Fringe Fashion 

Fifteen college students create their own catwalk.

“It’s a huge project,” says member Caroline Brown. “Maybe we’ve bitten off more than we can chew, but people are interested in making it happen. It’s a great opportunity.”

The event, which takes place Thursday, May 13, at Plant Zero, will include a runway show featuring 15 different designers, fine arts displays and installations, DJs and a cash bar.

Not to be confused with the VCU department of design and fashion merchandising annual juried fashion show at Stony Point Mall, Catalyst 15 is producing Ultra Vires independent of any university funding or organization. To help finance the show, group members have been doing everything from holding yard sales to finding outside sponsors.

“They wanted to express themselves in an environment they could control, as a cultural event and not at a mall, but in a more hip environment,” says Jason Solomon, owner of Need Supply Co. clothing store in Carytown, which is sponsoring the event. “They went after their heart, and not necessarily with a customer in mind.”

The group grew out of a senior collections class at VCU. “Every year, all the students we’ve ever had have asked for a collections class,” says Kristin Caskey, one of the instructors. Nevertheless, this is only the second year VCU has been able to offer such a course. “They want their capstone experience to be working on their own thing,” Caskey says.

Senior Jennifer Daugherty works with knits. “Mostly, when you see knitwear it’s bulky sweaters. It all looks the same to me,” she says. “I wanted to push the limits of knits.” The result is a boldly unorthodox collection including things such as hand-painted dresses and a knit leotard with leggings. One snug ankle-length dress snakes up from the floor before exploding into a heaping curly collar at the top. Another dress features long, close-ended straightjacket sleeves dripping off the arms.

“It gives us stronger portfolios to have a whole collection, instead of a bunch of unrelated pieces,” explains Philip Estrada, whose sweaters, made with Daugherty, appear in Steriogram’s “Walkie Talkie Man” music video. Michel Gondry, director of the motion picture “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” directed the video, now in rotation on MTV and Fuse.

“This is an extremely talented group,” says Need Supply’s Solomon, who also participated in critiques of the work. “The rendering color, theme and thought in this group was very well established and very well thought through. From concept to the final production, there are some great lines that really tell a great story.” S

Catalyst 15 is made up of seniors Sapana Amin, Caroline Brown, Jenny Brown, Jennifer Daugherty, Philip Estrada, Samantha Gilbert, Katherine Kin, Jarrod Lacks, Dorothy Mackey, William McDaniel, Lily Qian, Lisa Schwenneker, Nikki Sink, Jaime Small and Laura Treinen. Ultra Vires takes place Thursday, May 13, at Plan Zero. Tickets are $10. For more information visit or e-mail

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