27th Annual Campus Couture Fashion Show An Absolute Labor of Love

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Photos by Asia Morris

Students studying fashion design at California State University, Long Beach will showcase years of hard work and serious passion at the 27th Annual Campus Couture Fashion Show at the Richard and Karen Carpenter Performing Arts Center, scheduled to take place this Friday at 7PM. 

The students, 19 seniors and 23 juniors, gave the Post a sneak peek at several of the garments during the prejudging event before the big night.

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Dr. Suzanne Marshall, program director for the Family and Consumer Sciences’ (FCS) Fashion Merchandising and Design program at CSULB, has overseen the production since its humble beginnings. She said 27 years ago, Campus Couture was just a show in a tiny room in the FCS Building with maybe five design students who participated.

DSC 0029 900x602After a few years, the show was held outside at the Student Union during lunchtime.

“We could only do it from noon to 1PM, because after classes started it would create too much noise,” she said, laughing. 

Eventually, the production outgrew its previous venues and graduated to The Carpenter Performing Arts Center. Meanwhile, game changers like hosting industry judges and offering participating students the chance to show at LA Fashion Week made it “one of the most labor- intensive programs at CSULB,” wrote Shayne Schroeder for News at the Beach.

“This show is something every designer in our program dreams about: the day their garments will be showcased on a real runway,” said Karen Stump, one of the senior presenters. “Some little children dream about growing up to be someone great. My dream has always been to create something great.”

DSC 0027 900x602The head coordinator for Campus Couture, Kayla Mead, is a senior at CSULB studying fashion merchandising. She’s been working alongside the design students to make sure the event runs smoothly. She said the show is truly a labor of love.

“It’s definitely a lot, on top of our classes and graduating and internships, but we all applied for a reason,” she said.

Dr. Marshall said that the coordinators who apply for the job tend to be a certain type of student.

After graduating, she said, “they typically will go out and make successes of themselves. They’re very driven and are organized and are just very good leaders. I think it’s great for them, it really develops a lot of skills that you just can’t really develop in a class.”

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“It’s a wonderful thing for their resumes because it shows real leadership, and I think so many résumés look alike, so I always tell them if you can say that you were on the committee that produced the biggest student body event on the West Coast, well, that’s a big deal,” she said. 

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A few of the judges this year include Walter Mendez, who won the 25th Annual Campus Couture for Best Collection and showed his designs at LA Fashion Week the first year the opportunity was offered. Marshall said he designed her dress to wear to the show that year and also for this year’s production.

DSC 0033 900x602The talented judges include Charlene Pack of Dolls Kill, Beth Jones of B. Jones Style, Erin Whitaker of PARKERWHITAKER Productions and Lauren Bojorquez of 24 Seven Inc. Each will be eyeing the students’ six-to-10 piece collections with scrutiny. A prejudging event before the Friday night show is conducted with alumni, who are asked by the coordinators to come back to campus for a first discerning look at the collections.

Two alumni inspected the garments made for “Reclaimed,” where the designers were required to create a piece from an old garment. Wearability, marketability and construction are just a few of the elements taken into consideration as they’re scored. One of the alumni now works for OBEY and the other works in the Costume and Textiles Department at LACMA. 

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The five categories seniors will address with their designs are draping, computerized flat pattern, knits, reclaimed and couture techniques, all in an effort to show off their hard work and get the chance to show it through Art Hearts Fashion at LA Fashion Week.

While last year’s Campus Couture theme was based on “glamping,” this year the students wanted to go with the Final Frontier, of which the space-age, star-trek-like, pleather-rich garments will be modeled down the runway at the beginning of the show.

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Stump said her collection this year is very personal.

“My biggest challenge of creating this collection was not about skills, sleepless nights or pricked fingers, it was about having the guts to design what I loved, and then to present it to the world,” she said. “It’s a scary thing to bare yourself to so many. The defining quote, or theme for my life and for this collection comes simply from William Shakespeare, ‘To thine own self be true.’”

For more information and to purchase tickets for the show, click here.

The Carpenter Center is located at 6200 E. Atherton St.

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Asia Morris has been with the Long Beach Post for five years, specializing in coverage of the arts. Her parents gave her the name because they wanted her to be a world traveler and they got their wish. She has obliged by pursuing art, journalism and a second career as a competitive cyclist.