The University of Rhode Island’s Textile, Fashion Merchandising and Design (TMD) program celebrated its 12th annual Spring Splash Fashion Show last Friday night in Edwards Auditorium, an event complete with 10 different designs, scholarships and a new interactive awards category that allowed the audience to vote on winning designs.

“Designers in Bloom”, the name of this year’s fashion show, ran for almost an hour and a half and featured an impressive assortment of talented students and alumni designers. In attendance were numerous industry partners and professors along with President Dooley and his wife, Lynn Baker-Dooley.

IMSY Swimwear collection by Katherine Imswiler - Credit: Donald Reuker
Models strike a pose wearing the IMSY Swimwear collection by Katherine Imswiler – Credit: Donald Reuker

The night began with an introduction by the evening’s Master of Ceremonies, Dr. Martin Bide, a URI TMD professor and some opening remarks by Lori Ciccomascolo, the Interim Dean of the College of Human Science and Services.

“Over the past two months, those sewing machines in Quinn Hall have been very busy, and before the garments made it to tonight’s show, they’ve actually been through two rounds of previous judging,” Bide explained. “These TMD student designers are amazing,” said Ciccomascolo. “They partner with student models to showcase their incredible skills and creativity, allowing their inspirations to become a reality.”

After Bide and Ciccomascolo’s comments, the fashion show portion of the evening began.

Katherine Imswiler’s fully-reversible swim collection was the first to be showcased. Imswiler, a 2009 Alum, started her “IMSY” collection in a TMD 327 design course while attending URI. This collection is consequently what launched Imswiler’s career and IMSY Swimwear. The swim line is a Rhode Island-based company founded by Imswiler whose products are currently sold in 30 stores. Later on, Imswiler was inducted into the “Alumnae Wall of Fame” for her successes and achievements in the industry.

“I am truly honored,” Imswiler said. “It’s really rewarding to see my work come full circle.”

Another inductee to this year’s TMD Wall of Fame was Dean DerGarabedian. DerGarabedian originally arrived at URI under a wrestling scholarship and since graduating with a TMD degree, has worked in the fashion industry for 30 years. Some of his better known employers include Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein and Affliction Clothing.

In addition, Sarah Smith Combes, a 2006 alumna received a Wall of Fame honor.  Combes is currently working as a project development lead for New Balance Athletic Shoe, Inc., and is in charge of managing and developing about 150 different footwear styles each year.

The actual runway show lasted for a little over 20 minutes and included designs by Imswiler, Combes, Rachel Matthies, Twakelee Gborkorquellie, Aspen Burke, Hannah Stamp, Stephanie Poncin and Jasmine Souza. A total of six awards were then given to winning designers.

Designer, Twakelee Gborkorquellie struts down the runway displaying a design from her winning "Verde" collection - Credit: Donald Reuker/The Good 5 Cent Cigar
Designer, Twakelee Gborkorquellie struts down the runway displaying a design from her winning “Verde” collection – Credit: Donald Reuker/The Good 5 Cent Cigar

Souza was the big winner of the evening, taking home two awards for “Most Innovative” with “Viscera” and “Audience Favorite,” an award won by one vote.

“The judges were blown away by [Viscera],” said Susan Hannel, Associate Professor and Student DesignAwards presenter. “The dedication to the details such as the laser-cut details on the black garment and the hair combs… [the judges] kept going on and on about them.”

Another big winner that drew a lot of applause from the audience was the emotional Gborkorquellie, whose designs also won at last year’s Spring Splash. Gborkorquellie took home “Runway Presence,” a judge’s choice award for her “incredibly dramatic,” “Verde” collection. Gborkorquellie was also the only designer Friday night to model her own collections.

Other winners include, Matthies’ “Engineering Red” for “Best Sewn Quality,” which Matthies jokingly stated was, “the last award I thought I’d win.”

“Most Marketable Award” was given to Stamp’s “Classic Moments” and “Honorable Mention” went to Burke for “Western Kingdom.”

Additionally, Spring Splash scholarships were presented to undergraduates, Allison Elston, Christine McMahon, Samantha McPherson and Caitlin Pallas. The Historic Textiles Scholarship of $1,000 went to Anna Rose Keefe, a first year TMD graduate student and the Elsie Brown and Susan Smith Textile Conservation Scholarship went to another first year graduate student, Kristin DeiTois.

One special feature of this year’s Spring Splash was the integration of social media and technology. Using the hashtag “Splash2015” those watching could tweet/post along with the evening’s events. In addition, the show in its entirety was live streamed and can be re-watched by visiting:

In closing, Bide mentioned, “We will be back next year in hopes to make next year’s event, bigger and better.”