Runway to imagination: UW-Stout’s sold-out Fashion Without Fabric unfolds fears with theme of Philias and Phobias

‘Love of Books’ named scholarship winner; ‘The Prime Divine’ proves number 13 can be lucky
This year’s scholarship winners were Erika Rivolta and Manuela von Zitzewitz for their creation “Love of Books,” bibliophobia/philia. / UW-Stout
Abbey Goers | April 10, 2024

In front of an audience of more than 750 attendees, 256 UW-Stout 3D Design first-year students proved the complex dichotomy of passion versus dread – where one’s deepest fear might be another’s greatest joy.

At the crowd-favorite Fashion Without Fabric runway show, 117 student design teams presented their sculptured costume designs on April 6, representing this year’s theme of Philias and Phobias.

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Designs spanned the landscape of nightmares and obsessions – from love of the color yellow to fear of purple, to the destructive and life-bringing forces of fire and water. They showed how little things, like birds, butterflies, moths, stinging insects and, of course, spiders, can have the biggest impact.

Fashion Without Fabric 2024
'Don't Judge a Bird by Its Feathers,' ornithophobia/philia, by Makayla Durango, Jolene Larrabee and Leah Schrader / UW-Stout

Through their depiction of fears, students shared a prevailing message of hope – to embrace imperfection and stride boldly forward into the unknown, even facing death itself with grace and dignity.

Fashion Without Fabric was held during UW-Stout’s Destination Weekend, heading the Spring Showcase, a gathering of student-centered events in April and May.

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Other fashion-focused events include WEAR Fashion Show, featuring fashion design and development students’ clothing collections. WEAR will be at 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 27, in the Memorial Student Center Great Hall. Tickets are available online.

Transcendence Drag and Burlesque celebrated Trans Day of Visibility on March 26. Hosted by the Involvement Center, the Qube and UW-Stout’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance, the cabaret is an alumnus-founded and produced, BIPOC-centered, trans/gender nonconforming troupe of performers.

Fashion Without Fabric 2024
'To Love or to Hide,' photophobia/philia, by Mack Champion, Mara Glover and Becca Lindell / UW-Stout

Bringing their word to life

Students began working on their costume designs about one month ago, first drawing a single word and definition for its philia/phobia from a hat. They then brought their word to life, researching, designing and building their costumes before practicing their presentations and perfecting their characters.

As student models walked, creeped and stalked down the runway to the cheers of the crowd, judges critiqued their designs in three areas – concept, creativity and craft. This year’s judges were Chancellor Katherine Frank; Steve Marsh, senior writer, Mpls. St. Paul Magazine; and Molly Uravitch, assistant professor of art, Augustana University.

Fashion Without Fabric 2024
'Do Not Fear the Rest,' coimetrophobia, by Keenan Chalmers, Aidan Mooney and Haylee Mottl / UW-Stout

In collaboration with industry partners, alumni and community members, the School of Art and Design awarded $1,000 scholarships to the winners of the highly competitive show.

This year’s scholarship winners were Erika Rivolta, interior design, Comerio, Italy; and Manuela von Zitzewitz, studio art, Wayzata, Minn., for their creation “Love of Books,” bibliophobia/philia.

The scholarship prize is decided by a faculty committee. Teams have the option to apply and are evaluated from start to finish. They submit a process book that covers their ideas, research, concept statement, ideation drawings, inspirations, the building stages and more. The committee reviews applicants’ craft, concept, innovative use of materials, styling, accessories and presentation.

Fashion Without Fabric, The Prime Divine
First place went to 'The Prime Divine,' triskaidekaphobia, by Klaire Johnson and Emma Walstra / UW-Stout

Other winners were:

  • 1st: “The Prime Divine,” triskaidekaphobia, by Klaire Johnson, interior design, Wabasha, Minn.; and Emma Walstra, interior design, Waupun
  • 2nd: “Cat Scratch Fever,” ailurophobia, by Gabe Cervantes, animation and digital media, Minneapolis; and Fig Palacios-Hadlock, animation and digital media, Minneapolis
  • 3rd: “Fear the Peal,” bananaphilia, by Riley Burgraff, graphic design and interactive media, Menomonie; and Declan Kincaid, animation and digital media, Baraboo
Fashion Without Fabric 2024
'Beyond White: Perfection’s Veil,' leukophobia, by Lucas Moreno-Martinez III and Allison Seanor / UW-Stout

Honorable mentions were:

  • Innovative Use of Materials: “The Plague,” mysophobia, by Xander Riedmann, game design and development-art, Menomonie; and Griffin Treankler, industrial and product design, Marathon
  • Artistry and Craft: “Beyond White: Perfection’s Veil,” leukophobia, by Lucas Moreno-Martinez III, fashion and retail, Vesper; and Allison Seanor, art education, Wausau
  • Accessories and Details: “A Deep Dive,” ostraconophobia/philia, by Mia Gunderson, graphic design and interactive media, Eau Claire; and Taylor Roe, game design and development-art, Mount Hope
  • Avant Garde Fashion: “The Inner Bouquet,” anthophilia, by Ashlyn Jensen, animation and digital media, Hastings, Minn.; and Izabel Sutlief, animation and digital media, Northfield, Minn.
Fashion Without Fabric 2024
'Golden Hysteria,' xanthophilia, by Hannah Blust and Anna Tupy / UW-Stout

A journey into the imagination

When design #72 entered the runway and the emcee announced the “Love of Books,” bibliophobia/philia, by Rivolta and von Zitzewitz, a young child turned to her mother and said, “You have that.” 

Indeed, many audience members’ heads nodded in appreciation as Rivolta modeled the team’s design. A crown of miniature books adorned her head and red wings spread out behind her, ready to lift the reader into a journey of the imagination. She wore a collar of scrolls and a corset shaped like a rounded bookcase. Her skirt, made of folded newspaper, gave the impression of a clockface – there is never enough time to read. Even her high-heeled shoes were adorned with origami.

“This project has been a great stimulus for us to go beyond our limits. There have been many inspirations, and we have done a lot of research. The greatest inspiration came from the books themselves,” Rivolta and von Zitzewitz said.

“We found ourselves reflecting on what books represent in our society and how important it is to keep the love for books alive. What we wanted to express with our work is just how much beauty and sophistication there is in books, how much boundless imagination and history they contain.”

Fashion Without Fabric, Love of Books
Rivolta and von Zitzewitz's design portrays the beauty, sophistication, history and boundless imagination contained in books / UW-Stout

In their design, Rivolta and von Zitzewitz used several types of paper, including newspaper, tissue paper, cardboard and paper from actual books. They used tape, hot glue and metal wires to support the costume.

“Ours has been a journey full of different emotions. We put in so much effort and exploited our strengths, but we continued to work without giving up and getting to an incredible final result,” they said. “We are grateful for this adventure lived together. We have enjoyed every single moment. Our collaboration proved to be successful, and from this, a strong friendship was born.”

Rivolta’s favorite book is “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee; and von Zitzewitz’s is “Looking for Alaska” by John Green.

“We are proud of ourselves, and we are happy that our costume thrilled the audience and the jury. It is an honor to have been able to win the scholarship,” they said. “It is a great help since we both come from other countries. When we arrived in the U.S., we were not fully aware of the high cost of education. Moving here has cost us a lot of expenses and cultural changes.”

Number 13 wins first place

Numbers were another common theme through the event – fear of the numbers four, eight, 17, and of course, the unlucky 13.

Like many of their peers, first place winners Johnson and Walstra flipped fear on its head. In their research of triskaidekaphobia, they found that the number 13 also represents rebirth, transformation and divine energy.

Fashion Without Fabric, The Prime Divine
Johnson and Walstra's design included a halo-like disc that transformed into phoenix wings / UW-Stout

“We decided to convey those meanings through an outfit reminiscent of a phoenix, mixed with a divine being. Every aspect of ‘The Prime Divine’ had some kind of purpose. For example, the backpiece doubled as transformable wings and a gold circle, which is often seen behind divine beings in paintings,” Johnson and Walstra said.

They incorporated clusters of 13 throughout the design – in groups of skewers, rhinestones and beads. Other materials used were cardboard, duct tape, decorative ornaments, feathers, wrapping paper, flexible foam sheets, spray paint and miscellaneous items.

“We were always looking for ways to incorporate 13 into our outfit somehow, instead of aimlessly decorating it. We really wanted our craftsmanship and attention to detail to be shown through this intricate design,” they said.

“It was definitely fun seeing the other groups get creative with the materials they used and understand how their designs came to be. It was amazing to see everyone’s final products. It was extremely rewarding to have our hard work recognized not only by the judges but also by our peers.”


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