Showing off

Harbinger of birds, bees, young love, allergies and, yes, fashion shows, spring is finally upon us. And while you may not have a runway-side seat reserved between Gwyneth Paltrow and Joan Rivers in Milan (sounds dreadful anyway, doesn’t it?), the fashion design department at Wayne State University offers metro Detroiters a firsthand peek at spring fashions from up-and-coming young designers and area stores.

Appropriately christened "Meltdown," the spring fashion show will highlight the warm-weather fashions of seven design students and 11 merchandisers, including Anthropologie, Mother Fletcher’s, Noir Leather, Shapes and Limbo Lounge. Hosted by Wayne State’s Fashion Design and Merchandising Organization (FDMO), shows are held twice annually amid a fun, decidedly unstuffy atmosphere.

"I like ‘homegrown,’" says fourth-year design student R. Jesse Deneaux when asked to select an adjective for the typical Wayne State show.

Since this event is student-oriented, attendees should also expect the eclectic and unpredictable. Deneaux, who is arranging the music for this event ("Europop meets cover songs meets spring meets parody uptempo electronic, with at least one Madonna song and a cover of ‘The Final Countdown’" or something along those lines), is showing the entire canon of his work, which he terms "aggressively contemporary ... in that it rejects past and present trends to create something uniquely modern and urban."

Other featured designers include FDMO President Heather Norris, who will be showing her variations on current trends, including large-hemmed capri pants, scarf dresses, bibs and other spring items with a relaxed feel; and second-year student Jacqueline Smerek, who specializes in vinyl clothing and flashy, unique club styles.

"I make stuff I want but can’t find at the store," says Smerek.

The roster also includes first-year design star Santo Rizzuto, who began his career in the wardrobe department of the Opera House in his native Sydney, Australia. Rizzuto’s style emphasizes the theatrical, with strong elements of glamour and period dressing. With eight years of sewing experience to his credit, he creates mainly for himself and a select group of made-to-measure clientele. The "Meltdown" show will feature his take on a wedding dress and a dramatic gown inspired by a 1940s housecoat.

The event is expected to last about half an hour, with minimal narration. Designers and stores will take the stage one by one, with models selected mainly from the dance and fashion design departments.

"Everybody adds a little of their own flavor," Smerek observes.

Some models simply stroll down the catwalk, while others spice things up with theatrical antics. After the show, audience members may inquire about purchasing the displayed pieces. Although you won’t need VIP arrangements, it’s best to arrive early, as shows fill up quickly.

"When they see the models in short skirts, they come running," says Deneaux. "It’s usually packed."

Who needs Gwyneth?

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