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Behind the Sweet Escape

Fashion Students at UH Manoa gear up for the 53rd Annual Fashion Show

By: Doris Kung

23 March 2019

Dressed in a black turtleneck with matching black boots and blue denim pants,  Kristen Domingcil stands in front of a team of 19 students in the basement floor of Miller Hall. For the first time, Domingcil is leading the students on her own to produce this year’s show, “Sweet Escape.”


Miller Hall, a building built in 1939, houses the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s Fashion Design and Merchandising program. The scent of ironed fabric wafts in from a room across the hall from the production team, where student designers are creating garments.


Three junior designers will present their collection on April 28, 2019, bringing show attendees on a “Sweet Escape” that encompasses different journey themes. Domingcil’s production class is tasked with producing the show, from scheduling the venue to finding models for the designers’ collections.


Domingcil previously worked at Ralph Lauren in New York doing temporary jobs to get her foot into the fashion industry. But while she assisted in last year’s production class, running a fashion show is a new challenge for her.


“I was a little bit scared because I felt I didn’t quite have the full amount of experience I needed,” Domingcil said. “But I think that with the experience from last semester, it really helped.”

However, the road to creating this year’s fashion show is not always sweet.


Standing in front of the class, Domingcil addressed the frustration that arose because of the leftover red roses and other goods from their Valentine’s Day fundraiser.


On the whiteboard, she listed total costs and total revenue from the fundraiser. The revenue covered the cost spent but left little profit.


“I did what I did, I said what I said,” Domingcil said, “To me, it was important for them to understand we will be hitting these roadblocks and they understand that too, I think.”


Halfway through the class, at around 2:50 p.m., Domingcil ends the debrief and students split into their committees. The team this year is triple the size of last year’s team, separated into five groups; the co-directors, secretaries and treasurers, graphics, venue, and model.

Taylor Hieatt, co-director of this years show, walks around the room in her gray UH hoodie to collect updates from each group. Chatter fills the room as each group discusses their upcoming agenda.


“Are we thinking on the table, over the tent?” Hieatt said to the graphics committee creating a last minute banner for their rummage sale at Ward.


“They don’t care, if they don’t see it,” Kylie Morrow of the graphics team said.


“Send it over, I want things solidified,” Hieatt responded as she moved on to the next team.


The team only has one semester to create the show, leaving the committees in a race against time to prepare.

“Oh my goodness, I wish I had more time,” Domingcil said.


“I think it’s kind of difficult,” Genevieve Layante said about her work on the graphics team. She adds in the details onto the show’s logo on her iPad. “We’re representing the show in a visual sense and everything judges everything by the way it looks. We have to kind of show that the fashion show well so people will actually want to come see the show.”


As the semester continues, the production team continues to get things settled and finalized, before the show date in April. Organizing the venue, creating the floor plan, casting the models, to create a “Sweet Escape.”

On the other side of Production


Across the room of the production team to the left is the upperclassmen design lab, where student designers put together their garments for the fashion show. In a room filled with sewing machines, torso mannequins, and a large table, junior designer April deCastro works on her collection for mothers.


DeCastro designs in the lab every weekday between caring for her two children and working.

Designing her garments to show her techniques, she hopes to open her own maternity business after graduating.


“I wanted to create something where it looks flattering on a woman's body especially when they’re pregnant,” deCastro said.


Inspired by the decorated dahlia flower, deCastro named her collection “Bloom Where You Are Planted” to describe a baby blooming in a mother’s womb.


Meticulous about the details of her garments, deCastro is inspired by Haute Couture with intricate designs and embellishments.

Haute couture is a term created in 1858 in Paris to describe high-end fashion custom-made by hand for the buyer, using high-quality materials with detailed designs.


DeCastro researched the different trimesters of pregnancy and the size of the mother’s stomach in each stage to create a fake muslin belly for her mannequin. Tied around the mannequin’s waist and tightened with the velcro strap, the belly provides guidance for designing and creating a sufficient amount of ease for a mother’s belly.


To the left of her station stands a torso mannequin wearing a baby pink dress with a floral print rising from the hem up. Like armor, stone grey ruffled embellishments cap the shoulders of the dress rounding behind the back. The same grey design matches the hem of the dress, creating a coherent design. As you look closer at the flowers on the dress, rhinestones at the center of the flower create those tiny, intricate details deCastro admires, similar to Chanel’s Spring Summer 2018 Haute Couture collection.


“I love haute couture,” deCastro said.


April deCastro’s collection “Bloom Where You Are Planted” will be showcased along with other student designers on April 28  at the 53rd Annual Fashion show.

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Left: Kristen Domingcil (top right) working with the graphics teams to solidify visuals.

Right: Kylie Morrow working on the show logo on photoshop.


Junior Designer April deCastro pinning a piece of fabric to form her design on the torso mannequin.


DeCastro's pink floral dress for women at their third trimester to be showcased at the 53rd Annual Fashion Show

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