SIU fashion design student to show sustainability-inspired creations in a fashion show

Leslee Lunden Lofton, a fashion design graduate from Chicago, displays some of her creations while working for SIU’s Student Showcase and Fashion Show on April 21st. (Photo by Russell Bailey)

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

Upcycling, or the reuse of old items, is a trend in the fashion industry that has become more prevalent in recent years due to the COVID-19 pandemic and concern for the Earth’s environment, Lofton and Laura Kidd said. associate professor at the School of Architecture and Program Director. Lofton’s eight-piece line, called 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,” said Kidd. “She got an idea and she’s been shopping for her clothes all summer. She was buying tops and bottoms that nobody wants.

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

While Lofton, who graduated from Chicago Butler College Prep High School, recently ripped the seams on an old skirt she never wore to turn it into a top, explained the importance of sustainability and waste reduction.

“It’s a good way to help the planet: reuse clothes to create something new,” he 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 create something completely different ”.

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

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

The pandemic played a role

The pandemic has prompted people to undertake more DIY projects.

“When you are stuck in the house you find things to do; the clothing industry has taken it back.

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 all of her first year as an online student.

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

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

“And these younger designers, many of them are very attentive to waste and try to reuse things and sustainability.”

One key is “patience”

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

While the effort to design and put materials together in fashion can be time-consuming, Lofton said, the key is to have patience.

“You have to have fun,” Lofton said. During the pandemic, he started making masks for the family and started selling them by word of mouth. This has blossomed into her online clothing business, Lunden Leslee, which Lofton plans to expand upon graduation in May. She wants to continue creating personalized clothes using sustainable and economical materials.

First show in three years

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

This year, there will be student work exhibits in the JW Corker Lounge and Student Center Ballroom C starting at 6pm, including students from fashion merchandising, fashion styling and interior designers. The show is free and open to the public.

The fashion show begins at 7pm, with five first year students each presenting a design titled Dressed for Effect. Those students, with hometowns, are:


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


Two advanced students will present fashion models as part of a miniline collection. Those students, with hometown and line, 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 with warm autumn colors inspired by the women’s fashion of the 40s.

The program will undergo a name change for fashion studios starting July 1, which Kidd says will better reflect its offerings. He will retain his three specializations in fashion design, fashion merchandising and fashion styling.

For more information on the fashion design program, contact Kidd at 618-453-1970 or

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