A look into the 2023 Gallatin Fashion Show

The Gallatin School of Individualized Study’s annual fashion show, with the theme “Renewal,” showcased 21 designers’ work in its 2023 exhibition.

Leila Anderson, Contributing Writer

The 2023 Gallatin Fashion Show, which features student designers, was held on March 3, and was the school’s first in-person show since 2019. Its fitting theme was “renewal.” The show was produced by Rachel Plutzer, the senior director for events and special programs at Gallatin, and Theresa Anderson, the associate director for special events. It was hosted by Robert “Bobby” Peñaherrera, who has been the assistant director of student life at Gallatin for four years. 

“It was so phenomenal coming back in person,” Peñaherrera said. “There’s just a spirit here in the show that you just can’t capture unless you’re together.”

The show commenced with a panel discussion featuring all 21 designers, each explaining how they interpreted the theme of “Renewal” with their collections. The runway opened with “Feeling Fruity,” a crowd-pleasing collection by designer Leah Gans. Gans, a 2020 Gallatin graduate, collaborated with fellow NYU graduate Jordan French, who hand-painted the fruit print found on each garment. Gans incorporated real fruit into the looks, with dried kiwis hanging off of handbags as accessories. Like its namesake, the collection was playful and refreshing. 

Students in professor Louise Harpman’s “Good Design” class created their own looks, which came together in a collection titled “The T-Shirt Project.” It featured a variety of pieces by students who transformed an ordinary T-shirt with assigned design principles.

One designer, sophomore Spencer Bandtel, transferred to Gallatin last semester from Washington University in St. Louis. He debuted his first collection, “Acknowledging Sunsets,” which featured matching sets reminiscent of the sunsets that covered the skies of his hometown in New Hampshire. 

“All the fabrics were originally bought in white,” Bandtel said. “I pulled from a collection of photos I have taken over the years up in New Hampshire, and I dyed the fabric to match the colors in the photos.” 

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Like Bandtel, others also relived the past through their collections. First-year Carmen Lopez-Fernandez’s collection, “Renewal of Innocence,” featured four looks that translated the restorative journey to renew a girlhood, discarded too early. Light colors and loose silhouettes contrasted the dark leather and sharp lines to further detail the relationship between the two polar ideas of “youthful innocence” and “tainted maturity.”

Gallatin first-year Anthony Offiah debuted their collection “HEAVEN CONCEALED: Esoteric,” which featured a music track created by NYU student Phoenix Ferreira Ford.

“Music gives life to art, and fashion as an art form is enhanced by music,” Offiah said. “When I envision fashion, there’s also a soundtrack that connotes the ethos and mood, so it was important that I worked with someone to draw out the music I had associated with ‘HEAVEN CONCEALED.’” 

A few designers adapted a more literal meaning of “Renewal.” Gallatin junior Athens Soren Lui presented a collection titled “Astral Gore,” in which they recycled items from their own trash bin and transformed it into wearable clothing.

“I think it’s important to use what you have, what’s already made, before these fossil fuels and things that can’t be replaced completely run out,” Lui said.

Senior XY Zhou and junior Abigail Lenhard showcased a joint collection called “Every Cowboy Sings a Sad, Sad Song,” which investigated the American icon of cowboys and revealed the nuanced reality of “the co-opting and silencing of BIPOC cultures” that the designers said remains ever present in our American history.

Another designer, Gallatin first-year Sofia Valencia, presented a collection entitled “Broken Pieces that Make Us Whole,” which was dedicated to showing inner strength and power. Themes of self-exploration and expression of the self were woven into each designer’s interpretation of renewal.

Watching each design from the front row was Dean of the Gallatin School of Individualized Study Victoria Rosner, who was proud of the students and their pieces.

“Our students are incredibly talented, and I love that they chose the theme of ‘Renewal’ for the show,” Rosner said. “I think it really speaks to the way that we’re all just feeling so celebratory about being back in person and this being the first in-person Gallatin fashion show since the pandemic. You can just feel the exuberance and the pleasure of being together.”

This year’s fashion show concluded with a stellar review from Rosner and loud cheers from the audience. A few students are even looking ahead to next year’s event already. 

“Planning for the fashion show for next year’s fashion show begins tomorrow, so it really does take a full calendar year to get together,” Peñaherrera said. “We have to think of the theme, the whole process, and try to figure out the literal logistics of how to create the theater in a way that’s creative and inventive for the years to come.” 

Contact Leila Anderson at [email protected].