CSUN Haunt Couture 2023 team
Posted on by Dylan Tran

Haunt Couture 2023: Competing Among Professionals, CSUN Team Wins Third Place

November 13, 2023

The CSUN 2023 Haunt Couture Team, “Arachne”.

Team with Dean Mechelle Best and faculty advisors Paula Thomson and Rodica Kohn.

“Haunt Couture,” is an intensely paced annual design competition featuring Halloween influenced graphics, video, dance, and fashions created by professionals from the architecture and interior design professions–and this year, one team of CSUN students. The CSUN team won third place for excellence in themed fashion design.

Hosted by the Southern California chapter of the IIDA (International Interior Design Association) the competition begins in early September with preparations for a culminating activity to take place just before Halloween–a single, intensive, eight-hour garment creation session. The finale is a reception and show of all contestants’ works at the Avalon Theatre in Hollywood.

The garment the designers create must reflect both the theme of the competition–this year’s theme was “HAUNT 2023: ‘Hunt or Be Hunted’—and an assigned theme. The CSUN student team was given the character Arachne, from Greek mythology, a skillful weaver whose artistry offended the Goddess of War Athena to the extent that Athena turned her into a spider, to “put her in her place.”

The CSUN team included students from Family and Consumer Sciences’ Interior Design program, Marjan Roochi, Marisela Saenz, Genoveva Santos, and Alexia Chiriff; Fashion Design and Merchandising, Kathryn Oz; and Kinesiology’s Dance program’s entire choreography class, featuring student choreographers Saryh Deadmon and Bianca Lemus who choreographed the performance for the model and supporting team.

Teams curated music, choregraphed dance performances, produced videos and graphics, and selected a team member to model the final day’s garment. Until that day, they would not know what fabric they would be using, so the team knew the contest would call for inventiveness. When the day came, the CSUN team learned they would be using upholstery fabric donated by event sponsors.

In addition to strengthening the students’ creativity and collaborative skills, Haunt Couture expands their professional networks. “They have exposure to high level design firms,” said Interior Design Professor Rodica Kohn (Family and Consumer Sciences), advisor for the experience. “As an example, I just received an e-mail from a Haunt Couture Committee member asking for recommendations of recent graduates interested in working on high-end restaurant design.

“Participating in, and especially winning, the competition brings recognition to our university, to our Interior Design, Fashion Design, and Dance programs, and ultimately leads to opportunities for our students.”

To enhance the final presentation, Kohn continued her regular practice of including choreographic input from the CSUN dance program.

Kinesiology/Dance professor Paula Thomson elaborated, “The dance team identifies the dramatic intention inherent in the assigned theme and interprets it as dance. They select music and choreograph the presentation. A deep collaborative spirit emerges over the weeks of preparation, and the chemistry among the team members brings them insight into each other’s respective fields.”

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“Collectively the dancers in the choreography class assisted in demonstrating and teaching team members to communicate emotions through movement,” Thomson added. “One of the most important performance elements is to support all movement with strong emotional intention. Without this ingredient the performance fails to engage the audience. This critical component is vital for all strong performances.”

Kohn added, “One of the scopes of interdisciplinary projects is for students to learn from other disciplines. Interior Design, Fashion Design, and Dance have areas in common. All three disciplines provoke emotions in people.”

Kathryn Oz is a junior majoring in fashion design. She is also Vice President of the CSUN Family and Consumer Sciences student fashion organization, TRENDS, which produces the renowned CSUN fashion show every spring.  “I had the opportunity to design, sew, and model the garment made for the 2023 Haunt Couture Fashion Show,” Oz said.

“As a fashion student who aspires to become a fashion designer, this event has helped me gain the experience as well as the knowledge to be able to work in the industry,” Oz said. “I was able to gain experience of what it might be like to work on Project Runway, by creating a design and sewing the garment promptly. This event will greatly impact and strengthen my career potential.”

Kohn added, “This interdisciplinary collaboration was necessary in order to compete at such a high level against professional architectural and interior design firms.  We have an advantage that we are part of a university and can create a richer performance than interior design students could produce on their own.”

Interior Design student Alexia Chiriff talked about the supportiveness of the team. “Participating in this competition was a great experience. I was able to take initiative and support my team, and in turn they supported me. I am proud of what we accomplished, placing third out of many professional teams. Of course, we couldn’t have achieved that without the help of our choreographers and our mentor, Professor Kohn, who guided us through the entire process with expertise. The team and I are very grateful for all the support we received.”

Oz concluded, “This experience has enriched my interpersonal and professional skills as it allowed me to learn the importance of building an effective and communicative relationship with my team. It was both a privilege and an honor to be able to collaborate and contribute to the event with such a hard-working, supportive team. I was able to enhance my communication skills by actively listening, as well as my leadership, teamwork, and responsibility skills. We worked diligently into the final, intense hours to complete the garment. It took a great deal of hard-work and determination, but overall it was very worth it.”

Kathryn Oz (center) with Interior Design professor Rodica Kohn (left) and Fashion Design professor Shirley Warren (Family and Consumer Sciences).

Kathryn Oz with Mechelle Best, Dean, College of Health and Human Development.

Still shot from the fashion show catwalk, featuring a variety of Greek mythology themed fashions from the competition.

The CSUN Interior Design and Fashion Design and Merchandising programs are offered through the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences. The Dance program is offered through the Department of Kinesiology. These programs within the College of Health and Human Development.

Photos: Ringo Chiu/CSUN Today, Mechelle Best, Jean O’Sullivan/HHD; Video: Rodica Kohn

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