SIU Fashion Design Student to Showcase Sustainability-Inspired Designs at Fashion Show

Chicago fashion design graduate Leslee Lunden Lofton shows off some of her designs as she works for the SIU student showcase and fashion show April 21. (Photo by Russell Bailey)

Leslee Lunden Lofton is making the most of an opportunity she saw in her own closet. Inspired by her own old clothes, clothing from local thrift stores and an effort toward sustainability, Lofton, a senior in Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s fashion design program, is repurposing clothing as she prepares to unveil her line at the Student Showcase and Runway Fashion Show, Thursday, April 21, at Student Center Ballroom D.

Recycling, or reusing old items, is a trend in the fashion industry that has become more prevalent in recent years due to the COVID-19 pandemic and concerns about the Earth’s environment, have said Lofton and Laura Kidd, associate professor in the School of Architecture and Curriculum Director. Lofton’s eight-piece line, titled Back-to-the-’90s: Thrift-it Edition, is inspired by sitcoms Lofton watched as a child, including “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” “A Different World” and “Sister, Sister.”

“Leslee is making a collection inspired by what I’ve wanted to see a designer do for years,” Kidd said. “She had an idea and bought her clothes all summer. She was buying ups and downs that no one wants.

“It was great to see her really start to think like a designer and think outside the box and find solutions. Leslee put a lot of hard work into this.

As Chicago Butler College Prep High School graduate Lofton recently ripped the seams off an old skirt she’d never worn to turn it into a top, she explained the importance of durability and reducing waste.

“It’s a great way to help the planet – repurposing clothes to create something new,” she said. “It started in the summer, and during the summer I kept the same theme. I spent a lot of time looking at the fabric to see what I could do with it. I’m making a top that was shorts I have to think of different and creative ways to do something completely different.

The upcoming event marks the second in-person fashion show under SIU’s program that she will be attending. As a course requirement, Lofton’s line will feature eight pieces, with eight models that are named after a character from one of the three sitcoms. Designers are responsible for finding their own patterns and working with them on fittings.

“There’s a bit of pressure to get it all done,” Lofton said. “It’s the process. I have to pace myself. But I’m on the last part of every garment, so there’s not a lot of stress.

The pandemic has played a role

The pandemic has prompted people to take on more DIY projects.

“When you’re stuck in the house, you find things to do; the garment industry picked up on that.

There’s a recycling explosion,” said Lofton, who returned to campus in the fall of 2021 for her senior year after spending most of the spring 2020 semester and her entire freshman year as a college student. line.

Kidd added that there have been discussions within the fashion industry about reducing waste for a long time, but the pandemic has accelerated things.

“People started designing and creating clothes from what they had, what they could find, or they got tired of looking at two or three clothes in their closet, so they decided to make them. combine into something new,” Kidd said.

“And these young designers, a lot of them are very mindful of waste and trying to reuse things and sustainability.”

The key is “patience”

Lofton credits her grandmother for sparking her initial interest in clothing and design by taking her to a few sewing classes while in high school. She came to the program at SIU because it was affordable and one of the few schools in Illinois to offer a fashion design program. SIU remains the only public university in Illinois to offer fashion design as a separate major.

While the effort of designing and assembling materials in fashion can be time-consuming, Lofton said, the key is to have patience.

“You have to take advantage of it,” Lofton said. During the pandemic, she started making masks for her family and selling them by word of mouth. This morphed into her own online clothing business, Lunden Leslee, which Lofton plans to expand after graduating in May. She wants to continue to create personalized outfits using economical and sustainable materials.

First parade in three years

Kidd noted that the students are excited to be able to return to an in-person event. After the 2020 show was canceled due to the pandemic, Kidd, who has mentored student designers since 1997, opted for spring 2021 photo shoots.

This year there will be exhibitions of student work in the JW Corker Lounge and Ballroom C of the Student Center starting at 6 p.m., including students in Fashion Merchandising, Fashion Styling and Fashion Design. inside. The show is free and open to the public.

The fashion show begins at 7 p.m., with five freshmen each presenting a design titled, Dressed for Effect. These students, along with hometowns, are:


  • Carbondale: Nicole Robinson.
  • Chicago: Aniya Vaughns.
  • Herrin: Aaron Elliot.
  • Elgin South: Lisa Vasilopolous.


Two advanced students will present fashion designs as part of a miniline collection. These students, along with their hometowns and lineage, are:


  • Carbondale: Ingrid Hansen, Gothic Girls, a line of feminine Gothic looks inspired by Victorian fashion and embellishments.
  • Elgin: Caroline Chwalisz, Sweet Pea Vintage, a practical and feminine line in warm autumnal colors inspired by 1940s women’s fashion.

The program is set to change its name to Fashion Studies starting July 1, which Kidd says will better reflect its offerings. She will keep her three specializations in fashion design, fashion merchandising and fashion styling.

For more information about the Fashion Design program, contact Kidd at 618-453-1970 or

Abdul J. Gaspar