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Back-to-Back Runway Shows highlight student designs at Fashion Week

Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
A model walks the runway in a bridal gown created by Christina Knieriem, a recent gradute. Her collection was showcased at 'BTB' Back-To-Back Runway Shows which featured six fashion design students at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, Downtown where the event was held on Saturday September 28, 2013. It was part of Pittsburgh Fashion Week.

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Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013, 11:15 p.m.

These students received top grades for this assignment.

Art Institute of Pittsburgh fashion design majors were invited to take part in a challenge similar to what you see on Bravo's “Project Runway.” They had five weeks to create five looks.

Six made the cut: Recent graduates Christina Knieriem, from Cumberland, Md., and Allison Bailey of Chester, W.Va.; Erica Ersik of Hopewell, who is in her final year; second year student Laura Hillman from Elmira,N.Y.; and first year students Caitlyn Riegal from Horseheads, N.Y., and Sammi Parrish, from Baltimore.

Their creations were part of the “BTB” Back-To-Back Runway Shows on Sept. 28 at their school.

From wedding dresses to suits to swimwear, these six gave the standing-room audience of 220-plus a glimpse into the future of fashion.

First up was Riegal. She is inspired by Coco Chanel and the classic little black dress and pearls — but she updated the look to interest her generation. She provided six pieces from the little black dress with some extra gold embellishments to red pants with a zipper in the back paired with a cropped white top.

“It definitely went smoother than I thought it would,” Riegal said. “It also went so quickly. To see and hear the reaction of the audience that is the best reward, because it is then that you see all the pieces of the puzzle come together.”

In watching this show, fashion week executive director Miyoshi Anderson said it was “amazing.”

“This did not look like a student show,” said Anderson, who has modeled all over the world. “From the hair to the makeup to the designs to the models who walked the runway. It reminded me of shows you would see at New York Fashion Week.”

And maybe someday these designers might get their collections on the New York runways. Anderson said there were people in the audience looking for talented designers, as well as individuals looking to buy what they saw in this show.

These young designers have invested a lot to time, hard work and money into their collections, said Stephanie Taylor, department chair of fashion retail management and fashion design at the art institute.

“They did a tremendous job,” Taylor said. “They have such creative ideas about fashion and I am amazed at their work.”

The second designer of the night was Parrish. She was inspired by the color red and worked it into most of her collection, which is crochet or knit and often dyed. She offered a red dress, a cape and skirt suit and a red shorts and top combination.

“Red was the popular color when I started this collection and so I continued with it and made it last,” she said.

Next up was Hillman, who describes her work as the comfort of street wear with the look of high fashion. She created a one-shoulder dress with a pop of yellow on the sleeve, a Great Gatsby-inspired flapper dress and printed top and pants with slits and an open back.

“I wanted to incorporate two completely different styles from New York City,” she said. “You see high fashion there, as well as rugged street wear.”

The next designer was Bailey. Her collection is a mix of resort and honeymoon, which takes the vintage look of the 1920s and modernizes it somewhat in bikinis with fringe, and high-waisted swimsuits with sheer cover-ups. She had the most pieces on the runway. A lot of the collection was made from stretchy lace.

“I want to make items that are sexy and colorful but that still have a lot of coverage and can work for many body types,” she said.

Ersik is inspired by crystal formation and incorporates those forms into her designs. She uses sheer as well as shiny fabrics and credits a lot of her skill from the teachers at the Art Institute, as well as her time interning with designer Kiya Tomlin.

“She was a great mentor,” Ersik said. “It was amazing learning from her. She taught me everything from pattern making to working with real women figures and every body type. “

Up last was a bridal collection by Knieriem. She created dresses with the timeless feel of Paris with modern touches. She featured gowns in white and off-white, full skirts as well as a slimmer silhouette, some with lace and others with sparkling embellishments.

“Creating wedding dresses is hard,” she said. “But I love every minute of it.”

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at or 412-320-7889.

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