Spain Park students place in Birmingham Fashion Week challenge

By MADOLINE MARKHAM

Spain Park High School junior Sarah Valin models the dress she designed for Birmingham Fashion Week’s Rising Star Design Challenge. Sarah’s design won first place. Photo courtesy of Chuck St. John Photography.

Sarah Valin’s bedroom wall is covered in fashion magazines—a medium that inspired her winning design in the Rising Star Design Challenge during Birmingham Fashion Week. The Spain Park junior takes art in school, but her professional aspirations lie in fashion.

Sarah’s dress made of aluminum, magazines and duct tape placed first in the competition, and she was awarded a $500 scholarship from Mercedes-Benz.
The Rising Star Challenge judged high school and junior high students on garments made of nontraditional items. The top 20 designers, including Sarah’s and fellow SPHS student Allie Phifer’s, showed their designs in the Saturday night fashion finale.

“I knew I wanted to make it look like a sculpture,” Sarah said, “so I went through all the industrial materials at Home Depot. The aluminum siding looked really workable.”

She also wanted to use Vogue pages for her design. “It’s the most iconic magazine,” she said, “and I already had a bunch of copies around my house.”
To complete the look, Sarah ended up using an old screen from her porch as the bodice.

Sarah was the only designer in the competition to both create and model her design. “I knew how I wanted to walk and how to present the dress,” she said. “I wear heels three out of five days a week, so it was pretty easy.”

Sarah was pleasantly surprised to find such opportunity to explore fashion in Birmingham. “It felt like a mini New York Fashion Week,” she said. “It was also cool to meet other kids who are interested in fashion.”

She hopes to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City and one day start her own clothing line.

SPHS senior Allie Phifer also placed in the top 20 of the Rising Star Design Challenge.

“I wanted my design to have some meaning behind it, so I used things that are obsolete now: phone cords, maps, analog clock gears and phone books,” she said.
She said the tedious duct tape work made her never want to use it ever again.

“I cannot tell you how much hair I lost in the process, but I left the sticky side up so I could put the phone book pages on it,” she said. “The most fun part was breaking up the clocks though.”

Spain Park senior Madison Mulkey models Allie Phifer’s design for Birmingham Fashion Week’s Rising Star Design Challenge. Photo courtesy of Chuck St. John Photography.

Allie bought eight clocks for $3 at J&J Junk in Chelsea and let her imagination take her from there, using the clock gears as sequins on one side of the corset top.

Allie’s friend and theatre classmate Madison Mulkey modeled the anachronistic dress on the runway during Birmingham Fashion Week. Madison said it was like a dream and that she had never felt as alive as she was on the runway.

“The whole experience was really legitimate and not something I was expecting for Birmingham,” Allie said. “It was so professional. I had a lot of fun.”

Allie plans to study theatre design at UAB starting in the fall. As for the dress’ future plans, one of Allie’s friends plans to wear it to prom.

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