His designs are classic, conservative and clean. But their designer, Justin Stutzman, is looking a little rough and like a stranger to sleep.
The senior fashion designer is showing his final line Saturday at the John Waldron Arts Center.
His reputation of elegance and excellence means everything must be just right, but, Stutzman admits, “I’m going to have to find a way to maybe let a thing or two slide.”
“Fickle” is not in his vocabulary, and Stutzman has a distinct vision and mood he wants his audience to feel Saturday: tasteful and intense.
The theme of his line is “Rat Pack,” and it is also the name of his collection. The Rat Pack was a group of entertainers in the 1950s and ‘60s consisting of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop.
“What I found so clever about that combination is the way these guys have such great talent, but they come together to make a completely different sound, a somewhat better sound,” Stutzman said of his influence.
To apply this “coming together” idea to fashion, Stutzman will be drawing inspiration from designers from this period, such as Yves Saint Laurent and Chanel. Designers typically excel in one area, such as coats or evening gowns, Stutzman said. So to make his garments the best they can be, he inspected the clothing of top designers at the Elizabeth Sage collection. The Sage collection is a resource provided by the IU Department of Apparel Merchandising and Interior Design for students where they can deconstruct a plethora of designers’ creations.
“I spent every Friday last year, for about four or five hours, in their clothes trying to figure out why they were successful,” he said. “So my ‘Rat Pack’ is a combination of very successful, 20th-century designers.”
In addition to a fashion-design degree, Stutzman will graduate with an apparel-merchandising degree, a costume-construction technology associate’s degree and a minor in business and marketing.
There is no fashion-design program at IU. So Stutzman is in the Individualized Major Program. His mentor, professor Kate Rowold, has seen Stutzman’s designs come alive from sketches he made last spring.
“I think what he’s tried to do is to take what some people would see as very simple and common design lines, and then he puts a little Justin signature on it,” Rowold said. And his signature can usually be found on the sleeve.
“I’m very big on bringing a lot of emphasis to the wrist,” Stutzman says of his sleeve fetish. “I think it brings great length to a girl. (Sleeves) are very important; too many people look past them.”
And his models agree and are excited to wear his clothes on the runway.
Anne Freihofer, a senior majoring in sport communication, will wear three of Stutzman’s pieces during Saturday’s show.
“I think he is very good about designing for a female,” she said. “He makes (women) feel comfortable and, at the same time, makes them look sexy.”
Overall, his pieces are conservative and target those with more refined tastes. He has spent over a year creating a fall 2007 line, and his dedication to fashion is evident to those who work closely with him.
“Passionate would probably be the best way I can describe him,” Freihofer said. “I haven’t met anybody who loves what he does, and puts as much in to what he does as Justin. It’s a total self-sacrifice for him to do this, and I think that is incredibly admirable.”
He has worked over a year on his final line, and his blood, sweat and tears will be showcased in 19 pieces and, what Stutzman hopes to be, a 19-minute show.
“I think 19 minutes could leave a lasting impression,” he said, “and it will be the first time I’ve opened up and let people into Justin’s world. That’s huge.”
Stutzman’s free show will start at 2:30 p.m. Saturday. Stutzman requests attendees arrive at the John Waldron Arts Center, 122 S. Walnut St., several minutes before the show begins. Once the doors are closed, they won’t reopen until after the show.
For more information, visit Stutzman’s Web site, www.justin-david.com.