Art Institute of Pittsburgh to showcase student designers

It might be its third annual Student Graduate Fashion Show on Thursday evening, but the Art Institute of Pittsburgh’s fashion design program will be full of firsts.

The show, which features graduates who passed their final portfolio critique, is the largest fashion show to date for the program. Collections from nine designers will be shown, including the first children’s line and plus size collection from the program.

The new lines are just one example of the increased diversity at this year’s senior showcase. The producers of the show also said there was more creativity of design.

“Everybody’s doing something really different and edgy,” said Stephanie Taylor, who heads the fashion design and fashion retail management programs.

Ms. Taylor is producing the show with industry professional and Art Institute teacher Suzanne Mauro. Past shows were produced by an event and fashion show production class that was not offered in the last term.

For the first time, the show will be held in the Energy Innovation Center in the Hill District. Aside from a small show Ms. Mauro produced there in March, this will also be the first fashion show held in the venue. Ms. Mauro said it was a fun way to christen the building.

“It’s exciting to be the first there. It’s very unique and highly recommended for the bio-sustainable building,” Ms. Mauro said.

The Energy Innovation Center — a nonprofit that in part aims to incubate businesses to support emerging clean and sustainable energy markets — is under construction, and Ms. Mauro said this helped inspire her plans for the fashion show.

“I have a number of different ideas and concepts that you’ll see. Visually different parts of the show will be very unique,” Ms. Mauro said.

Another new addition is the pre-show Meet the Designers session. The hope is to help audience members match designers with their featured collections, and to provide some networking opportunities for the students.

“I want to expose my students to the industry here in Pittsburgh. They are all young designers that no one has really heard of yet,” Ms. Taylor said.

Both fashion programs at the Art Institute are relatively new, graduating their first cohorts three years ago. The size of this year’s showcase reflects both the increasing size of the programs (about 100 students are currently enrolled) and the rise of Pittsburgh’s fashion scene.

“There is so much talent here that can definitely be developed,” Ms. Taylor said.

Graduates from the program have gone on to work at companies such as Aerotech and Dick’s Sporting Goods. Designs from graduate Romino Vairo’s collection were recently shown at New York Fashion Week, and she is set to show them in London soon.

Thursday’s show will be judged by three members of the Pittsburgh fashion industry: Robert Brandagee, CEO of Little Earth Productions; Catherine Batcho, owner of Cut & Sew Studio in Highland Park and Heather Bujaky, a technical designer at Dick’s Sporting Goods. They will decide on three awards: most marketable, most creative and best overall collection.

Doors open at 5:30 p.m. for the Meet the Designers session. The show will begin at 6:45 pm. Tickets, $20 general admission and $10 for students, can be purchased at the door.

By Caelin Miltko / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette