Rock the Runway 2016: The Jacksons


Photo by Yishan Li


The Kent State Student Center Programming and Center for Student Involvement presented its 12th annual Rock The Runway fashion show and design competition on Saturday, March 5 in the ballroom. This year’s theme was The Jacksons.

Designers created looks based off of the videos and looks of the late Michael Jackson, the Jackson 5, Janet and La Toya Jackson.  

Paul Miller, a graduate of Kent State and founder and CEO of Legendary 44 Apparel, hosted the  pre-show. Miller engaged the crowd by asking them what their favorite song by Michael Jackson is and what fashion means to them.

He also gave young girls the opportunity to rock the runway before the show.

“I want to see the moonwalk. Someone needs to moonwalk tonight!” Miller said, as he hyped up the crowd.

Before the host was introduced, CSI played a video about the audition process for a host. The video featured the student staff of KSCP and staff of CSI. The student staff tried to impress the judges by whipping, dabbing and moving like Bernie, but they all were told ‘Next.’ The judges were about to give up, until Denzel Washington, a senior theatre studies major, stepped on stage.

There was a lot Washington had to do to prepare as a judge. In true Rocky Balboa style, the video showed Washington attempt to drink a raw egg, practice his host voice and jog downtown and around campus. In the end, he climbed the stairs of the MACC and pumped his fits in victory.

Mary Beth Wilkins, a 2010 graduate of the Kent State Fashion School; Anne Siegal, the manager of fundraising events for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum; Los Angeles based costume designer, Michael Bush — who along with his design partner  created most of Michael Jackson’s personal and concert tour wardrobes and MJXPRESSIONS, a Michael Jackson Tribute artist — judged the event.

The featured collections were WHEN I THINK OF RHYTHM by Liz-El Black; UNBREAKABLE by Miranda Skitzki; TROUBLE by Toni Jones; RHINESTONE REVOLUTIONARY by Kelly Nieser; P.Y.T by Cree Pippen and Simone Jackson; NIGHT TIME RHYTHM by Rachel Weidner; ICONIC INSPIRE by Kailey Virgin and Phoebe Takeda; ICONIC by Katie Crum; CAN YOU HEAR ME? by Asia Parker; A TIME TO REMEMBER by Jasmine Wallace; A SIGHT THAT ALMOST STOPS YOUR HEART, ABC, AS EASY AS 1,2,3…LOOKS by Julia DePalma, Melanie Martin and Tracy Vollbrecht and ABC: AKHUNDOVA BRAND Collection by Anastasiya Akhundova and Matthew Brand.

The collections featured looks inspired by Michael Jackson’s military jackets, Janet Jackson’s stage outfits and the Egyptian theme of Michael Jackson’s music video, “Remember the Time.”

While the judges left the ballroom to come up with a decision, Barefeet Dance Tribe and Golden Reflections performed a tribute to “Thriller.”

The three finalists were UNBREAKABLE by Miranda Skitzki, Iconic by Katie Crum and RHINESTONE REVOLUTIONARY by Kelly Nieser.

Audience members were given the opportunity to vote for their favorite through text message.

The people’s choice winner was ABC, AS EASY AS 1,2,3… LOOKS by Julia Depalma, Melanie Martin and Tracy Vollbrecht. The designers were awarded a $500  shopping spree to Mood Fabrics in New York City.

The winner of Rock the Runway 2016 was junior Kelly Nieser for RHINESTONE REVOLUTIONARY.

“I will say, wow, wow,wow,”  Wilkins said.  “The craftsmanship was beautiful, they fit really well and they work nicely,” she said.

Michael Jackson’s military jackets inspired Neider’s collection.

“A couple thousand rhinestones in my collection were all individually hand sewn by me,” Neider said.  “To be honest, I had nightmares all night that I’m not going to finish.”

Neider was awarded a scholarship to pay for half of her Fall 2016 tuition.

“It was only female clothing, but it was still inspiring. The overall entertainment was cool,” said Yannik Carstensen, a senior international student majoring in English and theater.

“There’s a lot of value. Every minute had value,”  said Zack Glover, a  junior finance and theatre studies. He added,  “I did not expect to see actual Latex on stage (referring to ICONIC collection) . That was very fun to see,” he said.

“I’m glad my favorite person won. I thought she was the underdog, since she was in the competition three years ago,” said Bakhita Mukundi, a sophomore fashion design major.

Video by Kim Anderson and photography by Yishan Li


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  • Photo by Yishan Li

  • Photo by Yishan Li

  • Photo by Yishan Li

  • Photo by Yishan Li

  • Photo by Yishan Li

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