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BOCES students show they’re ready for the runway

Inside the fashion lab of Harkness Career & Technical Center Wednesday afternoon, 16 Bernina Activa machines sewed in harmony – pleating, darting and hemming ensembles to be modeled by students at the school’s annual fashion show.

This was countdown day, and the buzz created by more than 25 teenagers was really more of a roar.

“It’s awesome to watch the kids go through the process and have them experience step one to the end result,” said Darlene Meek, instructor in the Erie 1 BOCES fashion design and merchandising program. “Everything is crazy in here right now, but in a few hours they will get their moment in the spotlight when they realize everything that they planned for the last year and a half will come to fruition.”

The students’ work was on display at the fashion show Wednesday evening outside Lord & Taylor in the Walden Galleria. Representatives of BOCES programs were on hand to introduce interested teenagers to the career training courses BOCES offers.

The Harkness Center in Cheektowaga is one of Erie 1 BOCES’ three state-of-the-art training centers that offer more than 25 programs to high school students from 19 districts. All training centers – including Ken-Ton in the Town of Tonawanda and Potter in West Seneca – provide alternative and special education programs.

“Traditionally, people think of career centers like this as teaching cosmetology, culinary arts and automotive repair, but we also have programs like digital media, animal science and aviation technology,” said Terry Ruh, assistant principal. “We provide credits that students may use toward their diploma. Our purpose is to provide college and career-ready programs.”

First-year students – high school juniors – in the fashion design and merchandising program learn color theory and design elements, principles and process. They study fashion history and fashion designers – as reflected on a bulletin board with logos of Gucci, Calvin Klein, Versace and others. Second-year students learn merchandising, presentation and manufacturing. Wednesday night’s fashion show, followed by a 30-hour internship in the fashion industry, completes the course for the students in May.

The sixth annual show was called “Coalesce.”

Jayla Craig of Cleveland Hill High School came up with the name after consulting an online thesaurus for words that mean “coming together.”

On the floor in the fashion lab, Hamburg High School senior Mariah Gabor, 17, finished painting one of two 10-foot banners used to mark the entrance to the runway. Mariah also designed and sewed three articles of clothing, including a coat of 100 percent wool.

“This fabric was actually donated to us by the American Sewing Guild,” said Meek, as she pinned down the lining of an olive green jacquard gown.

“We have a lot of outfits on the runway tonight that would not have been possible without the donation.”

Nick Kaiser of Sweet Home High School is one of a handful of male models enlisted by the girls to walk the runway. Nick, a digital arts student, modeled a green argyle vest created by the fashion designers.

Many of the students said they will continue to study fashion design at SUNY Buffalo State or Villa Maria College. A few hope to attend New York City’s Fashion Institute of Technology.

Caroline Woodward will attend Kent State University to study graphic design. The Clarence High School senior sat calmly after finishing three formal dresses, each featuring hundreds of beads stitched on by hand.

“I just sat in front of the TV for hours beading,” Caroline explained. “I did it over Christmas break.”

Caroline, who plans to wear the three-piece ivory satin gown she designed to her prom, was too shy to model it on the runway. Her dream job, she confided, is to work behind the scenes as a graphic designer for Harper’s Bazaar.

“ ‘Coalesce’ brings the building together in a way unlike other schools,” said Ruh. “Cosmetology students did hair and makeup. Digital media students produced red carpet videos after interviewing the models at the mall. And Spa Specialty students provided nail art.”

Shortly after noon Wednesday, members of the culinary class paraded into the fashion lab pushing a multi-tiered serving cart loaded with deli meats, lettuce, pickles, condiments and three kinds of bread – all the fixings for a great sandwich. Healthy snacks would be brought up later in the day, explained Kevin Labin, BOCES culinary instructor for 13 years.

Conspicuously absent on the teen lunch menu was pizza – for good reason.

“Pizza stains,” said Ruh. “We’re going for food that when you drop it on your shirt won’t make an impact.”