A Reflection on the Fall Textiles & Fashion Design Virtual Showcase

By Emily Fleming, Junior at UW-Madison

This time of the year, the juniors and seniors in UW’s Textile and Fashion Design would be presenting a showcase exhibition and reception in the Design Gallery. Yet due to the pandemic, that was not possible this year. Instead, students got creative and curated video essays featuring their work and presented them online.

As a virtual event, the TFD showcase allowed the designers to explore their creative passions and share them in a new format. Though the students were spread out over several states and two continents, their presentations were visually engaging, thoughtful, and authentic. The students’ range of styles and artistry was impressive: from garments to woven pieces, embellished textiles, dyed and printed yardage, and three-dimensional work. 

Each of the nine student designers curated their work and created a video story, guiding us through their creative process and exploring the deep meaning behind the work they produce. One of the topics addressed by a number of the students was how COVID influenced their experience or process. 

This year, the Covid-19 pandemic forced students to work at home, with little or no access to their studios or creative community. “Creating within a community is very important and helpful when starting the creative process,” Erin Schaut explained.  It was often tricky creating in isolation and away from her peers. “But it’s good in some sense. You really figure out how to be self-sufficient and learn to do things completely on your own.” 

During isolation, creativity was at an all-time high and served as a coping mechanism. “With a lot of my work, I feel like there was always a part of me that was creating just to get it done—for the grade. I feel like that completely went away this semester because creating was my only escape,” says Molly Burki.

While the semester was a struggle for all of the students, they also met success. “The best part [of this semester] was finding inspiration around me and using materials I wouldn’t have used normally. It prompted me to get experimental,” says Lindsey Wilson.  If the showcase is any indication, we can see that the students flourished.

Getting to watch and hear about their inspirations and the meaning behind their works was captivating. In a post-show live Q&A, the students gave advice for those hoping to pursue design, opened up about their experiences of trying to stay creative during COVID, and talked about their hopes for a career.

If you missed it, there’s no need to worry because the showcase video, online exhibition, and designer Q&A are all available on the website HERE

Participating designers:  Molly Burki, Savannah Nielson, Adjua Nsoroma, Lindsey Wilson, Kiera Wood, Lingdi Zhao, Erin Schaut, ZJ Pan, and Taylor Zidar.