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Student crafts a stitch in time for 2018 fashion show

Robin Chenoweth
April 10, 2018

Lately, Thursdays have been brutal for Sarah Husk. The senior in fashion and retail studies packs in more than eight hours of class on that day and attends hours-long meetings for the student-run Fashion Production Association. By the time she disengages from the group, she should be whipped.

Instead, she heads to the fabric store, searching for stretch knit and fabric paint and embellishments. Back in her tiny, off-campus apartment, she sits in a pool of sewing machine light, feeding tulle into the whirring needle. With six garments in the association’s 2018 fashion show, she might pin, baste and stitch until 2 a.m. “I’m a night person,” she says.

In high school, she wanted to be a doctor. Sewing was a hobby, so she never took classes. “Then I came to college and found out you can get real jobs in the fashion industry,” she says. That changed everything. She now double majors in fashion retail studies and business finance. She delights in living in fashion-forward Columbus, where she can hear Todd Oldham speak one day and attend Fashion Week Columbus events the next.

"She has distinguished herself as a student designer in the annual student design show for four years," Nancy Rudd, professor emerita of consumer science, said, "challenging herself to design for various clientele and using such different materials as moss, flowers, satin, beads and velvet. 

In Husk's apartment, fabric swaths drape the furniture. A mannequin wears her most complicated piece, a flurry of pink and scarlet tulle on a hooped-skirt. It’s a fancy dress, the kind she’s loved since she was three.

“Prom was really fun for me, but just the dressing-up part,” she says. “I don’t like to dance and I didn’t care about the dinner. I just like getting to wear a pretty dress.”

The association’s 26th annual show, Age of Innovation, features about 80 garments. Designers chose “innovators” as their muses — from edgy tattoo artists to ice cream magnate Jeni Britton Bauer.

Husk’s inspiration: a Columbus photographer and graphic designer who displays his work on Instagram. Along with his stunning environmental photos, Raquib Ahmed posted about his mental health struggles. “Depression taught me to love myself more,” he wrote.

That resonated with Husk, who has battled depression, anxiety and an eating disorder. She decided to incorporate her own journey into her collection.

“It’s cyclical,” she explains. “It starts with a white dress, as in, before mental illness has set in.”

Then hard times strike. The next model, one of three of her sisters in the show, will wear a black dress with a chiffon skirt and velvet strips representing bars — confinement. “Everything stops. You lose everything,” she says.

But hope is reawakened in recovery, and so the collection slowly begins to brighten. “It’s a gradual coming back to lighter and more colorful garments.”

The frothy dress on the mannequin is the collection-ender. It’s about wholeness, freedom and happiness. “It’s the only dress that has real color,” she says. “I wanted to show a visual representation of what mental illness is like — because a lot of people who don’t struggle with it don’t understand how it feels.”

Her older-model sewing machine gives her fits when she puts in zippers. If it cooperates, she can finish a dress in one night. But the tulle dress has required extra effort.

“It’s too see-through,” she says, pinning a layer of crimson tulle onto the skirt. “I have to put something underneath it, and I might have to hand-sew it. But that’s ok. It’s all part of the creative process.”

And that process, that ingenuity, is what she most loves about her major.

“This is where my heart is,” she says.


"Age of Innovation," the Ohio State Fashion Production Association’s 26th annual fashion show 
Date: Saturday, April 14, 2018
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Location: Ohio Union Archie M. Griffin Grand Ballroom.
Tickets: $10 for students; $15 for non-students (before day of show)

The student-run organization featured 20 runway collections by students in the fashion and retail studies program.


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