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CMU Fashion Students Reveal ‘Functional Fashion’ is This Spring’s Latest Trend


To a lot of people, fashion and design are concepts reserved for the glamorous runways of New York and Paris. But mid-Michigan actually has its own annual Fashion Week.  The highlight of the week is a fashion show, “Threads.” It takes place each year on the campus of Central Michigan University.

“’Threads’ is a fashion show--it’s our 20 year anniversary this year so it’s been around for a long time. And it’s an event that was put on by students,” says Ian Mull, a faculty member in CMU’s Fashion Merchandising and Design program. He’s also the show’s advisor.

“It takes countless hours and people to put on an event like this,” Mull adds. “There’s probably 300 to 400 people that get involved in putting on a show that’s 30 minutes long.”

“In our classes we have a lot of opportunities to create and design for the show so that’s what a lot of students do,” says CMU Student and 2018 Featured “Threads” Designer Tiffany Griffiths. “This year I was really inspired by watercolors and floral designs so I decided to combine both of them and hand paint my fabrics. So each look is supposed to be a walking watercolor painting.”

“I’m really inspired by art and different artists,” she adds.

Griffiths says that actually French Impressionist Edgar Degas was her muse for this year, and that the other designers in the show also draw from things that matter to them.

“Everyone’s inspiration comes from somewhere deep. So it’s not really a superficial thing. It conveys a lot of emotion and their feelings. Everyone is inspired by everything.”

Those inspirations include different cultures, people the designers love and even the world around them—similar to the process behind other works of art by artists like Degas, Rembrandt or Van Gogh.

“It’s about the thought that you have and the original design you come up with on paper and how that is executed into real life,” Griffiths explains. “You have to come up with original sketches, then create them into technical flats on the computer and then you come up with the pattern which is really the most important step and the biggest step.”

Griffiths explains that students in CMU’s Fashion and Merchandising program are constantly learning new skills and sometimes that means going back to the basics…like sewing.

“I remember my grandma was really surprised because people always learned to sew back in the day,” she says. “But now, everyone in the fashion design program knows how to sew.”

Griffiths is most intrigued by what she refers to as “functional fashion.”

“I’m really interested in the automotive industry and pattern making for seats,” she says. “And there’s even people who go off and design for the government for things for military uniforms and stuff, so yeah, those are examples of functional fashion.”

In fact, Mull says you might be surprised at just how many different kinds of jobs are available in the fashion world away from the runways and photo shoots we typically think of.

“It’s so diverse in what you can do in fashion,” he says. “You can work in design, you can be a merchant. You can work in logistics, you can be a sales rep, you can be a technical designer; it’s a huge industry.”

Mull adds that it’s a business that thrives in that gray area between what humans want versus what we need.

“We need to have clothes to protect us from the elements—especially in Michigan where it’s really cold, right? Or really hot,” he says. “So clothing does protect us, but it also has that other side where we show our personality, we can show our individuality.”

So what should consumers expect to be the next big trend in style as Michigan slowly inches its way to Spring? Alexis Kelly is another Fashion Merchandising and Design Student at CMU.

“Everyone’s wearing a lot of ruffles and oversized sleeves,” she says, adding, “Lavender is huge right now: lavender loafers, lavender blouses…”

She also says that basic black will always be a classic.

But Griffiths says to remember that when it comes down to what we wear, beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder.

“I would say wear what you love and what captivates you really and what expresses you, and once you do that, people start to see a little bit inside of you,” she says with a smile.

You can learn more about CMU’s Fashion Merchandising and Design Program by visiting