By Nikol Babb [email protected]
Andover designer presents clothing items in ICT Fashion Tour
On Friday, Andover resident and stylist Libbi Jessen showcased her personal clothing designs on the runway at the ICT Fashion Tour, (ICTFT). The pop-up fashion show took place at Vanya Designs, where Jessen works in Wichita, and is the first show of many to come for the 2023 season.
Started in October 2021, ICT Fashion Tour founder, An Ri and his friends embarked on a mission to broaden the fashion community in Wichita. Creating an inclusive fashion show range of designers, volunteer models and beyond, ICTFT features local designers while emphasizing marginalized people whilst being inclusive in model selection. All persons aged 16 and over are encouraged to apply regardless of gender and size. The show featured 28 local designers including three youngsters and 155 local models, less than 50 of them signed with an agency. A unique aspect of ICTFT is the location and timing of events. Each pop-up is held in a different venue around Wichita showcasing the big city and artists.
“Our primary mission for models who volunteer with us is to represent our community (regardless of age, size, and gender) and promote body positivity through art.” An Ri said.
Since the second season of operations there has been a tremendous growth in audience participation. When the first show debuted in 2021, there were 50 people in attendance compared to the 2022 finale with 300 in attendance. While the pop-up shows are free, there are fundraising events held throughout the year to help secure funds for the following season to allow this volunteer-run organization to continue. These events include a gourmet fashion experience. These are paid events that include a curated 4-course dinner, handcrafted cocktails, live music, and a themed fashion experience.
“We are thrilled to see people come to our shows as we do our best to make it a unique experience.” An Ri said. “We love collaborating with local artists, both visual and performing, to make our shows truly a special experience.”
Last Friday’s show featured designs from four local designers with all brides in mind. There were traditional wedding dresses, dresses designed for the divorcee, little black dresses and jumpsuits for the boss ladies, and alternative wedding dresses. Jessen showcased her own line of little black dresses that she has designed for formal events that she has attended herself. There was a black velvet tuxedo, five little black dresses, and a black jumpsuit in the lineup shown.
“It was my first fashion show for my own models (my models have been seen on the runway through Vanya) and it was a great experience.” Jessen said. “I’m really excited for the upcoming shows and the finale as I’ll be showing even more projects.”
Growing up in Andover, Jessen attended Kapaun Mt. Carmel Catholic High School in Wichita. Jessen became fascinated with sewing in her sophomore year of high school after taking a sewing elective class. After exploring her passion for sewing through two other sewing courses, she realized this could be the right career for her. After visiting Kansas State University, she knew she wanted to acquire her fashion degree from them. She attended Butler Community College for a year, then moved on to KSU and majored in apparel and textiles with a major in design and manufacturing.
“No one thinks about a fashion degree in the Midwest because people don’t think the Midwest is very hip,” Jessen said. “But there’s so much hidden talent.”
Before graduation at KSU there is a lunch hosted by students for prospective employers. The evening includes a dinner and a fashion show with students’ drawings. That’s where Jessen met her current employer, Alicia Ybarra, CEO of Vanya Designs in Wichita. Starting as an intern in 2019, Ybarra didn’t plan to keep Jessen on the team simply because the company didn’t have room for an extra employee at the time. Once the summer internship was over, one position was miraculously left vacant and Jessen was hired as an Assistant Designer where she has been working for the last four years.
“I like everything about design. From finding inspiration to adding my own twist. I’ve always enjoyed making patterns and find a lot of inspiration from fabric.” Jessen said. “I am very lucky to have this talent and able to design.”
While she doesn’t currently do any commissioned work or sell any of her own pieces, Jessen would love to one day design her own line of swimwear. Until then, she’ll stick to the bridal side of things with Vanya, she’ll sort things out for friends and make formal dresses for herself. Can’t wait for Jessen’s models to be on the runway again for the ICTFT Finale show in early fall. ICTFT will also be bringing a show to Butler County in October, so stay tuned for upcoming news.