“I had a Winnie the Pooh T-shirt with Eeyore, and I cut the bottom off and made it into a headband. I started to experiment, chop away at my clothing, see what I could do,” said Brooks, one of about 100 students who recently participated in “Fashion Futures,” Mount Ida College’s annual spring fashion show.
That morning, three school buses transported the students to Club Royale in Boston’s theater district, where designers unpacked their collections, pressed them with hand-held steamers, and hurried to make last-minute adjustments with pins, needles, and thread while curling irons heated and students who weren’t too nervous to eat made quick breakfasts of coffee and pastries.
“It started in fourth or fifth grade. I drew in church to pass the time. It was always a woman in a dress or a girl in a dress,” said Brooks, who started life in Nashua and moved to Lowell with her mother and younger brother when she was 11. “There’s one picture I remember drawing in middle school: a gold dress inspired by a crystal chandelier, a chandelier dress.”
Growing up, Brooks said, her biggest fashion influences were her mother, her friends, and popular culture. Eventually, she learned to sew and got a job doing alterations at a local bridal shop.
Photos: Meet the designers
At the fashion show, she presented her Nigerian Bridal Collection, pieces inspired by landscape and heritage.
“I was thinking about the desert, envisioning where I grew up,” said Brooks, a 2016 graduate from the Newton-based college. “The desert is dry and harsh and hard, but you still have succulent flowers coming up through the very hard ground, and they’re still beautiful. I really felt like I was that flower.”
Upton resident Hannah Smith, 22, who will be a senior this fall, was readying her “Plastique Collection,” five toy-themed outfits inspired by club culture, including the Raves of the 1980s.
“It’s a happy, party feeling,” she said, describing an aesthetic that celebrates individuality.
Smith said her interest in fashion, started at 11, when she discovered a Japanese fashion trend called Lolita (not related to the novel by Nabokov) that changed her life.
“I was very shy,” said Smith, who delighted in dressing up in a style that expresses a kind of extreme Victorianism — full skirts shaped with petticoats and tutus, lacy tops, and lavish trims. And she persisted even after her parents protested and kids at school made fun of her.
“I was stubborn. I wasn’t going to budge and everyone grew to like it and support it,” she said. “In high school, they’d get upset if I came to school in jeans. They’d say ‘Where’s your tutu?”
By 13, Smith was taking sewing lessons and making her own clothes.
The designer said her biggest influence has been her grandmother, an artist who taught her to draw and showed her Picasso prints where the people were all painted blue.
Now, she envisions helping girls and women find the best in themselves.
“At the end of the day, fashion should be something that makes you feel good, something that gives you strength and brings out the best parts of you. Don’t let anyone put you in a box saying,’ You can only wear this style, this sort of clothing.’ Because you’re the one in control, you’re the one who decides how you wish to present yourself to the world.”
Fashion designers have an important role. But without business expertise, the creators of new styles would be at a loss to get their work out into the world.
“Designs wouldn’t get into the show without the merchandising students,” said Norton resident Hannah Labonte, 21, a student in Fashion Industry Marketing and Management at Mount Ida.
Influenced by her mother and an older sister, both hairstylists, Labonte started developing her fashion sense at an early age, mostly by watching how her older sister put together clothes.
“She dresses very classic, creative, but nothing extreme,” Labonte said.
But the future fashion merchandiser has also found her style by watching celebrities, including Lauren Conrad and Kourtney Kardashian, and collecting ideas to make her own.
“Fashion is important to me,” she said. “Not only do I want to make a career of it. I want to continue to learn as I go.”
Adrianna Colon, 22, a newly-minted fashion design graduate from Lowell, wasn’t “super interested’ in fashion when she was growing up, nor were her friends.
“They wore what they had,” she said.
But high school theater productions and anime conventions introduced Colon to costume design. So did watching her mother sew her Halloween costumes.
For her senior collection, the 2016 graduate designed pieces inspired by a Puerto Rican folk tale, “The Legend of the Hummingbird,” a version of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. She found dancers for models and choreographed a presentation.
“Some day, I hope to have my own costume design business,” she said. “I love seeing different costumes in the movies, the ballet.”
Meanwhile, Colon’s personal style is a work in progress.
“I don’t have a particular style just yet,” she said. “It’s what fits your personality. …. what feels comfortable. … I couldn’t appreciate an outfit unless I felt good in it.
The 1982 science fiction movie “Tron” inspired Sarah Anzalone’s “Futuristic Geometric Cyber Punk Collection,” seven looks, mix-and-match and ready-to-wear, presented at the recent fashion show.
But the piece that made jaws drop was an outfit that lights up: black pants and white halter, both with blue lights piped in, and a battery pack in a blue satchel that allows the model to turn on the lights and make them blink.
“I see how much fashion can go further into the future,” said the 21-year-old from Upton. “We repeat stuff a lot. I want to push fashion forward — not backward — using today’s technology.”
Anzalone, who wants to open her own boutique, said she studied the style lines from lingerie featured in Vogue magazine and used piping, a thin rope sandwiched between seams, to design her body-flattering garments.
She furthered her theme with accessories such as Google glasses, menswear glasses, and visor glasses, all made on a 3-D printer.
Influenced in childhood by the sci fi movies she watched with her brother and father, she began trying out fashion ideas by cutting up her clothes and reassembling them.
“My mom started noticing and set me up for sewing classes,” she said. “I was more into sewing at first. I got to high school and had more art classes, got more into fashion, being able to illustrate on paper and make it come to life.”
Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe
Fatima Brooks, who lives in Lowell, steams a wedding dress from her Nigerian Bridal Collection before the fashion show.
That morning, three school buses transported the students to Club Royale in Boston’s theater district, where designers unpacked their collections, pressed them with hand-held steamers, and hurried to make last-minute adjustments with pins, needles, and thread while curling irons heated and students who weren’t too nervous to eat made quick breakfasts.