By Roger Talley
When a fashion week includes â€œemerging designersâ€ along with established professionals, the audience might be forgiven if they do not set their expectations very high. That is especially true when an â€œemerging designerâ€ is a 20-year old college student. Experienced fashionistas have seen student projects. So when the reception to Sarah Kolis’ collection went beyond polite applause to enthusiastic cheers, something special and unexpected has happened.
Sarah is no average college student from Novi, MI. She began sewing when she was eight years old, and got involved with â€œevery kind of craft you can think of: Knitting,crochet, origami, drawing and other art, jewelry making, fabric weaving, basket weaving and others. Those early craft skills continue to influence her fashion work. One piece, for instance, involves an origami technique, while the green denim pants for that outfit use a pleating technique down the side panel â€“ all things Sarah learned as a little girl.
Sarah has a long history of showing her work in fashion and art events, usually garnering awards and accolades. She began with the Michigan State Fair, created works for high school fashion and art shows, created wearable art pieces of alternative materials. In spring 2013, she was the first ever freshman to have a piece in the Michigan State University Annual Fashion Show, then had two pieces in this past spring’s show, one being that mirror dress that won the “Peoples’ Choice Award” out of the 60 pieces that were considered.
Sarah’s design aesthetic is â€œavant gardeâ€: â€œI like to either take a pre-existing concept in current fashion and exaggerate it to make it new, or come up with an entirely new way of looking at clothing the human body.â€ Perhaps the strongest example of that is the piece she calls â€œReflectionsâ€. â€œThe concept behind it is the impact that people have on each other in a positive light. When wearing the dress, the idea is that you could see the faces of people around you viewing the garment; also meaning that the personalities and life experiences of people close to you are reflected into the wearer as a person. The light that is reflected off of the garment illuminates close people as well, meaning that the wearer impacts these people and vice versa.â€
Getting to Fashion Week Las Vegas took a 31 hour drive from Novi. Sarah’s reaction to the experience? â€œI won the title for this show as the Emerging Designer for the Red Carpet Category . . . FWLV was the first time I showed a full collection. It was really a learning experience for me to see what kind of organization it takes to run a a show and I got a taste of what the industry is really like.â€
Images by Roger Talley