Orange Carpet Runway

In April, designer Gabrielle Hennessey’s Japanese-inspired designs will take a slice of the SU catwalk. This piece also ran in the Spring 2009 issue.

By Jada Wong

The Designer
Everyone has their own story, but Gabrielle Hennessey’s story spans over a few continents.  Hennessey, a senior fashion design major, was adopted from Korea and grew up in South Jersey with her adopted Korean brother, Irish father and Italian-German mother.

Hennessey never planned on becoming a fashion designer.  In fact, her mother yelled at her as a child for cutting up her own clothes and draping them onto her dolls.

“Emphasis was put on being academic and pursuing a more ‘intellectual’ vocation,” Hennessey says.

When applying to Syracuse University, she had trouble choosing between her mother’s dreams and her own.

“By the time I started applying, I had decided concretely to go after art or design,” Hennessey says.  After a semester, however, her heart led her back to her first true passion – fashion design.

“I realized that my heart was with neither illustration nor communication design, but rather with fashion, which I never thought of as an option since I grew up with everyone expecting me to be a doctor or a journalist,” Hennessey says.

Hennessey’s fashion interpretation goes beyond the obvious; she perceives designs not just as “pretty.”  She loves Alexander McQueen for his “historicism and rocker-chic” mixes; Anna Sui for her colorful and ethnic looks; and Miuccia Prada for her unique construction.  Hennessey also names avant-garde designers Yohji Yamamoto and Limi Feu as a few of her inspirations.

The Collection
Senior fashion design students create three, 25-piece collections and whittle them down to six of their finest pieces that they display in the annual senior showcase.  The showcase takes place every April at the Goldstein Auditorium in the Schine Student Center.

This spring, Hennessey is showing a six-piece collection inspired by Japanese ghost stories.  Her main inspiration is the story of Yotsuya Kaidan, a grisly tale of murder and revenge.  In the story, a master-less samurai named Iemon has an extramarital affair and plans to poison his wife, Oiwa, to marry his mistress.  The poison fails to kill Oiwa but disfigures her, causing her hair to fall out in bloody clumps and one of her eyes to droop.  Dying with the knowledge of her husband’s betrayal, Oiwa’s ghost haunts Iemon until he dies.

But don’t worry.  Hennessey isn’t designing set costumes for the next installment of “The Grudge” series.  She focuses instead on the emotions that the story elicits.  Hennessey highlights the sadness and regret felt in the story with repetition of greens, browns and neutrals throughout her collection.

Her pieces are asymmetrical with skillfully sculpted shapes.  “A lot of the edges appear to be undone or falling apart, taking inspiration from not only the natural progression (or regression) of things over time, but also from the more macabre deterioration of Oiwa’s face and her evolution from woman to ghost,” says Hennessey of her collection.

Though only a senior in college, Hennessey and her designs already have a fan base.

“Gabrielle is an amazingly talented student with endless inspiration and creativity,” says Todd Conover, a fashion design professor.  “Gabrielle’s collection is very free and creative, but impeccably controlled and put together.”

The Model
In January, the designers finalized their selections of the models that will be walking the runway in their one-of-a-kind creations.  Senior Diana Ji isn’t walking in Hennessey’s show, but will be strutting down the runway in five other designer’s shows – Sara Efron, Caitlin Deibel, Courtney Wheeler, Christa Johnson and Elisabeth Birnie.  The biology and psychology major loves the five designers and their collections.

“They are all so unique and fabulous!” she says.

Ji, an Australian native currently living in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., has modeled since she was 11.  She has posed in print ads for Target, K-Mart and Cathay Jewelry Inc.  However, she is currently more focused on runway and pageant competitions.

Ji is definitely the model to look out for.  Her impressive line-up of shows, along with her fierce walk, might just steal the spotlight during the April showcase.


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