BYU Student Designer Plans and Directs Fashion Show

Contributed By By Michelle Garrett, Church News staff writer

  • 7 March 2013

Karstin Lake, top center, and Kate Ashcroft, top right, assistant director of the fashion show, are surrounded by some of the models as they thank the audience for coming to their fashion show at BYU on February 9, 2013.  Photo by Karen Lake.

Article Highlights

  • Karstin Lake, a piano performance major at BYU, founded, organized, and directed a fashion show held at BYU on February 9, 2013.
  • Despite the campus lacking a fashion design program, Karstin was able to find 12 designers and one guest designer to participate in the show.
  • Karstin encouraged others to follow their dreams and become involved in every industry.

“We [Latter-day Saints] have a unique perspective, and we need to permeate the world.” — Karstin Lake, student fashion designer

Karstin Lake was in ninth grade when her friend told her about a local sewing class. Karstin decided to attend the class and found out she loved it. Soon, she was filling her time sketching fashion designs. She lost contact with her friend after a few months, but that sewing class changed her life.

Today, Karstin, 21, is a senior at Brigham Young University who single-handedly planned, directed, and designed a clothing line for a fashion show at a school currently without a fashion program.

Karstin’s family always wanted her to do something practical. She came to BYU as a piano performance major, but she intended to go to graduate school in something “useful.”

“Fashion design was always just a hobby,” Karstin said. “My mom told me it was something to do on the side, not a career.”

Karstin started to learn about fashion design from her ninth-grade sewing class taught by Nancy Gray in Mission Viejo, California. Mrs. Gray didn’t follow the traditional method of having the whole class follow one design, but rather allowed them each to bring in their own designs and showed them how to make each design a reality. Mrs. Gray has a big impact on Karstin’s life.

“She’s one of the top three people in the world I look up to,” Karstin said. “Whenever I’m home I visit Nancy.”

Karstin still uses Mrs. Gray as her mentor, saving up her sewing questions for when she can go home and ask her former teacher.

As her enthusiasm for fashion design grew during her college years, Karstin decided to spend a summer working at the costume design shop at BYU. There, she learned to work on an industrial sewing machine, which she said is a lot different—and scarier, at first—than a home sewing machine. She was able to help design costumes for BYU’s productions of Arabian Nights and Phantom of the Opera.

A little over a year before her graduation, Karstin decided that, despite its impracticality, she wanted to follow her passion for fashion design. But she found herself in a school that didn’t have a fashion program. She knew the fashion industry was a competitive one, and she would need experience if she wanted to get a job after graduation.

“I wanted something to help me stand out, not just ‘here are my sketches,’” Karstin said. Though she enjoyed drawing and designing her own clothing, Karstin knew she would need more to get ahead.

She had the idea to put on a fashion show. She presented the idea to both the BYU Student Association (BYUSA) and the Provo Towne Center mall. She anticipated having to present to several institutions before someone would be willing to sponsor her fashion show. To her pleasant surprise, both BYUSA and the mall came back and told her they wanted to do it. As an added bonus, the mall offered her a job as a marketing assistant.

Once she had BYUSA and the mall on board for the show, Karstin held auditions for fashion designers among the students at BYU. Applicants came in slowly, but eventually Karstin had 12 total designers from BYU, plus one guest designer.

Karstin said she felt a little uncomfortable interviewing designers.

“It was interesting interviewing students and having this authority,” Karstin said, “when I didn’t have any experience, just personal drive.”

Karstin also auditioned models, which got a much bigger reaction from the BYU student population—a hundred people signed up. However, Karstin found that their best models were the ones they stopped on campus and asked to model for them. They ended up with 75 models, which meant they never had to worry about changing clothes, hair, or makeup.

On top of all these auditions, Karstin designed her own line for the fashion show. She also worked hard arranging for photographers, videographers, and lighting and sound technicians. She met weekly with BYUSA members to plan the details and map out the timing of the show. She worked on it 10 to 40 hours a week from September until the shows in February.

Karstin Lake, founder and director of the fashion show held at BYU on February 9, 2013.

“It took over my life, but in a good way, because I love it,” Karstin said. “I would definitely do it again.”

Unfortunately, because of her upcoming graduation this year, she will not have another chance to run a fashion show at BYU. Karstin said she is excited to graduate, but it’s hard to imagine someone else running her show—her project, her creation.

As for post-graduation plans, Karstin hopes to get an internship with a fashion designer to gain more experience. She ultimately wants to set up her own academy that will teach every aspect of the fashion industry to younger students.

As a member of the Church, Karstin knows it’s important for members to be involved in every industry.

“We have a unique perspective, and we need to permeate the world,” she said.

Her family always wanted her to go after a practical career, and she wanted that too. Now, she knows that with the Lord’s help she can go after her dreams and find success.