Stylish Visual Arts class blossoms into full major for Camp 2017

In a studio in Dow Center for the Visual Arts, a plastic grocery bag has overflowed; powder blue shirts and navy pants, shorts and knickers are spilling out over the canvas-covered tables. But the students in the room aren’t anticipating a messy day of working with paint or clay.

These are the students enrolled in Interlochen Arts Camp’s experimental fashion studio class. And for this assignment, they’re experimenting with the Camp uniform itself.

Visual arts instructor Johnson Hunt, who leads the fashion studio class, chose this particular assignment’s theme, “Redesigning the Uniform,” because of its universality to all students at Camp.

Around the room, students are snipping away at cast-off uniform pieces, breathing new life into the old garments. At one table, a girl has cut the shoulders off of a powder-blue polo shirt, leaving the collar and the bodice intact; across the room, several old Oxford shirts are becoming a cocktail dress. A pair of Dockers-style shorts hanging on the wall has new corduroy pockets in the shape of flowers, courtesy of an old pair of knickers.

Students in the fashion studio class work on several such themed assignments throughout Camp.

“The program is very fine arts-based,” said Hunt as she watched a student pin together several old polos. “The goal is for them to develop a cohesive body of work around a theme. They learn how to draft a garment on paper, make a pattern and create it out of fabric.”

Another important aspect of the class is learning how to sew. Knowledge of sewing is not required, and many of the students enter the program not knowing a needle from a pin. By the program’s end, however, each student is proficient in sewing techniques.

The fashion studio class is one of the most sought-after studio classes offered by Visual Arts. In light of the demand, Hunt and the Visual Arts Division are creating a new, six-week fashion design major for Camp 2017.

“It’s very hard to fit everything into the short amount of time we have in a three-week session,” said Hunt. “The fashion design major will expand that time from two hours per day for three weeks to six hours per day for six weeks. Two hours will be devoted to fashion design and illustration, two will be devoted to materials exploration, and two hours will be studio time.”

The major will culminate, as the studio class does now, with a runway fashion show.

At the end of Camp 2016, the bag of pants and polos had vanished. Outside the Dow Center for Visual Arts, Hunt stood at the beginning of the runway, giving final instructions to the designers and their models, while peering out from behind two CREATE AMAZING banners at the standing-room-only crowd.

Students of all ages—junior, intermediate and high school—came to support their friends and get a glimpse of the new creations. Several snapped photos of the events on cell phones and cameras, craning their necks and fighting the crowd for the best views. Several curious writers cheered from the balcony of the Writing House as the crowd swelled across the Writing House lawn. Parents were there too, braving the heat for a glimpse of their children’s designs. Even Interlochen Center for the Arts President Jeffrey Kimpton was present, giving a real VIP feel to the event.

As hits by Taylor Swift, Michael Jackson and Lorde boomed over the loudspeakers, the first of the models took to the runway, illuminated by five colored spotlights. For the student designers of Camp 2016, those spotlights may be the first taste of a bright future in fashion.

—Melissa Luby