Experts fly into Ames to judge fashion show

Mariah Wellman

This past weekend, dozens of students, organizers and four expert judges from throughout the United States flooded the Memorial Union for one of the most anticipated events before the Fashion Show 2013: judging day.

Only 100 garments will be modeled down the runway, a number much lower than previous years. The results were decided on Saturday, March 30, 2013, two weeks ahead of the final runway show, but the winners will remain guarded by organizers on a need-to-know basis.

The night before judging day, the four judges came to the ISU Alumni Center to speak about their past experiences. ISU alumna Lea Leapold’s speech was short and to the point, but her beginning line is what stuck with many designers and models in the audience.

“Fashion is not always glamorous,” Leapold said. “I just wanted that to be said.”

Leapold, a graduate from Iowa State in apparel, merchandising, design and production, obtained her degree in 2005. Her career took her as far as New York and San Francisco, and now, Leapold is a buyer at Christopher & Banks in Minneapolis. Her experiences after college, as well as her own memories of the Fashion Show, allow Leapold to have rigorous standards for the designers going into judging day.

“I have pretty high expectations,” Lepold said. “I’ve been in the industry for a couple years now, and I’ve seen very small companies and very large companies. I’m excited to see what the designers can bring to the table.”

Leapold’s experience in design has influenced what she will be looking for as she critiques garments.

“I’m kind of a detail-oriented person. So, I’ll be looking at the construction,” Leapold said. “Small details like are all the threads clipped? Is everything sewn straight? The very finite details that really make a garment nice [matter].”

The judging panel is made up three ISU alumni: Leapold, Francesca Skwark, creator of FBF by Checka, and Brittany Craiger, technical design manager for Haute Hippie, along with former model Halynn Cohen.

Cohen, a former model for Italian Vogue, W Magazine, and dozens of advertisements for fashion and beauty companies, is now a mother of two, and although cryptic, she says she knows what she’s looking for.

“I know when things are right, and I know when things are wrong,” Cohen said. “That is just my opinion of it. That’s not to say that the next person thinks that it’s right or wrong. I’m looking for what moves me and what doesn’t.”

Cohen was a model for 16 years and said she has gone through exactly what ISU designers are going through, and her advice struck a cord with many students.

“[The industry] is a lot of rejection, and you have to have a thick skin,” Cohen said. “The sooner you move on from people’s critiques, the sooner you can find success in it.”

Judging overall is a day-long process for the judges as well as the models, who have the task of wearing the garments in front of the panel.

“It’s very intimidating at first because you know [the judges] are all such influential people,” said model Courtney Brockman, freshman is apparel, merchandising and design, “but then you realize how nice they are, and you have fun with the experience.”

Judging Day

The day began early, at 7:30 a.m., to begin preparing for the day. The judges were each given a laptop to score and make comments on, focusing on four pieces of criteria including design concept/design aesthetic, construction, appropriate material being used and overall creativity.

An ISU alumna and creator of her own line, Skwark was a judge for this year’s show and was impressed her experience on judging day.

As the first few garments were being placed in front of them, Skwark was blown away.

“I had high expectations from the beginning because I know how amazing Iowa State’s apparel program is,” Skwark said. “As the day went on, I had to keep level-minded and judge based on criteria to maintain a fair process for the students.”

ISU alumna Craiger was also a judge critiquing garments next to Skwark. Craiger’s experience as a technical design manager at Haute Hippie influenced the way she looked at the garments being placed in front of her.

“Because of my background in technical design, I definitely look at construction and quality as well as how [the garment] fits the model,” Craiger said. “I’m also very creative. So, I looked for what excited my brain.”

At the end of the day, both Skwark and Craiger left with the same advice for the designers of the Fashion Show 2013.

“Don’t take it to heart if you’re not picked,” Craiger said. “It doesn’t mean that you aren’t great.” 

The winning garments and the models who wore them will take to the runway at 7 p.m. April 13 at Stephens Auditorium.