’s student-driven. From the fashion, to the runway production, to the art and design element of the show – the students all have their hands in the mix of the planning. What better way to receive an education than by experiencing?
M Magazine isn’t the only Milwaukee business to appreciate the value of an event like CREO in our neighborhood. In fact, as student designs walked, commentator Christine Koutnik, Production Manager of Women’s Leather, Outerwear and Riding Gear for Harley-Davidson and a Mount Mary alum, also announced awards for individual collections presented by companies like Bon-Ton, Target, Kohl’s, A.J. Ugent and Villa Terrace. The local support surrounding CREO is also evident in the big name event sponsors in the program book and, as the introduction states, “Because many…Mount Mary graduates choose to remain in Milwaukee, they will have an opportunity to add their voices and creative problem-solving ideas to this marketplace.”
And that? That makes me really excited for the pulse of our city.
The morning of CREO I stood in front of my mirror, vetoing every outfit change. The black suit pants felt too conservative. It was too chilly for the silk blouse. Boots felt too casual.
Dressing to fit in among Mount Mary College’s aspiring fashion designers is not an easy undertaking. Sometimes I’m lucky if I can match my shoes to my belt.
Wait. I don’t think that’s the rule anymore, is it?
This year was my first experiencing CREO, and I was looking forward to an exciting fashion show and design exhibit at the über-cool Harley-Davidson Museum.
CREO is Mount Mary College’s annual “celebration of creativity,” where the school showcases students’ work in fashion, fine art, graphic design and interior design. This year’s theme, “Juxtapose,” focused on unexpected combinations of creative elements, or, in their words: “eccentric meets traditional, beauty becomes breathtaking and abstractions transform into reality.”
Can I add another descriptive word? Inspiring.
As the first group of models took the runway, I elbowed my colleague about a gorgeous jacket. I didn’t stop elbowing her the rest of the show.
To say these designers are talented is an understatement. I was impressed by their creativity and forward thinking, evident in the quality and originality of their work. These young designers have a bright future ahead of them in fashion.
But I can’t stop there.
While the fashion was a highlight, it was even more impressive set against all the production details. The lighting, the videos, the music — even the way the models walked the runway — was just plain cool.
After the show, the M Magazine team and guests ventured over to the area housing the design element of the show. Here we checked out examples of inventive graphic design, beautiful artwork and interior design boards that were imaginative and modern.
The chairs “upcycled” by students for the SustainTABLE CHAIRity — a silent auction of salvaged furniture and accessories benefiting the interior design program’s mission to give back to the community by designing spaces for homeless shelters and nonprofit organizations — lined the front wall like quirky representations of different styles.
Summarizing the show means the word “inspiring” will make an appearance again in this blog. We got a glimpse into the hard work and dedication that not only goes into this show, but goes into the beautiful art these student designers create everyday. I have no doubt Milwaukee will benefit from the young talent about to take the city by storm.
And I know, I know … I can’t end this blog with a cliffhanger. I ended up going with a pair of skinny jeans, blazer and leopard-print scarf. And I didn’t match my belt to my shoes.