Ulster BOCES Fashion Exhibition Showcases Upcoming Generation of Designers

Ulster BOCES Fashion Exhibition Showcases Upcoming Generation of Designers

The Ulster BOCES Fashion Design & Merchandising (FDM) program hosted its seventh annual Fashion Exhibition in June. In addition to an exciting fashion show, the event featured informative interactive displays, an inspirational photo exhibit, a dramatic “Lookbook” cover reveal, and even an array of delicious treats expertly catered by the Ulster BOCES Culinary Arts program. 

The students in the FDM program–or “young professionals” as they are referred to at Ulster BOCES as a nod to their developing job skills–spent several months preparing for the event. They designed their own unique, eclectic clothing collections, incorporating recycled garments and materials and refining each garment along the way based on multiple rounds of feedback from faculty, staff, industry professionals, and their own peers. 

The young professionals in the FDM program gain insight into the fashion and merchandising fields through work in an authentic fashion design setting at the Ulster BOCES Career & Technical Center in Port Ewen. Supported by state-of-the-art equipment, the curriculum covers such topics as the design and construction of apparel, the study of fabric and color, fashion history, fashion illustration, and jewelry and accessory design.

According to FDM teacher Nicole Foti, a recently added photography class empowered the young professionals to take the lead in designing the Lookbook, the program’s culminating publication. “This year, we took a guidance role as our young professionals learned for themselves how to do the work from start to finish on the Lookbook,” said Foti, who explained that the young professionals handled everything from modeling and photographing the fashions, to writing the text, to working on the book’s layout. The completed Lookbook is available this summer on the Ulster BOCES website and will be distributed to the young professionals, who will be able to use it for their portfolios, as well as to faculty and staff, the Board of Education, component school districts, and beyond.

The event offered something for everyone, including fashionably dressed mannequins,  handmade textile displays, student interviews (which could be heard via headphones), artist’s statements rotating on large display screens, a craft table where attendees could try their hand at designing outfits for paper dolls, and even a selfie booth. 

The hallways were transformed into photo galleries exhibiting the results of a “Photo Walk” undertaken by the young professionals, who were tasked with taking photos based on the themes of people, nature, and architecture, as well as portfolio work and inspiration storyboards that illustrated their creative process. Another room displayed the pages of a new student magazine called Bokeh, named for the photography effect in which one element of the image is intentionally blurred. 

Young professionals enrolled in the Ulster BOCES Culinary Arts program prepared and served the event’s menu, which was inspired by the people/nature/architecture themes of the Photo Walk project. The menu, which included nods to the designers’ family heritages and cultures, included mushroom crostinis, a Jamaican dip,  lavender lemon scones, salmon croquettes, hummus, latkes, and more. Culinary Arts teacher Elise Macur said that her young professionals worked with their counterparts in the Fashion Design & Merchandising program for weeks to curate the menu, and ultimately spent six hours in the kitchen cooking and preparing the food before setting the tables. 

Chef Macur’s new culinary magazine, Seasoned, was also on display, featuring a cover photographed by FDM young professional Jatsiry Hernandez Guevara, who is a senior at Kingston High School. Jatsiry said that her clothing collection, which she called “UN”—an abbreviation for “Undoing Uniforms”—was based on her experiences in a private school in Honduras, where she had to wear a school uniform. “Uniforms don’t let you show your personality or creativity,” she noted. 

Young professional Sage Leach, a senior from Onteora High School, hosted a table where guests could create beaded stars. She also gave away her impressive crochet work of hats, bags, and keychains. Sage said that she plans to take a “gap year” before attending college, with a view towards becoming an art therapist. 

After a hallway fashion runway show, there was a surprise announcement of the designs that had been chosen for the Lookbook’s front and back covers. KHS senior Marla McCain earned the coveted front-cover spot of the Lookbook with her whimsical, childhood-inspired clothing designs, which were accessorized with red clown shoes. Marla said she taught herself how to sew from watching YouTube tutorials. “Designing clothes has been my favorite thing to do since I was a child,” she said. 

Zero Formisano, from the Kingston City School District, burst into tears upon learning that her dress design and photo had been chosen for the back cover. “I put a lot of work into my design as well as the photo,” she explained. “I incorporated my father’s wedding jacket into it, and that meant so much to me.” (Zero’s father passed away in 2019.) She created the photo backdrop using PVC pipe and wooden dowels to hang the fabric, which will be able to be reused for other Ulster BOCES projects. 

Zero said that the FDM program’s photography class introduced her to what is now her greatest passion. “I started out this school year knowing nothing about photography, and finished the school year with industry-ready photography skills,” she said.

According to Ms. Foti, one of this year's FDM graduates will be studying abroad in Paris at L’Institute Marangoni. Other graduates will attend the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) and Parsons School of Design. In the past, FDM graduates have gone on to study at Marist College, Ithaca College, Savannah College of Art and Design, and SUNY Ulster, as well as FIT and Parsons.

Praising the Fashion Design & Merchandising young professionals and their end-of-year showcase, Ulster BOCES District Superintendent Dr. Jonah Schenker said, “Our young professionals learned the power of collaboration this year, while adding to their growing toolbox of career-ready skills. This event was truly inspiring!”

Check out their self-published Ulster FDM Lookbook HERE

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