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South Salt Lake Journal

Fashion dreams: How Utah’s only fashion institute sets aspiring designers up for success

Jun 06, 2023 10:44AM ● By Jesse M. Gonzalez

Salt Lake Community College’s Fashion Institute, the only one in the state of Utah, presented a student-led fashion show on April 22 at their South City Campus. The theme was “New Earth” and consisted of different fashion styles ranging from new age to gothic and even fairies and ballerinas. The event was free and open to the public, with the help of a grant the institute received from The Arts & Cultural Events (ACE), which promotes and honors artistic expression and educational opportunities to help build community relationships.

“What makes this show special, and even the program itself, is that it facilitates individual expression. It facilitates exposure to the creative process and the arts. Fashion is just another art form,” said Kim Kienow, the SLCC fashion show production instructor. “It’s an annual event; it’s the senior designer showcase and they did have to pause over Covid so last year we had our show at the South Town Arts Alliance space but we are doing them at the school from now on.”

Kienow committed to her first year being a teacher for the fashion class in 2022 and is now on her second year teaching. “I teach Runway Production and it’s a class that’s offered at SLCC and I am the one responsible for all of that, not the clothing and not the designers—they make their clothing and the designers take an apparel design class so they’re not my students.  My students are the ones who produce the show,” Kienow said.

Along with many others, Kienow was ecstatic to see The Arts & Cultural Event grant come into full effect. “It was a really, really big help,” Kienow said. “It covered the budget for the entire show and made it to where we could pay models, so we could pay the makeup artists, which doesn’t normally happen; made it so that we could provide lunch for people and it made it so that we didn’t have to charge tickets. In the past, they have charged tickets so that they could make the money to be able to pay for the production and because of that grant it made it more open to the community.

Kienow is also thankful for the volunteers, including alumni, who came to help. 

The fashion show was met with success as the runway came alive with an eclectic display of colors, fabrics, textures and styles. Students who put on the show, such as José Lerma, Molly Mortensen and Mathieu Quinlan created a wonderful sense of style before hundreds of community members.

Lerma, a South Salt Lake local, chose his creative collection to be inspired by the television sitcom, “Ugly Betty.”  

“The reason why I was inspired by this is because when I came to SLCC I didn’t know what I was doing, and later on I just watched ‘Ugly Betty’ and then I realized that she works at a business company and so that was like her first experience and for me it probably had the same feelings so I was like, ‘You know what, we might have the same problem.’ I didn’t know anything about fashion when I first came here, so I felt that Betty and I were in the same position where she doesn’t know nothing but she’s smart and she learns about fashion. I didn’t know nothing about fashion but I wanted to get along with people. That is my style and my communication,” Lerma said.  

Lerma has big plans for the future where he hopes to one day have his own studio. Lerma’s advice: “Just be yourself, stand out, have new experiences, be smart enough. You gotta know what you’re doing, you gotta ask questions. Be out there.”

Another talented student, Molly Mortensen, dubbed her style “abalone,” in relation to the sea and beach life.  

“I’ve always loved and been drawn to fashion. I have traveled a lot with my family growing up and was exposed to all types of art and fashion, so I think that was a big influence for me,” Mortensen said. “I interned in NYC and Paris these last two years and helped at New York Fashion Week and Paris Fashion Week. So, I’ve been around that environment, but this was the first time being a designer and showing my work.

“It was definitely a long process. I have always loved the beach and beachwear, but also loved the utility/work wear because of its functionality and simple silhouettes. So, combining the two felt natural. Pulling a lot of early 2000’s beach vibes and modernizing it was how I went about my designs. My parents are big role models. They’re both in the design and art industries, so growing up with that lifestyle was really impactful.”

Like Lerma, Mortensen also has insightful plans to one day move up in the fashion world. “I’m hoping to work for one of my favorite companies as a designer and move up to a creative director role, eventually have my own brand but I just want to travel and live somewhere cool and design.” Mortensen looks up to companies such as Acne Studios, Stüssy, and Reese Cooper.  

Mortensen is grateful for the fashion program, her colleagues and professors. “I want to make a name for myself in the industry and show that you don’t have to go to one of the top design schools in the world to design amazing things,” Mortensen said.

SLCC senior, Mathieu Quinlan, who was born in Wisconsin, but now lives in Salt Lake City where he lives out his fashion dreams, said his interest in the mode is nothing new. 

“My interest in fashion was first sparked in my early high school years. Some of my friends and I started developing an awareness for fashion and style, and we were instantly hooked,” Quinlan said. “We found a lot of fun in personalizing our wardrobes and developing unique outfits to sport to school. Towards the end of high school, I was having trouble finding clothes that I felt coincided with my stylistic vision, so I started making my own.”

This concept had taken Quinlan into leading his own vogue exhibition and finishing his studies in fashion design and technical apparel.

“This was my first experience having my designs in a fashion show, though I’ve been a model for a few shows in the past. I recall walking down the runway at one of said shows with the main thought in my mind being, ‘This is really cool, but I can’t wait until my clothes are the ones being walked,’” Quinlan said.

“The goal for my collection is to find the intersection between grimy streetwear, baggy cuts, and heavy hardware with tailoring, luxury, and class, all while presenting stylish ready-to-wear looks. I drew a lot of inspiration from gothic architecture, the 90’s punk scene, classic French tailoring, modern luxury wear, and the early silhouette experimentation of designers like Rick Owens and Peter Do. I think another large inspiration for me was my own personal style, which often exists in the middle of the Venn diagram between streetwear and eveningwear,” Quinlan said. 

“I would also like to mention my mother and grandmother as role models. They were the first to teach me how to sew, and their knowledge, skill, and support have been invaluable,” Quinlan said.  

Quinlan hopes to intern as a designer after graduation and work under established names in the industry before he plans on creating his own label. “I feel more confident in myself and my design capabilities and I’m incredibly excited for the future and what lies in store. I’d like to give a special thank you to all of my professors at SLCC and a congratulations to the other designers.” λ