RIT students demonstrate design flair for Fashion Week of Rochester

School for American Crafts students readying jewelry pieces for runway display

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A. Sue Weisler

Students Senam Akorli, left, and Sarah Fairbank have designed jewelry to be worn on the runway at Fashion Week of Rochester Oct. 16-20.

Ten graduate and senior metalcrafts and jewelry design students from Rochester Institute of Technology’s School for American Crafts are busily designing pieces for Fashion Week of Rochester.

Organizers approached Len Urso, a professor in the School for American Crafts, about getting the students involved for the first time this year. Urso saw it as an opportunity to help students in the program who have an interest in fashion design make some important industry connections.

“I consider several of these talented students to be emerging, cutting-edge professionals in jewelry and fashion design,” says Urso.

Fashion Week is a five-day affair, running from Oct. 16 through 20, featuring Rochester-based retailers, boutiques, salons, musicians and other artists in runway shows and other fashion-related events.

RIT students will display their work in an upscale VIP showroom and in a runway show emceed by Tommy Lee of the band Motley Crue from 5 to 7 p.m. on Oct. 19, at the Temple Building in downtown Rochester. The VIP event is a fundraiser for The Center for Youth organization in Rochester. Two students, Sarah Fairbank and Senam Akorli, also will be modeling some of their jewelry designs down the runway.

Fairbank is a fourth-year jewelry design student who makes pieces that incorporate elements such as fur and feathers. A native of Seattle, Fairbank also is a professional model in New York City, often spending weekends and school breaks there to work.

“I like to push my concepts,” says Fairbank. “I’m not afraid to make something way louder or more intense than what I originally had in mind.”

Akorli is a Ghana native and second-year graduate student in the jewelry design program. Her work for Fashion Week will show traditional aspects of her culture while also employing copper, brass, feathers and precious stones. Prior to her arrival at RIT, Akorli was a finalist in the Miss Ghana competition in 2008.

“I like to think about the feeling you get when you are around a piece,” says Akorli. “I give names to each of my pieces to give them a more symbolic meaning.”

Urso says the experience the students have gained through designing jewelry for the fashion event will go a long way.

“The benefit to our students is clearly allowing them to perform in front of a live and sophisticated fashion audience,” says Urso. “Organization, communication, display, time effectiveness and all those fundamental skill sets required with these experiences put students to a real test.”