April 30, 2019
NORTHAMPTON — Students from the Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter Public School will debut handmade fashion designs in runway shows at the downtown Eileen Fisher store Friday.
This is the second year the middle and high school students are collaborating with Eileen Fisher, which donated gently used clothing from its Renew line. The student designers have “upcycled” the garments, adding segments of fabric, such as quilt work patches and hand-embroidered butterflies, into unique pieces the students will be able to keep. The shows will feature 50 student designers and models.
“The range of pieces produced by the students is staggering, and really inspiring,” said teacher Petula Bloomfield, who teaches sewing and figure drawing classes at the schools.
Bloomfield said she’s been upcycling clothes on her own for the last 50 years, out of necessity — but that major fashion design schools, like the Fashion Institute of Technology, have recently been incorporating sustainable fashions as a core segment of their curriculum.
“I grew up around sewing; it looked easier than it is,” said ninth-grader Zoe McClelland, who will be showcasing several garments at the shows, including a dress made with her grandmother’s quilted fabric.
She said the buildup to the fashion shows this week has been “surreal” after putting months of work into the garments.
Eighth-grader Naia Caron Grais said she’s not yet sure if she wants to pursue fashion design in college, but that her first experience sewing for the fashion shows has been “exciting.” One of the garments she’s showing is a tiered dress with hand-sewn hems and accents like a sequin shoulder strap.
The runway shows are scheduled for 5:30, 6:00 and 6:30 p.m.; all three shows are the same, to accommodate new audience members. The Eileen Fisher store, at 24 Pleasant St., will also be decorated Thursday through next weekend with student designs on mannequins and in the windows.
The Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Northampton Association partnered with the store and schools this year to offer discounts for fashion show attendees at the Eastside Grill and Local Burger.
Bloomfield also expanded the pool of students participating in the shows; last year, it was only seventh- and eighth-grade students. This year a handful of high schoolers are showcasing designs.