Who better to share with us a history of Artistry in Fashion, than Mary Lou. Mary Lou teaches Basic Serging and has been a part of Artistry in Fashion since the very beginning. Here’s what she has to say.

Cañada Fashion Department (CFD): How did you come up with Artistry in Fashion?

Mary Lou (ML): A student presented the concept to us as a way of publicizing the department. Ronda gave her the OK and she ran with it. She began with friends who designed artful clothing and accessories and added more. She put together 25 vendors that first year in the cafeteria and called it a Designer Sale.  250 people attended and we were off and running.

Students brought food and manned a bake sale booth. We sold salads, cookies and desserts. For several years, a student and her family catered breakfast and lunch. We stood in line for their delicious soups and salads.

In the early years, when we didn’t yet know how to set up a database, the college gave us mailing stickers of past students. They were in random order and we had to spend hours organizing them by zipcode for bulk mail. We knew there had to be a better way. An advisory board member volunteered to help me set up a targeted database. We hand entered thousands of names and built a powerful tool for the department. We had indeed emerged from the stone age.

The name Designer Sale had it’s issues. People were not sure what that meant. Were students selling their work? Was it designer merchandise that hadn’t sold, or designer seconds? After several years of confusion, we knew we had to do something. We asked all the committee to meet with a list of possible new names that more clearly conveyed what we were. Our vendors were true artists under the big umbrella of fashion and Artistry in Fashion was born.

CFD: How has the day evolved?

ML: In the early years, a small group of students ran it all. They had their vision and would check in with Ronda and me.  Every year brought change as committees were formed and the whole department, both teachers and students got more involved. The event got bigger every year. We pushed into every hallway and classroom near the cafeteria. Word got around. New designers called the department asking how they could get in.  Decorations became more elaborate. We added student fashion shows, guest lecturers, student displays, the class room Open House and the current Designer Showcase. And we moved outside onto our beautiful campus grounds.

CFD: What is your favorite part?

ML: The energy in the venue that comes from the convergence of artists with all types of garments, accessories and jewelry and the attendees that “get it.” Attendees, artists and everyone in the department know this is a special, feel good day. We have grown but we have not lost the passion, excitement and vision that spawned this concept over 20 years ago.

CFD: What roles have you had in planning and putting on the show?

ML: I have been involved every year in some capacity. At first Ronda and I were advisors to a small committee but as it grew, we turned the event into a broader teaching tool and involved all students.

I started and maintained the database for quite a few years.

I worked with the decorations committee both in planning and set up the day before the event and the morning of.

For years I chaired the Signage Committee. To think back at how archaic our first signs looked but they got people here. As with all of our growth and changes, it was usually propelled by the shared outside expertise of one of our students. So much behind the scenes talent has been brought to this event.

While I am not involved in the months of preplanning anymore, Ronda and I always share the oversight of the actual day.

CFD: Why should people come to the event?

ML: To experience the creative energy that flows freely throughout the day. That may sound corny but its true. This is not a craft show. Attendees come dressed up, happy and ready to shop.  Every year brings a new mix of designers. This is an opportunity to meet your friends, be inspired and see the most amazing gathering of artists in one beautiful location.

Thank you, Mary Lou, for your memories. We’d love to have our readers as guests at this year’s Artistry in Fashion on Saturday, September 24, 2016. Please plan to attend this fantastic day. Remember, word of mouth is our best advertising, so please make a date of it and invite some friends!