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Anything but fabric

By Abby Skirmont and Josh Tharp

A shiny tinfoil gown with accents of recycled newspaper flows across the body of a model and sitting atop her silken black hair, a tiara made of thin plastic wires forming a small heart at the peak at the center of the headpiece. She gazes at the crowd of people sitting in the cushioned seats of the BFAC theater and strikes a pose at the audience, revealing a hidden piece of the ensemble’s puzzle under her arm.

BHS’ Rock the Runway show, Nostalgia, will be on Jan. 11, 2019. The show will feature designers and models from the school as they take the challenge of putting together blast-from-the-past ensembles, but there’s one big rule: designers can use anything for their exposed layer except fabric. Artists can use anything from old newspapers to painted pipe cleaners, to hand-carved oaken wood. Cancel that shipping of linen robes, put down that suede gown and substitute with crafting materials. In this show, creators must use their own do-it-yourself skills to produce something exceptional, something rustic, something Nostalgic.

Originating in 2009, Rock the Runway began when a student in art club wanted to create a fashion show similar to Project Runway.

“The first show was held in my classroom to a sold-out audience of over 100 people. We had nine designs modeled. From there it has just grown,” said Dawn Zalkus, Batavia High School art teacher and Rock the Runway manager.

An event this size needs many other directors and overseeing peers. To give the job to students would give them management skills they may need in the world after high school, Zalkus puts part of this management on the committee’s creative directors, but she is still the head manager.

“Managing the show is a lot of fun. BHS Rock the Runway is my favorite night of the school year,” Zalkus said.  “It takes a lot of organization as there many moving parts you must always be in front of. You need to be flexible to problems that arise and be able to make changes at a moment’s notice.  I have dealt with fainting models moments before the show was about to start, dresses that have come undone right before the cue and assisting students in fixing them in time, but I have also witnessed the glory of students who didn’t think they could accomplish a dress proudly display their design on stage, I have watched students who I met in our elementary camp win the entire high school show, and the joy of growing a program from a classroom event to selling out the BFAC.”

Over the years, the event eventually grew out of the classroom and onto the big stage. Obtaining a new home in the BFAC theater, it has opened itself up to more students, and outside guests interested in seeing student designed fashion.

“I feel like art is usually a personal and private experience, so turning it into a performance is really cool to me,” said Grace Skiba, designer and creative director. “Plus, the day of the show is so fun, and it makes you really proud of what you made.”

Although it takes a large amount of skill to create a piece out of non-fabric materials, Gia Marino, fellow creative director and designer said “Sometimes your material can really hinder you. My freshmen year with Grace we worked with envelopes and we quickly figured out that paper can be an annoying material to work with especially since it can be fragile.”

These inconveniences can make or break an ensemble, resulting in time loss or other setbacks. But designers still enjoy the entire process.

“It’s super fun! The week before the show is always very stressful but it ends up being worth it. I built my dress in a class but still ended up having to change it outside of class so it ended up being very time consuming,” said Ellie Warren.

A designer’s model can make or break their entire piece, as they are the ones showcasing the artwork, so a large amount of pressure is places on them.

“I love it; it feels empowering to be able to display a design by an artist as amazing as grace. The anticipation of waiting for your turn backstage makes the models anxious as well as bored at times because we can’t see much from the wings, but it’s worth it and very fun,” said Julianna Tassi.

Rock the Runway has had a history of empowering students to head off into the world of fashion design and modeling, while bestowing upon them skills needed for everyday life such as management, communication, and problem-solving. Taylor Tuominen, a BHS graduate and Rock the Runway competitor, is now pursuing her passion at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising. As time passes on Rock the Runway’s history still continues to grow.

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