From Student to VIP at New York Fashion Week

A dress inspired by Michigan State University’s alma mater song is senior Emily Bankes’ ticket to New York Fashion Week.

Bankes is one of two Apparel and Textile Design students chosen by MSU to spend Saturday behind the scenes at the nation’s largest fashion event. In a contest created by two professors in the Apparel and Textile Design Program, Bankes and now-alumnus Mitch Fehrle were chosen as winners for creating fashion collections that best incorporate the Spartan brand.

In total, 11 students from six schools – MSU is the only Big Ten school represented – will enjoy VIP seating to a runway show, a private backstage tour, an exclusive area to lounge in, and a networking dinner.

My concept piece was based upon the idea that Spartans are all around us, but are not always easily seen by everyone just by first looking.

“I think getting my face and name out there and engaging in as much face-to-face contact as I can is amazing,” Bankes said. “I doubted myself often while making my dress, but being a Spartan has taught me to push myself and to fulfill my passions. And now, I can cross this off my bucket list.”

The New York Fashion Week Experience was made available to MSU and other universities represented by The College Licensing Co., the licensing affiliate of IMG College, because they are part of the WME | IMG family, which also manages NYFW.

The contest was open to IMG College schools that have fashion design programs. Each school’s student selection process was different, but MSU hosted an avant-garde design challenge and is the only school of the six to require students to create a collection, consisting of 11 illustrations and one concept piece. MSU’s Office of Licensing gave students MSU-branded materials.

Assistant Professor Rebecca Schuiling said she’s not surprised MSU was the only school to host a hands-on contest. Housed in the Department of Art, Art History, and Design, the Apparel and Textile Design Program offers opportunities that most programs don’t. For example, students are allowed more creativity and focus on hands-on creations – rather than on merchandising.

Model wearing a dress. The bottom is white toole with a green and white top
MSU student modeling Bankes’ dress

In addition, the MSU program is avant-garde – the only one of its kind – meaning students focus on experimental and innovation designs, rather than wearable, mass-market designs, she said.

“We really encourage the students to design from a concept,” Schuiling said. “We tell them if you can design big, you can design on a smaller scale too.”

Bankes’ stunning Spartan dress is created from fleece, poplin, and tulle, and incorporates different elements of “MSU Shadows.” As color guard section leader for the Spartan Marching Band, which sings the song at every football game, the lyrics have shaped Bankes’ experience on campus.

“My concept piece was based upon the idea that Spartans are all around us, but are not always easily seen by everyone just by first looking,” Bankes said. “Sometimes this can be hidden from view, but can still be seen in one’s words and actions. The logos of the skirt are slightly hidden and are most easily seen from the front view. The final line of the song is, ‘And thy praises, MSU,’ so I wanted this creation to celebrate MSU and all of Spartan nation.”

Meanwhile, Fehrle’s collection was inspired by a Spartan warrior. The seam lines are the major roads throughout campus, the 3-D printed elements are notable landmarks and the translucent white panels are the Red Cedar River.