Project Funway event shows UNL student designs, supports Fresh Start | Culture

The Home Economics Building on East Campus looked quiet and serene from the outside last week. However, inside its stoic walls, it was bustling with activity. The air was filled with the buzzing sound of sewing machines as fashion design students hurriedly sewed seams closed and put the finishing touches on their designs for Project Funway.

Project Funway is an annual fashion show sponsored by Fresh Start, an organization that helps homeless women get their lives back on track and gives them a transitional place to live, according to their website. The fashion show was Nov. 12 at The Lincoln Marriott Cornhusker Hotel downtown. 

Monica Zinke, the executive director of Fresh Start, explained that Project Funway started as an idea to raise funds for Fresh Start. It was influenced by the TV show “Project Runway.” 

Fresh Start decided to collaborate with University of Nebraska-Lincoln and its fashion design program to make Project Funway a reality. According to Zinke, both Fresh Start and UNL agreed that making the theme more of a sustainability project with designers revamping used clothing was a good idea.    

“UNL was really interested in the idea as well because they already talked to the students about recycling clothes and making them into something different,” Zinke said. “That was one of the ideas we thought of for the theme since that’s one of the things they did on ‘Project Runway’ as one of the challenges.” 

While UNL students are the predominant selection of designers at the fashion show, anyone in the community can enter. Zinke said that this year, there were a total of 33 designs, and 11 of the 33 designs were from non-UNL students. 

Zinke said one of the best things about going to the fashion show is seeing the creativity of the designers.  

“Fashion can really be a work of art, and so it’s really exciting to see that and how the designers decided to express themselves through their clothes,” Zinke said. 

According to Zinke, Project Funway was created in 2010, and this year will be their 11th event since they had to take a year off last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“We were very disappointed to not have the event last year, but we just really needed to be prudent with health measures,” Zinke said. “We were unable to have a different large-scale fundraiser last year because of the pandemic, so it did hurt our revenue for the year.”

Zinke said she was glad to be back again this year and hopes Project Funway will continue for many more years to come. 

One of the designers at Project Funway was Sophia Notto, a junior UNL student majoring in textiles, merchandising and fashion design. 

Notto designed a dress using a pink lace button-up shirt to make the skirt, the lining of a blazer to make the top and a vintage kimono to make the arm strap. The top was a corset with zip-tie boning and a lace-up back. There were pink and red zig zags and circles topstitched on the corset top, and the skirt was distressed at the edges. 

“I was initially inspired by the ‘Cruella’ movie because of the pink and the black, but after going through the process of building it and designing it, I decided it has more of an ‘80s feel. So I decided to title it ‘She Bop’ after a Cyndi Lauper song,” Notto said.   

Notto not only designed the dress, but also modeled it in the runway show. 

“It’s exciting but a little nerve-racking,” Notto said before the show. “This is my first time modeling anything and it will definitely be a skill I’ll be gaining from this experience.” 

As far as styling goes, Notto planned on wearing combat boots and a petticoat over the top of her design. 

“Combat boots and petticoats were very prominent trends in the ‘80s with Vivienne Westwood, and I think that would be cohesive for what this turned out to be,” Notto said. 

Notto was excited to be done with the project and the whole time-consuming ordeal of creating an entire garment, styling it and then later showing the completed design in a fashion show in front of hundreds of people. 

“The best part is being done, honestly. It felt like a lot and I put a lot of pressure on myself,” Notto said. “I think as fashion designers we tend to be perfectionists, and I need to learn to let go and leave it as it is instead of looking at it like the way it’s supposed to be.” 

For Notto and many other creators and lovers of the fashion industry, fashion is a major part of their lives. To them, it’s an art form and a large piece of who they are as people.  

“Fashion does so much, and I don’t think a lot of people acknowledge it,” Notto said. “For me, it’s an art form. It’s the ideal form of self-expression. You become another person by wearing clothing.”

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Debbie A. Cunningham

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