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University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

Tracing fashion's inspiration

August 30, 2011

Sarah Riley.

U undergrad explores the street fashion innovations that later hit the runways

By Bill Magdalene

U honors student Sarah Riley traveled this spring to London to photograph street fashion and talk with fashion innovators. The trip was part of her undergraduate research project tracing the street fashion innovations that inspire runway trends. Riley, a junior in journalism with a minor in fashion studies, hopes to continue her research in several fashion forward countries, to better understand how fashion is connected to culture and geography.

Q&A with Sarah Riley

How did you come up with your research idea?
I am passionate about and fascinated by street fashion. Many wearable trends are credited to the runway, but there have been innumerable occurrences in which I have noted a style or color that’s fresh and innovative in a street fashion ensemble, and a year later it has swallowed up the runways.

Why is this project important?
Inspiration in general is something I get totally psyched about. I love inspiration boards and the concept of seeking aesthetic, audible, and tangible experiences for ideas about yourself. … There is great value in understanding what is most appealing to the fashion innovators who will lead the next generation.

What is your big goal?
My current big goal, though it’s constantly evolving, is a career in event planning and production. I would love to coordinate fashion shows and after parties that emphasize stunning aesthetics and innovative experiences.

How did you discover your academic path?
The student group FAB: Fashion & Business has not only provided me with an obsession, but also unmatched opportunities to develop and advance my career. Being so involved provided experiences that allowed me to acknowledge strengths, weakness, passions, and intolerances. From those recognitions, I used University career services to direct my career path within the major and career goals that I’m excited about.

Why the University of Minnesota?
The variety on [the Twin Cities] campus, in people, architecture, events, and cultures, is very inspirational. I am inspired by collaboration, so the opportunity for so many unique partnerships is exciting. I also cannot get enough of the skyline at dusk.

Why is out-of-class research important?
Out-of-class research is important because it showcases initiative and active interest, while also providing income. In my case, my research project allowed me to travel to London and Paris for two weeks—that was very much intentional.

What do you love to do beyond academics?
I love hip-hop dance. Of course I’m obsessed with parties as an event planner, and the dance floor is my favorite place in the world. I would love to start a flash mob team at the U if I found the time! I also volunteer a lot with MNFashion during fall and spring fashion week. MNfashion is a nonprofit organization located in the Twin Cities with the goal of creating a thriving, sustainable local fashion industry. My second favorite place in the world is backstage at a fashion show.

Advice for freshmen?
Dedicate yourself to something. Passion provides proper direction. This campus and city have so many opportunities to excel in exactly what you love, and what better to excel in? Also, don’t hesitate to just converse with people. OH! And visit your career services office—it will put you so far ahead of the game if you start rocking as a freshman.

Anything else you want to say?
Empowering is the best form of empowerment.

Tags: College of Liberal Arts

Attention, U of M student—
Are you doing fresh research?
Exploring a creative path?
Striving to make a difference?
Tell us!
We want to do a Q&A with you.
Contact Bill.

Related Links

Undergraduate studies in journalism

Fashion studies

Research opportunities