For the last five years the Mount Mary University CREO fashion show has been on the road. In 2011 students took the stage at the Bradley Pavilion in the Marcus Center, and in 2012 the show was held at the Hyatt Hotel in downtown Milwaukee. From 2013 to 2015 it found a home at the Harley Davidson Museum. Last year’s show was at Pius XI High School. This year the show will be at Turner Hall Ballroom, located in downtown Milwaukee and operated by the Pabst Riverside Foundation.
The CREO fashion show has been hosted in many locations, but never one as convenient as Mount Mary’s own theater, which was home to the fashion show until 2011. If any last-minute work needed to be done on garments, designers could just run upstairs. Wendy Jones, former administrative assistant in fashion, remembers the specific color of the ticket box office being the color of “institutional green.”
“It stayed in the theater for years,” Jones said. “It was wonderful because the theater lobby had lounges for the girls to keep their accessories.”
Today, the CREO fashion show is no longer held on campus, yet it retains many of the age-old traditions of shows past. Fashion merchandising students still direct and plan the show, which features the collections of fashion design students.
CREO, a Latin term meaning to make, create and produce, showcases both the fashion and the art & design programs.
The fashion show is planned by the Fashion Show Coordination Class. This year it is being taught by Trish Kuehnl, Laura Kane and Stephanie Brown. It is a required class for all merchandise management students and optional for fashion design students.
The theme of this year’s show is Transcend. Andrea Monacelli, a senior majoring in merchandise management, is part of this semester’s Fashion Show Coordination Class who selected the theme.
“Transcend is showing that we can all overcome whatever obstacles we are facing in life and work together to put on one heck of a show,” Monacelli said.
Last Year’s Show
Trish Kuehnl, co-chair of the fashion department and overseer of the merchandise management program, has been teaching the Fashion Show Coordination class for four years. Kuehnl said that Pius gave the show a very different feeling because it is a high school.
“It was a beautiful auditorium and beautiful stage, as far as sound,” Kuehnl said. “Lighting was very professional.”
Barbara Armstrong, dean of the School of Arts and Design, is now celebrating her fourth year working with the CREO show. After last year’s show, feedback was gathered from students and guests.
“We had an online survey, and we as a team got together and said, ‘Okay, what were the things we did well, and what were the things that we’d like to do differently,’” Armstrong said.
She said that the survey brought in a “mixed bag of accolades and concerns.”
“We had lots of people who liked the show at Pius High School and liked the theater, but we also heard from some others that wanted it to be more of a runway show,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong said that there was a lot of student feedback that they didn’t want it to be at a high school.
Sam Rohde, a senior majoring in fashion merchandise management, was a part of the planning class for last year’s show. She said that the Pius’ theater lacked the feeling of the runway coming forth from the stage to meet the audience.
“Having it at a venue where you can have a runway again will definitely be beneficial,” Rohde said.
Jones said Pius’ auditorium was beautiful but lacking for some people.
“We lost some people because it didn’t have that downtown feel, and you know that’s where it’s at,” Jones said. “Even for us old folks, we want to go downtown.”
New Venue: The Selection Process
Over the summer, there was a search conducted by the planning class’ faculty, Trish Kuehnl and Laura Kane, to find the perfect venue for the 2017 CREO fashion show.
Kuehnl and Kane were given summer hours to conduct their search, even physically looking at roughly 10 different venues and examining about 40 places online. They considered factors such as size, appearance and dates of availability.
“That was the huge thing because these venues are booked out way in advance,” Armstrong said.
They narrowed it down to about five different places.
“Pius was still in the mix at that point,” Armstrong said. “Even though Pius was less expensive, we decided that the runway and the downtown location were things that people really liked. We figured out that maybe we could balance out a budget and still do it.”
Back to downtown Milwaukee it was. Turner Hall Ballroom was chosen, a two-story venue that has since the late 19th century hosted a wide range of events and is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.
“Now that it is at Turner Hall, it is going to be a completely different vibe,” Kuehnl said. “It’s going to be more of a gritty, rough and rustic vibe.”
When Kuehnl thinks about fashion week, she recalls her time recently spent studying abroad in Paris with other fashion students. Kuehnl recalls helping set up one of the shows she and the students dressed. She said that they helped set up the benches that the spectators sat in, and they put the carpet on the concrete floors to create the runway.
“If you’re Chanel, if you’re Karl Lagerfeld, you can pay to have these extravagant venues, but when you’re up-and-coming new designers, theirs are grittier,” Kuehnl said. “They are more on the level of the real people.”
Kuehnl said that the show will have a theatrical vibe, rather than a theatrical feel.
Tamara Sanchez, a senior majoring in fashion design, will showcase her senior collection in this year’s show.
“I’m excited for this year specifically because of the location, I just feel that it’s better suited for the reputation that Mount Mary upholds,” Sanchez said.
When the show was held at the Harley Davidson Museum, it would bring in a certain audience that exposed student designers to people who would bring possible future job opportunities to them. There would also be some professional models in the show, bringing the production up a notch.
“I’m sure the designers are going to be thinking ‘Well sure it’s downtown, it’s a little bit more high profile,’” Kuehnl said.
Angela Vang, a senior majoring in fashion design, will also showcase her senior collection in the show.
“The new venue will take us to the next level,” Vang said. “It will also give a lot more opportunity for staging and how the runway will be set up, giving it a more professional feel.”
There have been two new additions to the Fashion Show Coordination class: Stephanie Brown, model coach, and Laura Kane, assistant professor of fashion design. The class is excited to welcome Brown and Kane to the team and to Mount Mary.
“Laura Kane has a very strong theater background from her undergraduate (program) and all her family is into theater,” Kuehnl said. “Plus she loves to do cosplay. That brings a whole different element in.”
Kane brings a lot of enthusiasm to the show preparation by encouraging students to take photo and video to document the process of putting together the fashion show, including documenting the progress of design student collections. Many of these photos and videos will be used to promote the show leading up to the event.
“I hope to increase the visibility of the process of putting the show together, so everyone in the community can appreciate the amount of time and effort that goes into the event,” Kane said.
When working on cosplay costumes or her own original designs, Kane frequently takes photos to create a gallery and shoots video to document the progress to share on social media platforms. For the cosplay community, sharing photo or video updates of costume work can be a major component of the activity.
According to Kuehnl, Brown, who owns her own modeling agency called Je Suis Talent, might be providing some professional models for the show.
“She has lived and worked in Paris, has lots of connections and experience within the fashion industry and doing fashion shows, so it’s exciting to really have her be a part of our team,” Kuehnl said.
Brown said that she hopes that when people come to this year’s show, they feel like they are experiencing a high-caliber show.
“I hope people take away that the models stood out to them in a very professional, classy way,” Brown said.
Brown also has high hopes for all the students that are a part of putting the show together.
“I hope that the students leave there feeling like, ‘I want to do that again,’” Brown said.
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