by Cynthia Price, ChildFund Director of Communications
Students at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va., researched the globe to find inspiration for their fashion designs during spring semester. Tonight they are auctioning their design creations to raise funds for vulnerable children in the countries that inspired them. The event, which also includes fashion pieces designed by faculty, takes place at 6:30 p.m. at the Reynolds Gallery near the VCU campus.
The idea for the course took shape when the Friends of ChildFund Richmond Chapter approached faculty from VCU’s art school to propose a wearable art fashion show as a ChildFund benefit. Fashion and Merchandising department chair Karen Videtic suggested a multi-disciplinary course in which students would draw inspiration from the countries where ChildFund works.
“I think that students need to be exposed to global influences from the first day they arrive at VCU. We live and work in a global economy and a global community,” says Karen. “Students need to understand how diversity can bring a rich perspective to both design and life in general. I also believe that students need to understand how fortunate they are to have grown up and lived in the United States. They need to understand the poverty and lack of basic necessities that a huge part of the world lives with daily. This changes a student’s life.”
Earlier this spring, students took time out from designing to share insights into their process. Marylin Li, a junior in crafts and materials studies, chose Vietnam as her inspiration. Through her study she learned that Vietnamese people use details to convey a message. She pointed out that brighter colors are worn by the younger generation while darker colors are favored by elders. She also came to appreciate layering several simple pieces. “My definition of simplicity used to be multiple colors and a simple design,” Marylin said, “but now I’ve realized that no color, and an organized and detailed design can be just as intriguing.”
Jennifer Robbe, a senior graphic design major, became intrigued with Ecuador’s ancient Inca and Spanish history. One of the items she designed was a bracelet. In addition to incorporating Ecuadorian touches, she also wove in a ChildFund story.
“I created a bracelet out of the tagua nut native to Ecuador and accented with Ecuadorian gold beads. I found a vintage Ecuadorian postage stamp and made it the centerpiece of the bracelet. I thought about how someone would communicate with their sponsored child through ChildFund,” Jennifer said. “Using a postage stamp exemplifies communication between the child and the sponsor through the mail. I wanted the bracelet to serve as a sign of remembrance to the owner on a daily basis of their child sponsored through ChildFund in Ecuador.”
Sarah Robbe, a senior fashion merchandising major, chose Belarus because of its distinctive heritage as a former Soviet Republic that gained independence. She made a brooch using a Soviet ruble coin, similar in composition, size and shape to the medals worn by Soviet military personnel on their dress uniforms. In addition, she designed a scarf with a print she created in Belarusian language featuring the quote “not forgotten.” According to Sarah, “This country has seemed forgotten for quite some time. This scarf celebrates helping Belarus by not forgetting them.”
Junior fashion merchandising major Erin Bailey was drawn by the bright colors, spirituality and way of life in Thailand. She created a handbag incorporating stingray leather, which is exotic and durable. The natural marking on the back of the leather is considered a symbol of good luck and prosperity.
“Thailand is now on my top list of places to travel,” Erin said. “It’s truly a place that is one of a kind.”