When Morgan Peterson was in the first grade, she told her parents that she wanted to be a figure skater. A native of Bemus Point, in western New York, Peterson trained regularly for 12 years. As she got older, she began to sketch ideas for costumes — and although those outfits were never made — Peterson found she had a talent for design.
Eventually, fashion became her dream.
On Saturday, Peterson, along with 19 other juniors and seniors from the fashion design program at Stephens College, will show her work in the school’s annual fashion show, “Muse.” The show will feature work that the students have been making during the past year. Peterson, a senior, will show 13 pieces, for a total of five looks.
She credits her background in competitive skating for her thick skin and her discipline, which will be useful in the fashion industry.
“The coaches would yell, I mean, they weren’t always comforting,” she said. “That helped me to be a better competitor. I loved it because it made me disciplined.”
She decided not to continue figure skating because she did not see a future in it. “I was good, but I wasn’t Olympic-caliber,” she said. “I started a little late. I was 7 or 8, and everyone else started when they were 2 or 3.”
However, she hoped she would at least be able to skate in her spare time at the rink in Jefferson City. But in her senior year of high school, she broke her leg playing soccer and never put great importance on skating again.
Even so, skating still influences her work.
In last year’s fashion show, among Peterson’s entries was a figure skating dress in the sportswear category; it won best in jury in that category. She had the edge: Entries in sportswear change every year and are linked to a sport, and last year’s was figure skating. She also won best in jury in the career wear category.
Her designs are not something you would see at the mall. For her collection this year, she said she was inspired by Japanese culture. One look she created was a white wool full-length coat with red silk chiffon trim and a red silk charmeuse lining. The dress the piece went with was inspired by a fabric used for a Japanese obi, used to tie a kimono.
Peterson wanted her overall collection to convey the image of a strong woman. The idea was to combine the elegance of a woman with the strength of a warrior. She also used leather and furs to create her looks, inspired by her internship last summer with the designer brand Elie Tahari.
“I think it would take a certain kind of person to wear my clothes,” Peterson said.
Furs, leather and luxurious fabrics don’t come easily or inexpensively; the materials for Peterson’s collections cost nearly $2,000.
She said there are two sides to fashion — fashion for the masses and fashion as an art. “To do both without (your business) going under is the key,” Peterson said.
Stephens encourages marketability so students can get jobs, but they still do the conceptual, or fashion as art, designs because that chance won’t likely come again. Peterson acknowledged the tension between creativity and marketability.
“When you get a job,” she said, “you’ll be focused on numbers.”
To participate in the show, the works of student designers must undergo a considerable amount of scrutiny. First, program instructors evaluate and critique the work, and students are able to make changes. After changes are made, their work will be reviewed by a jury of industry people, including boutique owners, Stephens alumna and instructors from other design schools.