Patrons packed the Tobin Auditorium during the 2015 Cutting Edge Fiesta Fashion Show. Photo by Kristian Jaime.
Patrons packed the main stage at the Tobin Center during the 2015 Cutting Edge Fiesta Fashion Show. Photo by Kristian Jaime.

For University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) fashion production and design students, Fiesta 2015 began two days early during Tuesday’s 35th annual Cutting Edge Fiesta Fashion Show. The event transformed the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts into a runway venue to showcase six student collections.

The Tobin was decked out in Fiesta colors and gave the event an elevated sense of glamour and polish – befitting the hard work and professionalism brought by the students, who produced the entire show, from model selection to stage and technical coordination. 

While the fashion show has been an official Fiesta event since 1982, this was the first time the Texas Cavaliers and King Antonio attended. They joined Miss Fiesta San Antonio Alixzandra Peña, herself a senior at UIW, to congratulate the designers and honor Sister Kathleen Coughlin, CCVI, UIW’s vice president for institutional advancement. Proceeds from the event go toward scholarships for two fashion management students. This year’s recipients were Kayley Witt and Taryn Olivo.

The collections that took to the runway showcased not only the creativity of six bright young women, but the breadth of experience available to students of UIW’s Fashion Management program and their bright hopes after graduation.

After UIW alumna Carrie Harrell sent a collection of custom swimwear from her label LollieRocks down the runway, she received the Golden Needle Award for continued support of the program.

Next, the “Shantex Collection” featured 18 wearable and practical designs submitted by UIW students. They were asked to design a European-inspired knit top to be produced for mass market by Shantex Group, LLC., one of the largest manufacturer of sweaters in China. The results varied in complexity and function, but all displayed an understanding of the popular material.

At the end of the show one winner was chosen from that collection. Ruby Sosa took home that award, but all 18 students benefit widely from their experience designing with manufacturing costs and market trends in mind.

The main event, the six senior collections, contained more than a few truly stunning designs, and a handful of garments that could rightly be labeled as high fashion. The designers produced the collections under standard industry constraints and demands. They had deadlines, price points, target markets, and product categories to consider as they churned out one finished garment per week leading up to spring break of their senior year.

The final products were judged on design and construction. The collection with the highest total score won for each category, and the garment with the highest marks in both won Best in Show.

Kimberly Howard’s collection, “Optical Revolution” played on high contrast, visually interesting material, and quirky lines. She used sheer material in her separates to give a sense of illusion, and bold colors that made each garment work like a piece of modern art.

Nicole Abrego’s monochrome collection, “N/A,” was about the tactile sensation that textiles can evoke as they move. She worked with textural detail throughout her eight garments, which looked incredibly wearable. Elegant draping and pleating gave the collection a polished feel. At the end of the show, the garments were available for purchase, and Abrego’s collection contained the one dress that seriously tempted me to blow my clothing budget for the month.

Despite her obvious talent for design, Abrego has her sights set elsewhere after graduation.

“I personally prefer producing,” said Abrego.

Kossla Veasna’s “Nuit de Russe” collection was well received, winning first place for both construction and design, as well as Best in Show. The deliberate contrast between strong shoulders and tapered waists played with ideas of masculine and feminine. The more overtly feminine pieces were highly commercial, while the more masculine seemed to go for an editorial appeal. Veasna also worked with sophisticated and elegant material in her every day separates, such as tropical weight wool and hammered satin. 

Madeline Gonzalez went bold with her “Dragon Woman” collection, incorporating Mandarin collars and power shoulders. While some designs ventured into the realm of thematic, others could have been worn by women in the crowd at the Tobin that night. One red dress in particular is sure to have some orders placed, as it perfectly captured the spirit of Fiesta, which was heavy in the air.

Savannah Longoria’s “Moon Child” went for high concept and visual consistency in an after-five collection. Based on the phases of the moon, her flowing, shimmering pieces glided down the runway with ease, and challenged the role of white in a woman’s wardrobe.

My personal favorite, Nasya Barnette’s “Post-Apocalyptic Royalty” collection, walked last. In various shades of distressed browns, pinks, and plum, the collection felt in touch with popular culture. As the judges of Bravo’s “Project Runway” would say, it was very “now.” Bold pieces included structured body suits with sheer trains billowing behind them, and more accessible pieces seemed ideally suited to the female figure. While I couldn’t picture myself in each dress, I could have assigned each one to different, powerful female.

Barnette does hope to launch her fashion career after graduation.

“I plan to add pieces from this collection to my portfolio and send that off,” said Barnette.

As I left the garment racks and smiling student designers in the Tobin’s East Rotunda, I had to inch through a sea of patrons waiting outside. They were eager to meet the designers and consider the garments for purchase. 

With the Cutting Edge Fiesta Fashion Show under their belts, the six young women can say that their careers in fashion are off to a promising start.

*Featured/top image: Patrons packed the main stage at the Tobin Center during the 2015 Cutting Edge Fiesta Fashion Show. Photo by Kristian Jaime.

Related Stories:

Hometown Designers Tie a Bow on Fashion Week SA

Fashion Week San Antonio and The Couture Collective

Five Reasons to Check Out Fashion Week San Antonio 

Conversation: Essentials Fashion Studio and Local Fashion Photography

Prida: Artist and Designer on Stage at Fiesta 2014

Bekah McNeel is a native San Antonian. You can also find her at her blog,, on Twitter @BekahMcneel, and on Instagram @wanderbekah.