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What do jellyfish, haunted houses and Shelley Duvall have in common?
Three Brooklyn art-school students used them as inspiration to design dresses over summer break — and now their offbeat-but-elegant frocks are in Urban Outfitters locations nationwide.
“Everyone keeps calling me about how they saw my name in the catalogue,” said Simone Kurland, a sophomore at the Pratt Institute in Clinton Hill. “It’s so exciting! It makes me feel like it was a good choice to move here.”
Kurland, along with nine other students, entered Pratt’s own version of “Project Runway” in collaboration with the bohemian chain. They got no school credit and no pay — just the chance at their first big break.
The rules? Make a dress using jersey fabric in six weeks or less. Not exactly tear-filled drama at the hands of Heidi Klum, but not a walk in the park either.
After trial, error, and the toning down of too-artsy designs, Urban Outfitters selected Sam O’Brien’s mustard-hued kaftan, Kindall Almond’s asymmetrical brown dress and Kurland’s long black gown with a cutout at midriff.
The students received a $750 scholarship and internship offers at Urban headquarters in Philadelphia.
Karin Yngvesdotter, a Fashion professor at Pratt, said this was the first time that a major company mass-produced undergraduate designs.
Urban’s buying team “wanted it creative, yet very wearable,” she said. “The challenge was having all these fantastically creative people pull back just a little bit.”
Almond said that she had to modify her braided dress, which takes inspiration from jellyfish, parachutes and the wind.
“People don’t know how much work it takes to just make one dress,” she said. “They think you just design clothes all day at fashion school, but it’s a lot more complicated.”
O’Brien looked to flowery snapshots of 1970s actresses for his design.
“The whole idea of the competition was to channel our aesthetics into Urban customers,” he said. “I took it as more of a learning experience initially, so winning caught me off guard.”
For Kurland, who used black ink drawings as a muse, the competition was a lesson in mass-market design.
“The last thing I would want to do is make something boring or predictable,” she said. “I read people’s online comments about my dress and they said, ‘Where would you wear this?’ ”
Like any budding designer, she brushed off the harsher sartorial critiques.
“It’s more adventurous to wear something when you don’t have a place or time to wear it,” she said. “Just whenever you want to.”
The student-designed dresses are available for purchase at Urban Outfitters [166 Atlantic Ave. at Clinton Street in Cobble Hill, (718) 488-7143].
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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